Remember the Yellow Pages? That used to be a mainstay for independent retailers to reach the public with their message. Now, pet retailers rely on in-store events, word-of-mouth and social media to engage the public. The latter is a big one, as social media platforms offer a cost-neutral way to reach consumers.
Word-of-mouth advertising relies on customer contact, feet in the door. Whether or not their interaction was a satisfying experience will make or break this type of consumer outreach. It also takes effort to get customers to rate their experience on Google, Yelp, Facebook and Instagram. It can also be a double-edged sword, as it relies on how well you manage your customers’ expectations.
Have you signed in to the various review sites to take possession as owner? Have you activated “reviews” on your Facebook page? These are the easiest ways to build an archive of reviews telling the world how great your business is. You can add information to these sites to help potential customers that are looking for the services you offer. Helpful information might be: store hours, pictures of your store’s interior and featured products that set you apart from your competition. These sites, to be effective, must be updated when anything changes.
If you want to keep your reviews a positive asset, you must regularly respond to customer reviews, even if for no other reason than to say thank you. Negative comments should be responded to, offering to correct deficiencies or explaining your reasons for any policy that may have created a complaint. The secret to turning a negative review into something positive is to respond politely, trying to solve the problem.
If you think updating these feedback sites isn’t important, then consider this. An eCommerce Foundation study from last year found that 88 percent of consumers do some sort of pre-research online before making a purchase either online or in-store. Reviews are an important component when considering any purchase or service.
Facebook, although essentially free, is being “managed” more by algorithm software than at any time in the past. The only way to virally build a following for your store on Facebook is to budget a small amount of money to advertise your message. You have two important tasks—build followers and monetize your site—to direct potential customers to a shopping cart landing page. If you’re not selling online, you should consider it.
I was initially concerned that all the controversy stemming from fake news and user identity snafus might affect Facebook’s popularity, but the fact is, there has never been a more cost effective way to advertise than this social media platform. For as little as $30 a week, retailers can target their ZIP code and the people who might be interested in what their type of business has to offer. Over time, as ongoing “boosted” posts or advertising campaigns penetrate the local marketplace, follower numbers will grow, and a savvy retailer can monetize the platform through targeted promotions and create interest in products through educational videos posted to YouTube and their Facebook page.
Word-of-mouth and social media platforms might offer more effective outreach capabilities than any other advertising vehicle to which a small retailer has access. Take the time to develop a store customer service policy that makes your store attractive to customers and share the importance of adhering to it with everyone that works in the store. Also consider an ongoing social media advertising program. If you don’t have the time to build your own social media outreach, consider a local third party outreach provider. These social media companies are surprisingly cost effective. It would be money well spent and better than sticking fliers under windshield wipers, or even worse, doing nothing at all.