I pulled into the empty parking lot. It was Saturday, across from a busy plaza, yet, Devine’s Jewelers was precariously missing customers. I looked across the street and saw that Harris Teeters, Starbucks and Sports clips were all teeming with activity. Yet, I was the only one at Devine’s.
I was searching for an engagement ring, and Google maps sent me this direction.
Inside, Devine’s was a beautiful store. The salesperson greeted me with a smile and warm welcome. The owner walked out to introduce himself. This was the exact experiences I was hoping for. Like many first time diamond buyers, I had no idea where to start. Days earlier, I started my research online. Blue Nile, an ecommerce jeweler, was the first place I looked. After all, they were the first result when I searched Engagement Rings in Google. However, I soon discovered that there was a whole lot more to buying an engagement ring than I realized. As I tried to understand the difference between carrot, cut, clarity and color something became apparent. I needed help.
I knew I needed an expert. I need an independent retailer.
Devine’s got lucky that day. They happened to be the closest store to me when I typed “jewelry stores” into Google maps. But, something happened inside Devine’s that day that truly startled me.
After chatting for the owner of the store, Gary, for a few minutes, something dawned on him. He didn’t know how I arrived at his store that day. He looked at me inquisitively. “So, Keegan how did you find out about us?” My first instinct was to give him a high five. It’s always a great idea to ask new faces how they found out about your business. That was until we went further into the conversation.
“Oh, Google maps,” I responded, “I was running errands and decided to see if there was a jewelry store close by.”
Gary’s eyes lit up. “Wow, that’s amazing! Ha,” he said with a chuckle. I looked up from the jewelry case. I left a passing glance with the younger store associate who seemed to hide rolling eyes. Gary continued, “I hear all about the Twitter and those things all the time. It’s amazing.”
“Sure is,” I said. “Do you do a lot online to market the store?”
“No, we don’t keep up with those types things here. But people find us using Twitter and all that from time to time though. I’m always amazed when they do.”
Our conversation continued for a few minutes. I looked at some diamonds and a few settings. Yet, my mind was elsewhere. The back of my mind was racing. “Do I say something?” I thought, “Is this an appropriate moment to switch into education mode?” You see, Gary was just like the hundreds of retailers I’ve spoken with in my career. He had it all going for his business. He had a beautiful store, a knowledgeable and well trained staff, a great selection and a beautiful show room. He had everything consumers want in a jeweler and they’d been in business for years. But, the parking lot was empty. According to Forbes the online jewelry market is growing by 5% per year. Not only did they not have a plan to capture the growth in online sales, there wasn’t even a plan to market the brick and mortar online. Even my own journey, began with a search online that lead me to an e-retailer first. Its hard to even quantify how much potential this has to crush our nation’s mom and pop jewelers.
Amicably, I bowed out of the store without continuing the buyers journey with them. My mind was back on independent retailers.
Back in my car, out if curiosity, I pulled out my phone. Devine’s lacked a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account. Nor did their business have any presence in Google Search results. Their entire digital presence amounted to the business listing that Google had generated for them and I found on maps. An otherwise excellent small business, was virtually invisible on the busiest highway the world had ever known, the internet. It’s not Gary’s fault he confused Twitter with Google maps. After all, I didn’t know the difference between color and clarity. But, I knew it had a big impact on the diamond.
I ended up buying my engagement ring from a different independent retailer several weeks later. I’ll never forget what the owner said to me after I purchased the ring from them. As I left the store with my engagement ring in hand, she said something that struck me.
“Best wishes on your proposal, and when you can, please leave us a review online, on Facebook or Google. Those online reviews are so important for our business.”
58% of consumers consider star rating of online reviews as the most important factor in judging whether or not to buy from a local business. The best small businesses are managing digital marketing assets and incorporating them into the everyday operations of their businesses.
I guess you can say my entire career has been spent trying to help independent retailers with their local marketing. In college, I worked for a company that sold advertising to retailers. The company consisted of 7 free publications papers, 2 daily newspapers and a circular company. In college I was a sales assistant. This meant I spent my summers in college driving to stores and talking to owners of independent grocers, jewelers, pet stores, atv stores and more about what type of ads they’d like to run. I learned much more than I taught.
After college, I joined a company that focused on building websites, managing social media and building email blasts for store owners. Eventually, I helped found an offshoot of this company to incorporate eCommerce and transnational websites into the portfolio of services. In the past ten years, I’ve worked directly with over 1,100 store owners, attended close to a hundred of trade shows and spoken at a number of events all with the aim of improving the way independent store owners market their business.
Over the past ten years, I’ve noticed recurring themes, questions and struggles when it comes to digital marketing. The goal of this book is to take a step forward in providing an easy to use guide that covers the essentials of digital marketing as they relate specifically to independent store owners. I’ll share stories from the field including what’s worked and what has not. We’ll discuss budgets and pitfalls as well as opportunities. My goal is to help put this information to work in your business through this book.
In the physical world the lessons about retailing seem to come more naturally to most. You wouldn’t build your brick and mortar store behind a stone wall. You wouldn’t let your store front look outdated and run down. You wouldn’t let your shelves look empty or dark. You wouldn’t hire unprofessional salespeople. You wouldn’t keep all your inventory in cardboard boxes in the back of the store. Because, if you did, your parking lot would be empty on Saturdays.
So why do countless store owners across the United States do these things to their business on the internet?
- Store built behind a Stone Wall = No Local SEO
- Run down store front = Outdated, non-mobile friendly homepage
- Empty, dark shelves = No landing pages about the business and its services
- Unprofessional salespeople = no Frequently Asked Questions pages, chat or quick contact online
- Hide inventory in cardboard boxes = No product catalog online
Today, 88% of consumers research online before buying in a retail store.
Every day, you put up beautiful lighting fixtures, switch out end caps, train employees, organize shelves and strive to improve. Yet, your website probably doesn’t even have products on it. Is it secure? When was the last time you wrote a blog? Do you come up in Google for the products you sell in your area? You invested in a professional retail space. Yet, your potential new customers don’t see it because your website makes your business look small and unprofessional.
Almost every traditional retail industry is facing stiff competition from Amazon. To make matters worse, many independents face competition from a well staffed, well funded ecommerce retailer in their own niche. In pet it’s Chewy.com. In jewelery, its Blue Nile. In furniture its Wayfair. These e-retailers took their industries off guard and approached growth aggressively.
But, David beat Goliath. Why? He had the right weapon, and he knew how to use it.
Most store owners are great business people, great community members and excellent retailers. However they’re not digital marketers. When it comes to the digital equivalent of “sweeping the floors” they don’t even know where to begin.
That was the inspiration for this book. The tools to compete and win are at the tips of independent retailer’s fingers. In the following pages, we’ll identify the tools to compete and succeed against big box and e-retail stores. We’ll identify the resources to make these these digital marketing tools cost effect for your business.
The retail apocalypse is a hoax. It’s a retail transformation. The independent retailers who work to identify and incorporate technology into their business will not only survive, but thrive.
It’s time to stop reacting. Its time to start putting powerful digital marketing technology to work in your business and dynamically change your trajectory.