If you’re the owner of a retail business in Northern Michigan the long wait is over. For months you’ve likely anticipated the busy summer season that officially kicks off this weekend. Unless you want to be continually caught up in the reliance on seasonal walk in traffic, now is the time to take steps to diversify and build up reasons for people to shop with throughout the year. There are essentially three components to building up your year-round business portfolio.
Step one involves collecting customer names, either the traditional way by requesting home mailing addresses (primary address if the customer is only here for the summer or a short vacation), or by asking for the customer’s email address. The idea is to take the captive audience member that have come into your store, and make them aware of new product offerings, special events, or buying incentives. Some customers will resist the urge to give up their email or mailing address, but offering a small gift item can be quite persuasive.
Use the accumulated names to keep in touch with your customers even when they are hundreds of miles away during the offseason. The traditional postcard mailings to update customers are quickly being replaced by less expensive email campaigns with programs such as “Constant Contact“. It’s good to still utilize both with regular updates publicizing new products, sale items, or upcoming special events.
The next step is to make customers aware that you are able to ship items, offer a gift registry, and have a functioning up-to-date web site that offers at the very least, a few top selling items via online sales. Locally made products do well in these situations, and customers who visit northern Michigan tend to have a strong emotional attachment to the region.
The final step is to offer your own exclusive products or products. The key is to have an items or items that you exclusively offer. It can be as simple as a clothing item with a local theme or a local food item or a unique line of artwork that you make yourself.
This effort to build a core of offseason business will eventually improve your store’s cash flow and increase overall sales. But the effort needs to happen now while the traffic in your bricks and mortar store location is at its peak. Once this customer retention program is in place, online and social marketing tools (as previously discussed) can be integrated into the process.
For more information on retail merchandising and marketing, call the Traverse City office of the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC) at 231.922.3780.