The four Ps (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) —have steered the world of marketing since the 1960s. But times, they are a-changing, and consumers—not products—are in the driver’s seat. Social media lets today’s shoppers express their opinions, wants, and needs—and what they want are products tailor-made for them. They’re socially and environmentally conscious, too, so purchases aren’t based on price alone. And, though they’re dialed in to their mobile devices, they still shop brick-and-mortar stores for the experience and personal connection. If you want to attract the 21st-century consumer, it’s time to retire the Ps and chart a new, customer-centered course with the Cs!
What solutions do your products offer your customers? You may stock items you love, but if they don’t fill a customer need, they’re not going to sell. Think like your customers. Understand, anticipate, and inspire them. Customers usually do know what they want; they just might not always articulate it clearly. Listen! Ask them what they need, what they like, and what they wish you carried. Take time to research your market, your community, and your customers. Your advantage over slow-moving big-box stores is your ability to build relationships with your customers and act quickly to accommodate their changing needs.
What’s the total cost of the products you sell to the customer? To the environment? To the people who make the products? Most of your customers support local independents, but they still want to know they’re getting their money’s worth, and not just in terms of price. Do they value made-in-the-U.S. or Fair-Trade products? Do they seek out eco-friendly or artisan-made products? Unique, meaningful products may carry a higher price, but they have more intrinsic value, too. How do you show your customers the value of your products? Tell them the story behind your products and the people that make them. Tell them your story. Help them see that getting what they paid for in your store is a worthwhile endeavor.
Can shoppers easily find what they’re looking for in your store? Make your store shoppable! If you know customers are coming in for products that provide stress relief, why make them scour your store to get what they need? Cross merchandise. Placing those items in one convenient location creates sales synergy. Look at how people buy the products you want to carry and meet them there. Do you sell online? Or, can they purchase online and pick up in your store? You may have great products your customers want, but if it’s inconvenient to buy them, they may choose to shop elsewhere. Give them options!
Communication is a two-way street. Email newsletters are great—and you should keep a mailing list sign-up at your cash register—but how often do people email you feedback? Encourage customers to connect with you on social media. Include links in your emails directing customers to like/ follow/rate/link to you. Communication is also about helping customers navigate your store. Make it easy for them to find and buy the wonderful products you have handpicked for them! Create unexpected and entertaining displays and eye-catching signage. Place QR Codes next to merchandise to provide more information either from a manufacturer’s website or, better yet, from your own site. And educate your employees about the product information as well.
Even though marketing gurus today only have four Cs, there’s one more I’d like to share: Culture. Have you created a culture of staff and customers who love your store? Make it a policy to hire pleasant, friendly employees who love the products you carry as much as you do. They’ll help you offer extraordinary shopping experiences to keep customers coming back. Do you offer a loyalty program to reward repeat customers for shopping at your store? You may not be able to compete with large chains on price, but you do have an edge on loyalty—use it! Cultivate super fans of your store, folks who are not just loyal shoppers—they’re your advocates. They give you great ratings on Yelp and rave about you on Facebook. They might not be the reason you started your business, but they are the reason you’re still in business.