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  • School of Retailing

Retail Survival Tips: Leveraging Your Online Presence to Stay Afloat

Written by: Simone Websdale | Student Consultant | B'Comm 2022

Times are tough out there. It's no secret. The following graph represents the reality most retailers find themselves in today.

While it might be an intimidating and uncertain time to be in retail, it is also an opportune time to grow other aspects of your business outside of the traditional brick and mortar model.

Now more than ever is the time to pursue and grow an online community for your business. Having a strong online and social media presence will make your business more accessible and allow you to strengthen relationships beyond the walls of your business. Several Canadian retailers have found success during these times by leveraging their online presence to support their business and strengthen their customer relationships.

Metta Yoga Leverages Instagram Community

For example, Metta Yoga Edmonton now does a yoga class every night on Instagram live. This offers their clients a sense of normalcy and allows them to remain a unified community through social media. During a time when consumers are rapidly adopting new behaviours, Metta Yoga has remained top of mind for yogis and a consistent piece of their daily routine.

Aritzia Drives Online Traffic Via Timely Sale

Other larger companies have expanded their online reach by amping up sales and offering free online shipping. Aritzia is currently having a “Lighten Up Sale, For brighter days ahead.” to encourage customers to continue to support their business online despite the closure of their physical stores. They are also encouraging their staff to participate in social media marketing to ensure they reach a broad audience and maintain relationships with clientele. Again, it's all about being top of mind and remaining apart of your customer's lives during a time of unprecedented change.

Four Tips for a Strong Online Presence:

To help you get started, we've compiled four tips to help your business succeed online:

1. Instagram

Creating an Instagram account for your business is essential. It is the most effective way to reach all of your clients and allow them to conveniently stay up to date with your business. You will be able to inform people about new sales, promotions, and utilize contests to promote your brand. It is also an easy way for clients to contact you so you can build on your personal relationships.

2. Website

While it may be obvious that a website is crucial to online success, you would be surprised at the number of underwhelming websites out there. Make sure that your website is simple and efficient in order to maximize customer experience. Several user-friendly tools like WIX or Shopify exist online to simplify the once daunting task of creating a website from scratch. You can also submit your website to a site like UserFeel where you pay a small fee and they have testers go through your website and give you live feedback as they use it. From this feedback, you will be able to adapt your site and ensure a positive experience for each viewer.

3. Photo Quality Matters

Whether you’re selling jewelry or lawnmowers, consumers LOVE a good photo set. It is important to showcase your product from a distance to show the product entirely as well as up-close photos for specific details. And then there is the action shot. The action shot is the most important because it enables customers to visualize themselves using your product. If you're able, consider updating your website content regularly to help with searchability and relevance.

4. Consistency is Key

This is the most important tip! In order to build a strong online presence, you must be consistent. The more you post and promote, the more people will engage with your business and share your content with others. It takes time to build up a following for your business but stay patient and consistent and you will see worthwhile results.

Takeaway: Looking into the future, you as a retailer will benefit from having both a strong online presence and the complimentary traditional in-store experience. The investment into the online sector will help your business to be more nimble and flexible for whatever the future has in store.

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