by Courtney Llewellyn

What customers used to prefer isn’t necessarily what they do now. What customers never knew they may have enjoyed might now be a favorite shopping experience for them – look at the increase in local food sales. Customer expectations sometimes shifted dramatically due to COVID-19, and during this year’s HauntCon, Nicole Leinbach Reyhle of Retail Minded spelled out five marketing strategies to help producers reach customers despite the challenges of the pandemic.

The goal is to help sellers increase both their profit and their visibility.

  • Strategy 1 – Introducing video selling (social selling). Reyhle said you need to show your customers your inventory. This is particularly helpful if you don’t have a website or you’re not getting the web traffic you were hoping for. Younger generations are very familiar with creating videos, but even if you’re not, technology is available to help you do it. “You need to express the importance of the product, the price, how it can be used – engage and connect,” she said. “You want customers to make a real-time decision to make a real-time sale.” Reyhle recommended to help you with this strategy, as that site helps convert social media comments into sales.
  • Strategy 2 – Heeding online review sites. Reyhle said these are extremely important. You need to be actively reviewing them, as 57% of consumers gain confidence from online review sites before making a purchase. They’re seeking validation from external sources before spending their dollars with you. Use Yelp, Yahoo, Google, Facebook and more to offer consistent and clear information across all sites.
  • Strategy 3 – Using personalization. “It’s not just about product assortment; it’s about communication too,” Reyhle said. And while consumers are different, some of their needs may be the same. The path to purchase in 2021 is not straight. There are different websites to view along with visits to a physical store. “Capture the details of what your customers are involved in,” she said. “Look at Google Analytics.”

The different payment options people use fall under personalization too, and they vary based on the preference of payment and their comfort zone. For example, credit cards are most often used by older consumers, but new options like Venmo, ApplePay, GooglePay, AmazonPay and installment payment options like QuadPay AfterPay – which are like modern layaway – are also in play.

  • Strategy 4 – Creating publicity. Do this so customers gain awareness of your business. Craft a press release strategy to interact with local media and local consumers. Share insights on your best practices or other reasons to bring people in (one-on-one shopping experiences or unique produce or items, for example).
  • Strategy 5 – Realigning with employees amidst the pandemic. “At the core of every single business are the people who represent it,” Reyhle noted. “They boost your visibility and your reputation.” She suggested going through every single fine print detail of your business plan and your safety plan with them so there’s transparency and communication. And as the pandemic wears on, it’s important to boost morale and, if possible, have teambuilding events.

“Because of the rapid and unexpected changes in retail, merchants need to be more proactive than ever before to be memorable and meaningful to customers,” Reyhle said. “Let marketing be a priority so that you don’t get dismissed. Your goal is to stay top of mind with them, even if that means taking extra strides in creating some new paths.”