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Aug 12, 2009

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We look at some of the best ways of getting a retail business noticed

John Bensalhia rates some of the best ways of getting a retail business noticed

Retail business without promotion is like salad without cucumber. The two have become so inseparable simply because, without the slightest hint of advertising or marketing your business, it will fall flat on its face in a very short space of time.

Advertising these days is even bigger news than ever before. Thanks to the advances in technology, it’s now possible to promote your business beyond the confines of the newspaper and the shop window. While both of these methods are still integral to success, the TV, text messages and especially the internet are now common grounds to promote a business.

THE RIGHT WEBSITE

Websites in particular are now common places for people to do their shopping. Thanks to the growing profiles of online stores such as Amazon, many retail businesses now sell their products via the web. People are more willing to buy this way because it’s quicker, convenient, and crowd-free. Therefore, getting your website right is vitally important in order to generate repeat customer demand.

The home page is a key aspect of a website. It may not be true all the time, but in some cases, first appearances can be crucial. The home page should set out the business’ stall immediately, giving the potential buyer a good, overall impression of what the shop is all about. It should have a bold, striking logo or headline and a selection of photographs for visual impact. In addition, any special offers that you may decide to have should be advertised on the home page, in order to get the best from this promotion.

One thing to look out for though, is to make sure that the home page (or any of the pages, come to that) is not too overloaded with information. Aside from confusing the visitor, too much information will almost surely take a long time to download. This will also put the visitor off, since no customer likes to take several minutes to make an order.

Therefore, keep the main information to an acceptable minimum. Include your name and contact details such as phone number and email address. Also compress the photos so as to show the image while making them lighter and more accessible at the same time.
At the side of each page should be a tool bar that lists the various categories. There should be one main header for the products, and then however many sub-categories you want to go under this banner. There should also be one that gives a brief history about your company. And a good rule of thumb is to list any customer recommendations that you might have received in the past. On that subject, it would also be a good idea to leave a comments page for more people to provide feedback about the strengths of your business.

It’s possible that you may have enough money to hire a professional to design your website for you. If your business is one of the big guns, then having a top class, professional website is a must. However, if you don’t have enough money, but enough technological know-how, then it’s worth designing the website yourself. These days, the costs are minimal, and a basic website package can be made to look both classy and professional. Remember to update the website on a regular basis though, so as to keep it looking fresh and interesting. Change the special offers that you might have, and even small things like background colours, fonts or pictures can be swapped around on a regular basis.
These sorts of rules can apply to the high street shop too. The bottom line is to keep the shop displays simple and accessible. For example, the different sports should all be kept in one section rather than, for example, having shoes for different sports in one section. This may confuse the customer, who is more likely to buy on the basis of a particular sport rather than a type of clothing or product.

Window displays, in particular, are crucial for drawing in customers. A customer’s first impression of a shop is going to be the one that sticks. With that in mind, it’s vital to make the shop window as striking and imaginative as possible. The window display wins half the battle, since it is there to entice customers into the shop.

Again, it is worth arranging the displays with just one sport on show. That way, confusion is avoided, and the customer can identify readily with this lone sport. Trying to arrange too many items on show is a bad idea, as the customer can easily get confused. A uniform approach pays higher dividends.

With that in mind though, the display should be changed on a regular basis, say about every three weeks or a month. That way, the customer will not get bored with the repetition, and the display shows that the shop has a wide range of products to sell.
Going for the subtle approach is not an option. Go for promotional signs and posters, eye-catching lights and the best products you have. Any special offers should be highlighted in the window too, in order to attract more customers who love a bargain. One thing to take note of, though, is how you arrange the displays. Be careful not to have the displays too high, otherwise, only the tallest of people will be able to see them. A rule of thumb is that customers look down rather than up at window display products, as they can get a better view. This rule also applies to inside the store as, for example, children may not be able to see products that are displayed high up. The products should also be neatly arranged and should not be too cramped together, otherwise they will appear scruffy and run the risk of losing their value.

