The Spring Slowdown
It's finally spring. Time for warmer weather, new beginnings, and...slower sales.
As a boutique owner, you might be struggling with sales in this slow spring retail period. This lack of sales has you second guessing whether you've stocked the right products or should add some new things. You might also be starting to get desperate for advice on what the heck to do to get people into your store and increase your sales.
We're breaking down 5 marketing strategies you can use to boost spring sales for your boutique or business.
No time to read? Listen to this post here:
Why do sales always seem to slow down in spring?
Well, there's the obvious reason: people are still paying off what they spent on holiday & Christmas gifts. Spring can be a slow season as people finish recovering from all the holiday expenses and might be saving up for a big summer vacation. Not only that, people are preparing for tax season, taking spring break vacations, and getting hit with their tax bill.
1. Host a giveaway
Giveaways are a great strategy because they provide an incentive for people to interact with your brand and get to know a little about you in a risk-free way. What we mean by risk-free is that they aren't necessarily being asked to make a purchase as they are with other offers like sales or a rewards program. A giveaway allows your potential customer to be rewarded just for getting to know your brand. They don't have to deal with the added pressure of considering buying from you.
Some of the elements of a good giveaway:
It gets people into your shop or online store
The whole point of a giveaway is to generate leads for your business. What are leads? They are potential customers. You want to make initial contact with someone who is a potential customer in a way where you aren't directly asking them to make a purchase, but they still have the option to buy something if they want to.
If you are using a giveaway as a strategy to generate sales, you want to make sure that the only way for people to enter the giveaway is to visit your shop or interact with you online. Entering their email or filling out a card in your shop is the ideal way to have them enter, since it allows you to collect contact information that you can use later to offer them promotions or let them know about your sales.
A prize that's in demand & relevant to your brand
This one should be obvious, but the prize you giveaway should be something that people actually want. Not just that, it needs to be something that people want enough to take the time and effort to enter. The prize should also be directly related to your brand. While a free iPad might get more entries than one of your products, the whole point of this giveaway is to attract the RIGHT potential customer: e.g. a person that actually desires your products. Giving away some of your actual products as the prize means you attract the people who want your products, not just people who want a free thing.
Do not make your prize a coupon. Giveaway something that has actual value, whether that be a gift card to your shop or a product that you sell. Start with something smaller and less expensive if this is your first giveaway, then as you see the results and learn what works best for you, you can giveaway things with higher value.
The better you promote your giveaway, the better chance you have of getting the RIGHT type of customer to see it. Promoting it on your website and social accounts is a given. If you want to take it a step further, collaborate with a blogger or influencer to help you run your giveaway. Collaborations could range from a promoted post on Instagram ($25-$100) or sponsoring a whole promoted post on their blog that features your brand or products and gives details about the giveaway.
To make sure your collaboration is the right fit, don't just check out the blogger / influencer's social media accounts and blog. Ask her (or him) for specifics about her audience. What are some demographics for her audience? How old are they? Where do they live? etc. Not only that, how many pageviews does her blog get on average per month? How many of those are unique visitors (i.e. 1 unique visitor could have viewed 8 different pages on her website, and that would count as 8 pageviews even though it's the same one visitor). A blogger should EASILY be able to provide these stats via a press kit or screenshots of her Google Analytics account. Be skeptical of bloggers who can't give you this info, especially if it's a paid collaboration.
It doesn't matter how awesome your prize is if it's difficult or time-consiming to enter your giveaway. Make it easy to enter by asking people for just their name, email, and maybe one other fact like their birthday. They shouldn't have to fill out a whole survey or click through 5 pages of your website to get to the giveaway. Remember, the goal of this is to get them in the door of your physical or virtual store and get them familiar with your brand. They might end up making a purchase while they are there, and if not, now you have a potential customer (& their contact info) that is familiar with your shop that you can send offers to in the future.
Make sure to write an "Official Rules" section for your giveaway. These rules disclose how your giveaway works and protect you from liability. You'll need to do a little research or get some legal advice to figure out what the specific laws surrounding giveaways in your state are to ensure you are following them. Don't skip this step! If you do, you risk hosting a giveaway that is technically not legal. For example, if you are hosting a true "sweepstakes" type giveaway where winners are chosen by luck of the draw, then your giveaway needs to be free to enter. Charging for entry means your giveaway is now considered a lottery drawing, which are highly regulated (and shouldn't be done without legal counsel)
2. Offer Freebies
People love free stuff, no matter what it is.
