EXPERT OPINION: Advice on using digital tools to bolster local business

Facets PR’s digital communications manager, Rose Swingler, shares her thoughts on utilising digital tools to boost local business…

When considering digital marketing we often find ourselves focusing on the vast, global potential reach of online platforms but it is the depth of coverage that makes, in particular, social media marketing ideal for local businesses. Even if your customer is not necessarily an online shopper, with 90% of the UK’s households accessing the internet, they are spending time online. So whether you’re using digital advertising, e-mailers or using location tools there are plenty of ways to find and engage with customers.

This is even the case for retailers who operate purely out of bricks and mortar, for many jewellers’ social media is an invaluable in store selling tool. However, I often speak with retailers struggling to marry their online output with the business on the ground. Accessing your customers online is relatively simple but in order to achieve conversion, your content must be interesting, relevant and engaging, to influence purchase decisions. At the heart of this is your brand identity and how you present yourself – the service (and indeed services) that you offer in store should be imitated online, if you are a traditional jeweller with a rich heritage, use this – share images from the business’ history and showcase your expertise through the language you use to describe products. If you are a more fashion-forward retailer, look to trend led content such as ‘get the look’ posts. Above all, make sure that the posts you are sharing are relevant to the personality customers find in store.

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On a simple level are you utilising all available platforms to share your news or information? If you have new products, if you’re going in to sale or if you’re holding an event, make sure you share it with your online audiences; the same things that entice people in from the street will encourage them to engage with you online.

When you have the messages in place you then need to consider where your potential customers can be reached.

Social media is a great starting point, whether it is using Facebook’s geo-targeting tools to create a targeted promotional campaign or tying in with a local hashtag on Instagram, the possibilities are vast. Perhaps use social media to team up with other likeminded local businesses to run a promotion, creating a buzz and giving both shops exposure to new, relevant audiences in an organic way. Moving away from social media, if you are collecting customer data make use of it. A strong mailing list of existing customers can be invaluable in driving repeat purchases, create a plan to send out seasonal mailers — you could include an offer to track the success.

Finally, keep an eye on what you are doing. Increasingly consumers are turning to digital means to reach businesses, so be there to answer those queries, as they may result in sales. It also gives another opportunity to offer expertise, engage with people and build relationships with current or potential customers.

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