SPECIAL EVENTS
If you have the money, it may be worth organising a special event to promote your shop. Maybe hire a local band to play in-store. Hire a sporting celebrity lookalike, or if you manage to get lucky, a genuine sporting celebrity - even from years gone past. Organise a special fun day with games and competitions that will especially keep the young ones happy. Always remember to celebrate milestones and special events such as birthdays, Christmas, Easter and even minor days such as Halloween or Pancake Day - just to come up with fresh ideas for attracting new custom. Keep a close eye on the news, and follow what’s going on in the sports world at the time. That way, you can tailor your shop to link in with the current trends, whether they are to do with football world cups, cricket tournaments or Wimbledon. You can also allocate part of the budget to promoting your shop via printed matter such as leaflets, brochures and advertisements in both local newspapers and national magazines.

Advertising is a key aspect of retail business promotion if you have enough money. The advert has long been a staple of strong promotions. For example, ask any person to name a memorable advert and they’ll most likely plump for any choice from the Milky Bar kid, the R-Whites secret lemonade drinker or the Andrex puppy.

Some of the top sporting companies use commercials to promote their latest product offering, including Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi and David Beckham for Adidas, and Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand for Nike. Both companies have used the mediums of television and print to promote these celebrities through TV adverts, billboard posters and magazine advertisements.
The usage of celebrities is becoming even more commonplace these days. In fact, it’s likely that every other advert will feature a famous person promoting a top product. In theory, it makes sense to use a big name to promote the business. The younger generation aspire to be like their heroes, and especially in sport, the sight of Rooney or Beckham advertising the latest sporting product will encourage them to go out and buy that product.

However, one mistake that advertisers arguably make is not getting the celebrity adverts in context. When a celebrity is advertising something that’s not really relevant to their field, it’s debatable whether that advert is as successful as it could be. A case in point is the Gillette advert in which Thierry Henry, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods teamed up to promote the latest offering. The advert was voted by Campaign magazine as the top turkey of 2008. Similar adverts have also incurred scorn, including Iggy Pop’s endorsement of car insurance and Johnny Rotten’s final two fingers up to punk with an appearance in a commercial for butter. All told, using celebrities is a double-edged sword - keep the celebrity appearances relevant and they can pay off. Otherwise, there’s the danger of viewers switching off or readers turning the page - using celebrities can backfire.

MISTAKES
Even without the luxury of hiring celebrities, there are similar mistakes that many advertising campaigns have made. They need to be relevant, sharp and original - not self-indulgent, syrupy or derivative. Musical adverts, in particular, seem to be as popular as clowns gatecrashing a funeral. Remember that Frosties advert in which the Frosties kid bounded down the street screeching about how they were “gonna taste great”? Or the derided set of Halifax adverts in which a gaggle of tone-deaf employees were wheeled out to butcher a load of well-worn tunes such as Aretha Franklin’s ‘Think’ or Herman’s Hermits’ ‘I’m Into Something Good’? Again, it’s all a question of relevance. In what way does a flashmob karaoke crowd have anything to do with a mobile phone? The patronising message of bringing people together is so tenuous that it’s practically invisible.

That’s the key theme in any good advertising campaign. Come up with an original campaign or slogan, but not one that’s so far removed from what you are trying to sell. This only serves to alienate the potential buyer, who may think that you are trying to be too clever, or that he or she just cannot make the connection, and so will only react with disinterest.

A key aspect of the printed advertisement, like any other type, is the wow factor. Adverts need to be eye catching and grab the reader’s attention. With regard to pictures, it’s wise to keep the amount of photos to just one, since too many can cloud the campaign. One striking image - providing that it’s well chosen, striking, and to the point - will do the job.

Similarly, lettering is also important. For example, the headline should be bold and easy to read. Likewise, any other wording in the advertisement should be kept brief and to the point, but also accessible. A good example of this was shown in the recent series of The Apprentice when both teams had to produce a series of adverts to promote the seaside resort of Margate. One team produced a series of posters that were over-cluttered with pictures and too much incomprehensible writing. The other team kept it simple with one striking image that managed to do the job by itself. The moral of the story? Keep it simple and bold and the advertising campaign works.

That’s what advertising and marketing are all about. Depending on the budget that you have for promoting your retail business, it needs to do its best to bring in even more customers and, as a result, bring in more revenue. No matter if the business promotes itself through the web, through print, on TV, or even in the shop itself, the rules are always the same. Eye catching, bold, but well thought out arrangements attract the customer every time. 

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