A freebie is along the same lines of a giveaway, except that everyone gets one. Maybe it's a free gift or free sample they get just by visiting your store or maybe it's a freebie they receive by making a purchase such as "free _____ sample with purchase of two or more ______"
Some of the elements of a good freebie:
A classic marketing strategy: limited time or "while supplies last" offers create a sense of urgency for potential customers by letting them know that this offer is available for a period of time. They are inclined to make a purchase sooner (or NOW!) because they know that if they wait until later to make their purchase, the offer won't be there. Not only this, it gives your freebie a cut-off. This is important because giving out free things all the time would get expensive, plus it doesn't seem as special as if it's happening all the time.
Our best tip is a "while supplies last" offer. Not only does it make sure you only give out as many free things as you have available, it also encourages your customer to make a purchase sooner. If there is a specific end date, they might be tempted to say, "Oh, well this freebie is offered until ____, so I can just think about it and come back before then." If they don't know how long it will last, they are more likely to make a purchase now so that they don't miss out.
The best type of freebie is one that encourages your customers to come back for more. Sephora is amazing at these type of freebies. They give out free samples upon request, which allows you to experience the product multiple times and on your own time, then come back and make a purchase.
Think about what kind of freebie you could give that would plant a seed: i.e. give your customers a little taste or trial of your products that would encourage them to come back later for more. For beauty products, this is easy since you can just provide a sample of the actual product, but for apparel and accessories, this can be a lot harder. Do a little brainstorming about your products and offerings to see how you could use a freebie to lead into a paid product.
It's not as hard as you think, mostly because of the reciprocity principle: people naturally feel an obligation to repay a favor that someone did for them. If you give someone something for free with no strings attached, they naturally feel more inclined to make a purchase. Here's an example: on free slushie day at 7/11, slushie sales shot up 38%. Wait, WHAT?! People ended up buying larger slushies that weren't part of the promo, even though they could have as many as they wanted for free. It turns out when you offer something for free, people become willing to spend money to get it.
GET THE CHECKLIST!
Download the free Sales Strategy Checklist to walk you through implementing these strategies. Just leave your email below.
OR Get access to this plus our whole library of FREE resources HERE.
3. Create a rewards program
Rewarding customer loyalty is important. Your returning customers already like, know, and trust you. They are way more comfortable giving your their money than a potential customer or stranger encountering your brand for the first time. Because of this, you should have a system in place that both allows them to benefit from being a fan or your brand and encourages them to make future purchases.
Spring is the perfect time to launch a rewards program. You not only likely have more time yourself to work on getting it started, but starting now also means that you can have your rewards program up-and-running with most of your loyal customers involved by the time you hit the busy season. This means you won't have to try to work out kinks when you are in the middle of the holiday sales season, plus you can use your rewards program to multiply your holiday sales.
What should you offer? Will your customers earn points each time they make a purchase that can be cashed in for store credit? Will they get a ___% off coupon after making a purchase 10x? Quick tip: programs that offer points are better suited to customers that make frequent visits or high-dollar purchases. If you only see your most loyal customers about 1x a month and they buy something that's mid-range, dollar wise, you are better off offering them a freebie or 1x coupon through the rewards program vs using a points system that could take them years before they earn enough points to be able to cash in.
P.S. This is the biggest reason customers quit loyalty programs: they don't get rewarded soon or often enough. It's better to give your customers less reward value sooner and more often than making them wait a long time to get rewarded with something that has higher value.
To create an incentive that works for your business, you also need to crunch some numbers and see how much value you can afford to giveaway on a consistent basis to your returning customers.
While its ok to use a punch card, it's event better to use something people lose less often (if ever): their smartphone. Digital rewards programs are better because you are able to contact your customers when they're not in your store to give them offers and freebie incentives.
Your rewards program needs to be set up to collect data about your loyal customer base. We're talking things like preferences and purchasing habits. This puts your loyalty program to work for you. Instead of just driving sales, this info will help you shape your overall business strategy and decisions. As you learn more about what your customers want, you can make strategic decisions to make sure you're providing it for them.
If you're looking for software to help you with your rewards program, Sweet Tooth is a pretty good place to start for a points-based program. Both it and S Loyalty integrate with Shopify. You can also check out other offerings like Perkville or Belly.
Combine the launch of your rewards program with a giveaway or freebie. Give people an incentive to sign up initially, then once they are in you can keep the freebies and offers coming through the program and reward them for making purchases. You can also make your rewards program a "second step" to a freebie you're offering. For example, You offer your freebie for a limited time or via limited supplies to everyday customers, but rewards program members get extended access or access even when supplies run out for everyone else.
4. Launch a referral program
Referral programs are an easy way to reach your ideal customer without spending a dime on advertising. Referral programs essentially reward your loyal customers for bringing in new customers and helping them get to know your brand. They are super effective for a lot of reasons.
