The time is now.

You’ve probably heard that phrase when it comes to operating your business with a sense of urgency. For retail businesses, having a sense of urgency is imperative to deal with the pressure of managing a store in the current economic climate.

The trend to move brick and mortar transactions to ecommerce stores continues to accelerate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But how do you get your business website noticed?

The answer is knowing the five things every retail store must do right now.

1. Start by building trust

It is much easier for a customer to develop trust when they visit your brick-and-mortar store. Eye contact, vast knowledge, and a friendly smile put most customers at ease. However, the same communication techniques do not apply in the same way to online shoppers.

You build trust online by helping potential customers solve problems.

Email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to build trust with prospective customers. The beauty of email marketing is you gain permission to send out content electronically. There are no cold calls or money spent on paid advertising tactics; instead, you’re keeping in contact with those who want to continue hearing about your business.

Another huge benefit of email marketing is that you can automate the sending of electronic newsletters, which frees up more time for you to do other important things like managing, merchandising, or selling.

Automating your retail store’s emails also allows your business to receive feedback to make adjustments on the fly. The beauty of email marketing is that you can make small tweaks or major changes without having to reinvent the wheel. Through your email marketing metrics, you learn more about the quality of your campaigns and change your future emails to better suit your list.

2. Get more customer reviews

Just as you can automate your email campaigns to make life easier, so, too, can you automate your process for requesting online reviews on sites like Google My Business and Facebook.

Word of mouth advertising has historically helped retailers operating in all niches to grow sales. In 2020, word of mouth advertising has morphed into a digital phenomenon in the form of online reviews on sites that matter like Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, Better Business Bureau and others.

A staggering 95 percent of American consumers read at least one customer review before they purchase a product or a service. With Google placing more of an emphasis than ever on the customer reviews left for businesses, you need to solicit reviews by asking customers that visit your website and your brick and mortar retail store. You can request reviews in a number of ways:

  • Text your customers
  • Send a post-sale email
  • Post a request on social media
  • Ask for feedback on your printed receipts

There are also online review management tools to help you automate the entire process and maximize your reviews.

3. Take SEO local

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing strategy that gets businesses ranked high in search engine results pages (SERP). For retailers, taking SEO local is a key component for attracting more customers.

Retail SEO

Here’s what the search engine results (SERP) pages might look like for a customer searching for the term “meyer the hatter”. From our retail marketing guide, The Download.

Local SEO starts when you create a comprehensive Local SEO profile. Much like a profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, this profile consists of critical business information including:

  • Business Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Website
  • Social Media Links
  • Products/Services
  • Brands and much more

The goal is to publish your Local SEO profile on directories and sites around the web, including Google My Business. Google uses a Google My Business profile to establish the local presence of businesses, which translates into a higher potential ranking on both Google Search and Maps. The primary goal of a Google My Business Listing is to increase the number of consistent listings (also known as citations) for your business online.

You should also boost local awareness for your retail store by mentioning local points of interest of events within your website and social media content. For example, a short blog post uploaded to your website that mentions an upcoming farmers market can help to associate your business with local happenings, in turn boosting your local SEO.

4. Create easy ways for customers to ask questions

When I present for Grow with Google, I’m always telling my audience that a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website is a must! Answering the questions posed by prospective customers is one of the most effective ways to build trust and prime the pump for a future sale.

Besides the FAQ page, there are three additional tools for retail store operators to answer customer questions:

  • Google My Business Questions & Answers
  • Google My Business Messaging
  • Facebook Messenger

The “Questions & Answers” feature on Google My Business allows Google users to both pose and answer questions about your business. These could be anything from a question on pricing to if you carry a certain brand of product.

Expert Tip: As the business owner, you can also chime in to answer these questions. Just login to your Google account and search for your business on Google. You’ll see a section for questions and answers in the middle of your profile. Simply click on that section, and you can provide answers to any and all questions.

Here’s a helpful video on how to use the Question & Answers feature on Google My Business.

Google My Business also offers the messaging feature, which allows you to answer customer questions in real-time. As an example, one of our clients runs a chain of eyebrow threading spas. Customers will send messages about services and products, and our client can easily respond within the Google My Business dashboard. The instant gratification of having a question answered so quickly helps to convert those inquisitive prospects into happy customers.

TIP: Make sure you follow Google’s messaging guidelines to get the most out of this feature. When you receive a question from a customer, you should wait no more than 24 hours to give a response.

Facebook also provides a helpful tool that can be used on both your Facebook business page and your own website: Facebook Messenger. Messenger allows you to pre-program typical questions and answers. Instead of waiting for an answer from you, a customer can have a chatbot reply to a question on the spot. There is no waiting for a response, which is another way to build trust and save you time.

Chatbots answer the most frequently asked questions such as “Are you open on Sundays?” and “When can I schedule an appointment for service?”

TIP: To ramp up your Facebook Messenger game, consider a tool like ManyChat that helps you create an automated sales flow process to help you win more sales (even while you sleep.)

5. Ensure Google can “read” your website with structured data

Google wants as much information about your business as possible to determine its search engine ranking. Adding rich snippets like reviews, a local landmark, and special events give Google more information. Rich snippets appear below the title and meta description of each web page.

Retail search results

Here’s an example of how structured data can better display your offerings on Google’s search engine results page (SERP).

The bottom line

Consumers search for retail stores online, and online searches have risen dramatically with the onset of COVID-19. By incorporating these five digital marketing tactics right now, you should attract more customers and drive sales.