Marketing tips advice tricks feature deals promotions

In a crowded marketplace, it can be challenging for independent stores to capture people’s attention. But by understanding customers’ needs, and staying on top of calendars and product launches, retailers can create something eye-catching both in their stores and online.

The entrance to your store is prime real estate, with Jeet Bansi, from Londis Meon Vale in Stratford-upon-Avon, recommending retailers create inviting displays that highlight seasonally appropriate, on-trend or good-value products. “We have Andrex at £3.99, which shouts value and as customers approach, they’re already interested in the price because we’ve built a big stack of them at the end of the aisle.”

Faisal Naseem, who runs two stores in Arbroath, Angus, runs promotions on social media, highlighting new products rather than price promotions because margins are already tight. Alcohol is a particular winner for him, especially around holidays such as Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

“We don’t do grocery items because it’s a very competitive market, although we did once sell bread, eggs and milk at below cost price to help with the cost of living,” he says. “We did alcohol giveaways at Christmas with Au Vodka. That worked well because it’s an ideal gift. It made people aware of our store and they were liking, tagging and sharing our posts. The power of ‘free’ is something to take on board.”

While social media allows you to monitor customer engagement, retailers should also be aware that customers will see and act on your posts without actively engaging with it online.

“Don’t get disillusioned that you’re not getting likes,” says Christine Hope, from Hopes of Longtown in Herefordshire. “You’ll still get impact. And make sure you’re using hashtags that are relevant. That helps with the algorithm. And be consistent with your tone.”

Make sure you’re relevant

Jeet Bansi from Londis Meon Vale in Stratford-upon-Avon

Before he embarks on any marketing plans and product placement, Jeet Bansi, from Londis Meon Vale in Stratford-upon-Avon, thinks about his customers and what they’re looking for.

“We want to use the front of the store to be relevant to current trends and what the weather is doing,” he says. “Marketing is about getting products that are relevant to your customers in that moment. When you walk into the store, we have a refrigerated section and we change the products in there every fortnight or sometimes twice a week to make sure it’s current. Make the display look inviting and eye-catching.”

At present, Bansi has burgers and sausages, but he will be changing that for pizzas, juices and desserts as the good weather comes to an end. Mid-month, when people are watching their wallets more and basket spend drops, he focuses on value options.

Seasonal opportunities

Seasonal displays are standard for many retailers, but Enya McAteer, of Mulkerns Spar Jonesborough in Newry, County Armagh, tries to shake things up with every promotional cycle. “We try to find a bulky item that is easy to stack in the middle of the shop floor so customers won’t knock it over,” she says.

“If there are different coloured products, we might look to do a display where one row is orange and the other is green. It’s coming up to back to school, so we’re focusing on what people need in lunchboxes. We’ll probably get Capri-Sun 12-packs and build a pyramid. At the moment we’ve got Club Orange cases in a display of three circles of decreasing height.”

McAteer is inspired by looking at pictures of shops in other countries on Pinterest and working with staff. “It gives us something to do – it’s a challenge to come up with a different display each time.”

Engage with social media

Faisal Naseem advertises his two stores in Arbroath, Angus, using Facebook ad campaigns because they are free, easy to use and can be specifically targeted at certain audiences or areas. He can also easily monitor customer engagement by counting clicks, shares and comments.

He runs giveaway competitions on new products, encouraging people with free products, that requires them to interact with his page to win.

“Your customers then do the sharing and tagging for you, and that can really explode and reach further afield,” he says.

However, more important than monitoring customer responses is responding to them. “It’s critical to follow up and advertise the results, otherwise people think it’s a gimmick,” he says. “We tag the winners online and everyone involved is aware of the end outcome where you’re giving something away.”

Educate rather than market

Bare-faced promotion can be wearing on customers’ attention and goodwill, so Christine Hope, from Hopes of Longtown in Herefordshire, focuses on sharing information.

“The best things we do tend to be educational, not selling, because that information is useful and means it’s then shared again,” she says. “I’ve also been using other people’s content and sharing that. So, instead of saying something ourselves about the postal strikes, I’ve looked at what Royal Mail has posted and have then shared that.”

By ensuring her customers aren’t kept in the dark, she reinforces the view that her store is there for them, increasing footfall and loyalty. “We had an event recently in the village and what resonated on social media for us was telling people when they could get cash out at our store to spend at the show. The feedback we got from people on that was amazing.”

Explore our comprehensive archive of advice and insight for independent retailers