First, they magnify your organic word-of-mouth reach by giving people who already love and refer your brand an extra incentive to do it more. The new potential customers that your loyal customers tell about your brand are most often the RIGHT people, meaning they are people that would be interested in your products and services vs a stranger that you might reach through advertising who might not have any interest in your products or brand. Also, the money you would normally spend on advertising is now going to rewarding your loyal customers, which can generate even more sales.
We recommend offering value in the form of store credit as an incentive. This is more meaningful that a coupon, but valuable enough that people will take time and effort to make referrals. You can offer free products, but for loyal customers, having the option to choose how they want to be rewarded via recieving a gift card or store credit is often a lot more meaningful.
Double-sided offers are even better. An example of this is where the loyal customer that referred their friend gets a $10 store credit, and the new friend gets $10 off their first purchase. This structure makes it naturally easier for people to tell their friends because they don't have to feel "salesy." It's much easier to share and convince someone to do business with a brand when it will benefit them. For example, MOO has a referral program where if you're a first-time customer that clicks this link, you get $15 off your first order and we get $15 off our next order.
A necessary contingency to a referral program is an actual purchase being made. When a new customer makes a purchase, that means the referral or word-of-mouth actually worked. The easiest way to offer a referral program is via links since your customers can share them many ways: on social, via text, through email, etc. You can use a program like RewardStream for this. If you don't want to create a formal program, another way to do it is to offer a "bring a friend" discount. If people bring a friend with them into your store, and they both make a purchase, they each get ___% off right then and there.
You can also open your referral programs to bloggers. We recommend not reaching out blindly. Develop a relationship on social media first by liking / commenting / sharing their content or target bloggers who you already know are fans of your brand.
5. Holiday promos & offers
Creating promotions, offers, or sales that are spring-specific are a good way to drive sales and remind loyal customers to come in and shop.
There are plenty of spring holidays you can celebrate with an offer or sale: Easter / Mother’s Day / Baseball Season / Graduation / Weddings / Teacher Appreciation Day / Memorial Day / Last Day of School / Fathers Day / Dance Recitals. Some of these holidays are things people forget are coming up since they aren't the "big" holidays, so sales are a good way to remind customers.
If you do choose to celebrate one of these holidays here's a few quick tips to do it successfully:
Respect the holiday - Holidays are not an EXCUSE to promote your business via a sale, this feels fake. Think car salesman or businesses you see commercials for who have some sort of "HUGE BLOWOUT CRAZY SALE" on every single minor holiday.
If you are going to create a holiday sale or promotion, stay respectful of the purpose of the holiday and keep your offer relevant and purposeful to that holiday. If you're a clothing boutique who's primary customer base is college girls, a father's day sale doesn't really fit (unless you actually have items that would make great father day gifts)
Don't Overdo It
Hosting a holiday sale for each and every holiday not only feels old when all your customers see or hear from you all spring is something about another "sale" you're having.
Plus, if you are able to have this many sales and still be in business, there is something wrong with your business model. In retail, sales should be used sparingly as a way to move inventory that is not selling or clear space for the next season of items. If you are constantly resorting to sales to move a large amount of your inventory, there is a problem with your buying / pricing structure.
6. Host a Shopping Party or Special Event
Shopping parties and special events create some buzz around your shop. They might offer people the chance to come in during a time you aren't normally open, or experience your store in a fun, new way.
P.S. ROOTS also has event planning services, so if any of this sounds super exciting and you don't know where to start, just let us know.
A "shopping party" can be as simple as staying open later on a thursday, serving refreshments or cocktails, and offering a small discount. The trick is in the promotion. Name your party something funny or enticing, create fun graphics to promote your event on social, or send out invitations via evites.
Events are great because they provide an incentive to get people into your store. They get a more intimate look at your brand and get to experience your products in a hands-on way. Plus, they're just more fun! You can enhance your event with a giveaway, freebies like a goodie bag, or a contest (e.g. customers put together an outfit using pieces that are new to the shop, then post it on insta using a hashtag. The winner gets a $50 gift card to your shop)
Special events could include a workshop, DIY night, or hosting an influencer for a meet and greet. You could celebrate the arrival of your new spring items or the launch of a new product or line.
You can also create a blogger-exclusive party: invite local bloggers to give them a special look inside your shop. Offer them something special for their time, like a secret look at items that are not yet available in your shop or a goodie bag for attending. Besides the fact that the bloggers might make a purchase or share about your brand on social media, events like these often open the door for future collaborations with bloggers. You get to know them in person, learn a little bit about their style, and the types of collaborations they offer.
P.S. If you're in Denver, we can help you plan a blogger party in a snap. We've got a list of over 50 local bloggers, and can help you build a guest list that's just right for your brand.