What is Retail Marketing?
Retail marketing traditionally refers to how retailers promote their physical stores’ products and services. Historically, retailers have been responsible for marketing and selling the goods they have purchased (wholesale) from designers.
Therefore, as a retailer, your entire focus is on motivating customers to come to your store and purchase in order to drive sales for yourself and also remain in favor of the designers you work with.
Retail Marketing vs. Marketing
Marketing is the key to moving a customer into the retail sales process. While the retail sales process deals with customers who are ready to buy, marketing is everything you do to entice your customer base and keep them engaged until they reach that stage.
Marketing tactics refer to all the ways in which a business communicates its value—from your business’s messaging through email marketing or on social media, to its packaging and pricing strategy, and even where and how products are sold (e.g. the design of a retail store or website).
Retail marketing is perhaps even more challenging than other types of marketing because it requires building a strong relationship with your customers that motivates them to pick your particular product over another—not just because the product itself is “better,” but because of all the other parts of the shopping experience that reinforce their choice.
That means retail marketing requires you to think carefully about all the touch-points surrounding your customer’s interaction with your products.
Why is Retail Marketing Important?
Marketing is even more important in retail given how competitive some product categories are. Without a solid marketing strategy, you’re leaving it up to your customer to remember you on their own once they become interested in a product you sell.
Retail marketing is unique because retail products are often repeat purchases, so unlike with subscriptions or one-time purchases, retailers have to depend on marketing efforts in order to win back customers after each sale. With retail more than any industry, marketing plays a critical role in growing a customer’s lifetime value (LTV).
Modern Retail Marketing
The rise of e-commerce and many brands’ move toward a direct-to-consumer (DTC) model has vastly expanded and shifted the meaning of retail marketing. For example, the rise of premium e-tailers such as Moda Operandi and Net-a-Porter has also meant that retail marketing is no longer just about foot traffic but also about web traffic and online sales.
Similarly, DTC brands are not only in charge of designing and manufacturing their products; they are now also responsible for marketing and selling those items directly to their customers, often through their own online store and physical locations. In fact, the DTC model is famous for promoting lower prices thanks to their elimination of the “middle man” (the traditional retailer).
With these dramatic changes in the traditional retail model, retail marketing is even more critical than ever before. Brands count on marketing efforts not just for driving traffic and sales for products but also for developing brand recognition, customer loyalty, and perhaps, most importantly, increasing LTV.
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Retail Marketing Strategies & Examples
There are a number of stand-out brands to look to for inspiration on how to build the right retail marketing plan. Below are some key examples that demonstrate unique ways to connect with your customers at various stages of their customer lifecycle.
1. Glossier: Capturing Customers’ Attention for the First Time
The first step in marketing is capturing your target audience's attention where they already are in order to bring them into your reach. DTC beauty brand Glossier has credited all their success to their ability to maintain an active online community of readers and followers (not all necessarily customers).
The brand’s blog Into the Gloss, which preceded the brand itself, is only one prong in a clever, expansive digital presence that includes an engaging Instagram presence as well as a robust referral program that motivates consumers across the web to share their personal codes in order to earn dollars toward their next purchase.
Once customers reach the Glossier site, the brand has created multiple ways to interact with it beyond making a purchase, such as taking a skincare quiz, or following one of its many playlists on Spotify. Their blog and all of these unique touch-points keeps the brand top of mind in order to be the first visit once a customer is in the market to purchase.
2. Rapha: Marketing to an Engaged Audience
If a potential customer visits your shop frequently enough, the odds are that he or she will eventually purchase. Cycling brand Rapha has taken that philosophy to the next level, turning their retail stores into multi-purpose clubhouses and community centers for their cyclist customers in order to create a welcoming in-person customer experience.
Instead of filling their floorspace with purchasable merchandise, Rapha locations offer a ton of other activities and reasons to visit, such as a coffee shop for passersby or space to actually test their equipment in a simulator. Clubhouses also function as a homebase for setting off on a group bike ride and as venues for various panels and community events.
3. Patagonia: Keeping Customers Engaged Post-Purchase
The tour accentuated the brand’s focus on sustainability and gave them an opportunity to interact with customers face-to-face outside of a sales scenario. As mentioned earlier, the goal of marketing in retail especially is to extend the lifetime value of a customer, so finding relevant, brand-related ways to be a resource to customers is certainly going to encourage customers to stay loyal to you.