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Nine Tips for More Effective Multi-Location Digital Marketing

BY CSA STAFF

By Chris Watland, [email protected]

By this point, most chain stores have embraced digital marketing to reach customers through regular email communications and with a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. And retail already outpaces many other industries in its sophisticated collection of customer purchase and loyalty program data.

Yet many retailers are still only achieving a fraction of the benefits that today’s digital marketing tools can offer. Used properly, multi-location digital marketing can facilitate better integration of marketing initiatives and greater customer engagement through more relevant, targeted communications. And it can do so at a fraction of the cost of traditional mass media. Here are nine ways you can harness digital marketing to achieve these results.

1. Attract more social media fans and followers. If you’re not doing so already, publicize your presence on Facebook and Twitter in-store, on your website, and in ads. Also consider Facebook ads to further ignite the growth of your fan base. Give people incentives to join and offer fans and followers a steady stream of exclusive content they won’t find anywhere else. One study found that 37% of Facebook users "like" fan pages just to receive coupons and deals. Emphasize giveaways and discounts to keep your followers interested in your tweets and to ensure that your posts remain highlighted on your fans’ news feeds.

2. Add SMS to your digital marketing playbook. Text marketing still isn’t used by many retailers — but it should be. SMS offers something no other form of marketing can: an unparalleled ability to reach your most dedicated customers anywhere in real time. Eighty-three percent of texts are read within one hour, and mobile has three to five times the reported click-through rate of other media. SMS is particularly ideal for driving retail traffic through same-day offers and weekend sales. To retain and grow your subscription base, keep your SMS communications focused on enticing offers, and avoid overdoing it. One text a week or less is a good starting point.

3. Build your email and SMS lists using social media. Liking or following you on social media is a light commitment for customers compared to opting in to your email or SMS marketing lists. By acquiring social followers and offering them deals they appreciate, you can help them see the value in joining your lists. Create a permanent tab on your Facebook account to a web form people that complete to join your email or SMS lists, and tweet a link to your form on Twitter. Give people an incentive to join. On the opt-in form, collect information on their store location of choice so that you can make your offers even more targeted and relevant.

4. Add digital calls to action to your product packaging. Try using text-driven calls to action and QR codes on product packaging to deliver content to customers in real time and differentiate high-margin items on shelves. You can ask customers to send a text or scan the QR code to receive a recipe or coupon, watch a video about your brand’s commitment to quality, register a loyalty code, or even fill out a survey. Calls to action that add real value for your customers will be the most successful.

5. Launch new products with a digital sweepstakes or promotion. A sweepstakes is a proven way to digitally build awareness for a new product or stimulate demand for an existing one. Allow entry and participation via text messaging, web, Facebook, and Twitter. Opt participants in to your text and email subscription lists as the cost of entry as another way to grow your lists.

6. Migrate to a cross-channel platform. Today’s digital marketing tools allow you to conduct your email, SMS, and social marketing from a single source. Moving to a cross-channel approach will enable you to simplify campaign rollout across all media and to automatically collect data from every campaign in one place. It will also allow you to establish a consistent workflow across channels to minimize the complexity of scheduling and sending messages, and to implement a reliable approval process from headquarters for regional or single-store communications.

7. Build a universal profile of your customers. By connecting with your customers through social media, email, and SMS, you will eventually be able to develop a universal profile of them across all digital channels. You’ll be able to see what kinds of deals each likes, and whether they respond more favorably to an afternoon tweet, an early-morning email, or a midday text. Using your cross-channel platform, you can also connect this information to your point-of-sale and loyalty marketing data to get a complete view of your customers’ preferences and behaviors.

8. Create more relevant, personalized offers. By gathering all of your customer information in a single database, you will be able to start segmenting and personalizing your communications for portions of your lists based on each customer’s demographics, store location, behavior, and communication preferences. You can also automatically trigger messages to customers on holidays, their birthdays, and their anniversary date of joining your loyalty programs using their preferred communication medium.

9. Track your success. As you try different approaches and promotions, it’s important to track the effectiveness of each campaign. You can gauge which ads or promotions led to new subscribers and which led people to unsubscribe. You can measure how much it cost per campaign to add a subscriber and which communications had the best click-through and open rates. Most importantly, you can see which had the best redemption rates by store, and whether those deal redemptions facilitated additional in-store purchases.

Over time, you can get a better sense of which offers work best and put more focus on those approaches. But you should still continue to try new tactics, both to continually improve the relevance of your offers and to keep customers engaged. Following these steps, you can use digital marketing to create more targeted, highly relevant communications that foster greater customer loyalty and repeat business.

Chris Watland is co-founder and president of Signal, a Chicago-based provider of digital marketing technology recently named #108 on the 2011 Inc. 500 List . You can reach him at [email protected].

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Awaiting December comps with breathless anticipation

BY CSA STAFF

Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel drew a proverbial line in the sand last month when he noted the company’s same-stores sales performance in December would be better than the company’s modest showing in November.

Actually, what he said was, “For the month of December, our comparable-store sales results will compare the five weeks ending Dec. 31, 2011 to the five weeks ended Jan. 1, 2011. We expect a low to mid single-digit increase in Target’s comparable-store sales for this period, stronger than our November performance.”

That makes the line in the sand 1.8%, a figure that qualifies as a low single digit and wouldn’t appear to be a high bar to clear, especially considering easy prior year comparisons. Comps in December 2010 increased a meager 0.9% and that was on top of a December 2009 increase of 1.8%.

Then again, there are no guarantees in retail, and Steinhafel’s assertion that December comps would surpass the 1.8% gain in November came before much of the country experienced the type of unseasonably warm weather that normally has a negative effect on sales of cold weather categories. Even if Target overcomes the weather issues, surpasses November’s showing and delivers a comp that is more of a mid rather than low single digit number, the magnitude of the increase and whether it was influenced by transaction size, customer traffic, or both, will provide fresh insight into the ability of the ongoing PFresh store conversion program and the relatively young REDcard Rewards program to produce sustainable results in 2012.

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No Target on Morningstar’s top 10

BY CSA STAFF

The analysts at Morningstar combed through 330 consumer sector companies and came up with a list of 10 names that comprise the firm’s new “Consumers’ Choice List.

Inclusion on the select group topped by Amazon was determined by a company’s ability to outperform Morningstar’s broader consumer sector coverage list during the next 12 to 24 months. In Amazon’s case, the company Target partnered with for a decade until last fall when it went its own way with online operations, Morningstar expects the online retailer to end 2011 with annual revenues of slightly more than $49 billion. Thanks to a 28% compound annual growth rate, within three years Amazon’s revenues are expected to double by 2014. After Amazon, other companies topping the list included Disney, eBay, Kellog, MGM Chian, PepsiCo, Sysco, Tencent, Time Warner and VF Corp.

“When selecting names for this list, we are not only focused on current and future trends, but also structural competitive advantages which can ultimately translate into long-term outsized economic returns,” according to Morningstar. “Within this large-cap sector-driven portfolio, we attempt to strike a balance between cyclical and defensive categories, while also layering in our top-down macroeconomic views.”

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