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June 6, 2017

BY DOUG POINDEXTER

Entrepreneurial-minded retailers with small stores know they have to differentiate themselves and be the neighborhood alternative with personable customer service and unique, hand-selected products. And they have to really know their community and customers to keep them loyal and keep them coming back time and again.

It’s no secret that social media has become an indispensable tool for retailers of all sizes to keep customers informed and stay ahead of competitors in their market. With the pet industry saturated with literally thousands of options—from small independent retailers to big box stores to online retailers—you have to find a way to stand out and gain the right kind of attention. Social media is one of the most cost-effective ways to do that.

Understanding independent pet retailers’ desire for guidance and advice on how to optimize their social media accounts—from which platforms to use to running a contest campaign—World Pet Association (WPA) recently released a comprehensive white paper devoted entirely to social media.

Compiled by renowned retail social media expert and popular SuperZoo speaker Crystal Vilkaitis, the study provides easy-to-understand best practices and guidelines to help consumer-facing pet businesses evaluate and better use the powerful social media tools at their disposal.

Some of her key takeaways include:

• Focus on engaging on one or two social media platforms; trying to be an expert in everything will spread your resources too thin.

• Keep an updated and optimized profile on chosen platforms.

• Don’t only sell on social media; engage your followers with content that positions you as an expert.

• Create contests and giveaways to boost engagement without directly selling.

• Use video, photos and graphics consistently; the right mix of text and images can be a great sales tool.

• Implement a strategy for digital advertising (especially on Facebook) as a low-cost, high-impact way to increase sales.

The paper also includes an inspiring case study that follows the social media emergence of The Pet Authority, Inc., in Albert Lea, Minnesota. Over the space of several months, the store eliminated traditional radio advertising in favor of Facebook advertising, following guidance from Vilkaitis’s team.

The result? The store generated 3,600 new Facebook fans, and realized a 31 percent increase in sales and had cost savings of $1,000. The store created such a buzz about a new type of chew toy that it couldn’t keep them on the shelves. Even after several shipments, customers were calling and asking the store to hold the toy for them so they wouldn’t miss out.

Over the years, WPA has found there are more and more retailers and service professionals attending SuperZoo who are hungry to learn new ways to improve their business. As a result, we’ve added to our educational offerings to match that desire.

Retailers are looking for help in any number of areas: social media, general business practices, merchandizing, hiring and e-commerce, among many others. Through SuperZoo and additional tools like this white paper, we do our best to give retailers the opportunity to step up and make changes to realize a marked improvement in their businesses and position themselves as leaders within their community.

For more information, or to download the white paper, visit www.superzoo.org/ free-white-paper.

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