Whether you're opening your first retail store or adding an additional location, marketing the grand opening is critical to letting local consumers know about your shop and enticing buyers to visit early and often. Here are 10 marketing tips for opening a retail store with consumers ready to buy.
- First, define your ideal customer. Pinpoint characteristics such as their gender, age, work status, family make-up (married with kids versus single, etc.), preferences on how they enjoy spending free time, annual salary and likely disposable income. This information will guide your marketing decisions so you can invest in marketing that aligns with your ideal customers. Use the collected information to paint a picture of your soon-to-be favorite customer.
- Buy a mail list of possible patrons who live within 15 minutes of your venue. (According to BrightLocal, "the average time that a consumer is willing to travel to a local business is 17 minutes.1") Keeping your ideal customer in mind, create an over-sized postcard announcing your grand opening date and mail the postcard to your list. Include the reasons they should visit your store, including your key differentiators. On the postcard, include:
- The store address and a map
- Phone number
- Days and hours of operation
- Photos of your products/store inventory
- Website address
If your budget allows for it, plan one postcard mailing with the intended delivery happening one week prior to opening day and a second mailing to be received about one day prior to opening. Timing can be tricky so remember that it’s better for prospects to receive the postcard a few days early than one day late.
- Launch your website or update your current site with details of your new store location. This sounds like a no brainer but in the rush to secure your permits, ensure electricity is running, train staff and stock the store, your website might not be on your mind. It should be since most folks are likely to find you on the web and the fast-paced Internet can drive foot traffic into your store. Include on your website a newsletter opt-in so that you can collect email address for interested buyers near your new location.
Not only should your website be up-to-date, it must:
- be mobile-friendly,
- clearly show the store phone number (a click-to-call link is essential!),
- list the address with directions and note nearby businesses,
- include photos of your store and key products and
- link to reviews on social media. (This last one is a little challenge for new establishments, but we’ll cover that later in this post in tip #7.)
- Speaking of social media, let’s talk Google. As soon as your store has its phone number activated and someone is available to answer calls at the store, set up a Google My Business listing (a combination of the former Google Places and Google+) page. Someone will need to answer an automated call from Google to secure a validation code to complete the Google My Business set up. Alternatively, Google can mail a postcard to your location with a verification code but that typically takes two weeks and, because the venue is new, mail may not meet its destination in a timely manner. The great thing is that Google My Business really helps customers find your location so setting this up in advance is important. In the Google My Business account, include your phone number, address, directions, hours, website and photos. In terms of results, you want your retail store to be featured first when searching on a mobile phone for your company name. Ideally, your store will also come up on the first page of search results when you search for your store category (cIothing, beauty products, pet products, healthcare needs, etc.) in your area of town.
NOTE: Do not list a phone number other than the one you want patrons calling in the future. While the phone number can be changed, the update often takes an inconvenient amount of time and the phone number listed initially can get annexed elsewhere, leading to lost customers who become frustrated when they can’t connect to the actual store. Wait until the official store phone number is activated and can be answered by a store staff member.
- Social media is less expensive than traditional print advertising and allows you to do geo-targeting with your ads. Use the Facebook pixel to your advantage. Installing the pixel on each page of your website allows you to target your site visitors when they later visit Facebook by serving up one of your advertisements tied to the content visitors viewed on your website. Over time, this helps you better market to people who are already interested in visiting your store. With Facebook's latest changes, only 1 percent of your posts will be seen by your followers. While it's important to keep your Facebook account active, you can use your advertising dollars to reach prospective customers by boosting your posts and, more effectively, targeting new prospects near you.
- Set up your presence on Yelp. Help consumers learn about your store by setting up your Yelp account and allowing happy customers to post reviews. By preparing your Yelp account from the opening of your store, you'll be notified when customers post reviews about your retail store and you can respond accordingly. For more ideas on how to get more reviews on Yelp and other social media channels, see our post on Managing Online Customer Reviews on Social Media Channels.
- Develop relationships with the retail beat reporter at your local news outlets. Email a press release with your store's grand opening details. If you're planning a VIP soft opening, include that information in the press release and encourage reporters to attend the VIP grand opening so they get a sneak peak at your store before it actually opens. That helps your store get publicity in advance of your official opening. Plus, you begin nurturing relationships with local media so that they remember you when they cover retail in the future. Building relationships with journalists is a long-term retail marketing strategy.
Another benefit of having a VIP event is that it gives you a more intimate crowd to speak with and a focused time to deliver an exceptional experience. Encourage your VIPs to write reviews about their visit on social media, naming the social channels where you are most active. (Yelp and Facebook are great for this type of restaurant review.)
- Run an advertisement in your local newspaper to grab readers’ attention and encourage them to attend your grand opening. In addition to the basic store details, highlight door prizes and drawings that will motivate consumers to arrive early. Prizes could include a gift card to your store, coupons for a percentage off sales at your store within the first month of being open and goodie bags (sourced by your vendors) for the first 20 people who arrive at your grand opening. The goal is to attract a line at the door prior to opening. Take photos of the customers and post to your social media accounts and share videos of customers. Facebook Live also can help you build excitement early in the day to help generate steady traffic throughout the day.
Keep in mind that monthly publications have longer lead times, so you may not have all your details confirmed in time to submit an advertisement to a monthly publication. Consider running a “Coming Soon” ad that mentions the season or month you intend to open. Readers can follow you on social media or visit your website for updates. If the media outlet is distributed weekly, an ad that runs the week leading up to your grand opening gives readers ample time to plan to attend. For daily papers, websites and blogs, run your ad a day or two before the opening, again, giving readers time to put the event on their calendars and coordinate with friends.
- Produce “Now Open” signs to promote your new store opening. If you avoid including the actual opening date, you can use the signs longer, reducing your overall costs. Place the signs in esplanades, at nearby street corners and in shopping center entrances to draw customers into the store. Leave the signs up as long as you’re allowed. (Some cities and neighborhoods have restrictions about how long such signs can be posted.) This approach also allows you to reuse the signs at another location as you continue to grow.
- Partner with other stores in your shopping center. Ask other retailers to contribute to your grand opening in exchange for some cross-marketing. Approach the restaurant in your shopping center to see if the restaurant will donate appetizers for your grand opening and offer to proudly display their logo on the table of munchies. Other merchants may be willing to donate goodies for gift bags that you give away to early guests. Use any extra postcards that you may have from your mailing to post in the local coffee shop and hand out to the area stores. Many will be willing to post the postcard on their store bulletin boards or at their checkout counter. Be sure to invite those neighbors to your store opening, too.
With these marketing tips in the works, you’re likely to attract a steady crowd of customers as your doors open. Keeping patrons coming back to your store then becomes your next focus.
- Marchant, R. "Consumers will Travel 17 Minutes to Reach a Local Business." April 11, 2017. BrightLocal blog.