The ongoing pandemic has proven that no business is immune to its impact – companies of all sizes and across all industries have been hit. With consumers often opting for an online experience, many companies have quickly shifted resources and budgets to chase this new shopping behavior. While a digital transformation was needed by many companies, it’s important to focus on omni-channel growth and not lose sight of the value that brick-and-mortar provides.
Let’s consider the importance of a strong retail presence. To start, many local stores are trusted subject matter experts to their loyal customers. They focus on finding their shoppers the right product – not just upselling them. A strong partnership with these stores gives manufacturers an opportunity to extend their reach directly to customers needing help and solutions. Secondly, now more than ever, consumers are looking to shop locally. Abandoning brick-and-mortar could have an adverse impact on overall brand perception. Finally, brick-and-mortar stores are how many brands get their foot in the door and are often instrumental to growing large scale.
While it is critical to keep up with changing consumer behavior, including online sales, the retail channel should not be abandoned. Here are five ways to support brick-and-mortar sales while continuing focus on a growing e-commerce presence.
1. Ensure MAP (minimum advertised price) standards are adhered to across all channels
The internet gives e-commerce companies the opportunity to launch 24-hour “flash sales” in front of millions of people within seconds. This capability has led to many e-commerce giants predicating their business on extremely deep, short promotions. While these promotions can be alluring, they can also train customers to strictly shop while products are on promotion and only look online. To combat this, have a MAP policy that is strongly enforced, preventing any online sale to be promoted more deeply than what a retail store can do – leveling the playing field.
2. Consider channel-specific pricing and merchandising strategies
To build on the above, put together a strategy that sets a premium for the online business or prohibits certain products from being sold online altogether to drive people back to stores. For example, in third-party marketplaces like Amazon, we only offer our products in four-packs, while retail stores can sell singles. Furthermore, the individual unit price of each meal online is higher than retail MSRP. In doing so, online traffic becomes a customer-acquisition vehicle that ultimately brings people back to stores.
3. Use digital advertising to drive people to stores
Digital advertising has revolutionized the way marketers spend budgets; within 30 minutes, a targeted ad can be launched that garners thousands of impressions in no time. However, these advertisements don’t have to exclusively drive traffic to online sales, they should consider the full funnel – and sometimes have multiple objectives at once! A digital ad can direct people to stores with promotions, newly-launches sales, or to key partner stores.
4. Look for new ways to get coupons and samples into consumer hands
Though in-store demos have been the traditional medium for trials and getting coupons into customers’ hands, the pandemic has led to most retailers prohibiting them. Even when in-store demos resume in the future, it’s likely that consumers will still have an aversion to these interactions. With that said, you shouldn’t abandon driving trial and awareness through sampling and coupons. Rather, consider alternative ways that you may be able to reach consumers – email newsletters, direct mailing campaigns, localized apps like Nextdoor, and sampling through digital providers are all great ways to continue these programs.
5. Offer exclusivity
Finally, there is no better way to drive retail sales than offering exclusivity to the channel. If you don’t have the resources to develop a litany of new products to keep all of your retail partners happy, there are other ways to offer exclusivity. For example, a new product can be given to a single retail chain weeks earlier than other stores or channels. Similarly, you can keep a new item exclusive to the retail channel for a period of time before offering it up online. Exclusivity always drives excitement and it is more attainable than many manufacturers realize.
As we enter a new year, keep in mind your retail partners in mind and consider how you can help work towards a mutually beneficial relationship amid the ongoing pandemic. Though consumer behavior points towards an increasing focus on online shopping, it’s crucial to not leave behind the stores that offer your products in-person.
Katie McCarron founded Portland Pet Food Company in 2014 after finding success formulating meals at home for her aging poodle, Rosie. Prior to launching the company, she worked as President and CEO for Academic Network LLC, a medical communications company where she led and organized medical advisory consultants to educate consumers about nutrition, such as The Milk Mustache Campaign.