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2017

Whether you own an e-commerce website, a brick-and-mortar retail store or both, succeeding in a rapidly changing retail marketplace is a challenge. Here are five consumer shopping trends you should know about for the coming year to make sure you’re ahead of the pack:

 

1. Mobile everythingRieva Lesonsky Headshot.png

Consumer time spent on mobile devices and the mobile Internet now surpasses that spent on desktops. Shopping on mobile devices hit record levels during the 2016 holiday season, with over $2.4 billion worth of purchases made on mobile devices on Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone, CIO reports. Your customers are browsing, buying and looking for retail locations on their mobile phones—and it doesn’t stop once they get into the store, where they use their phones to look at product reviews, information and pricing.

To be successful in 2017, retailers will need to up their mobile game. Start by making sure your business website is mobile-friendly and, if you have a physical store, that your online presence is optimized for local search. That means your business’s name, address and phone number should be consistent across all listings, from your website to your social profiles and online reviews. Offer customers free Wi-Fi in your store, and incorporate mobile advertising to get them in the door. This can range from sending SMS text messages to geo-fencing or geo-conquesting technology. (The former sends messages to users within a certain radius of your business; the latter sends messages to users within a certain radius of your competitors' businesses.)

Finally, if you haven't already incorporated mobile payment into your retail store, 2017 is the year to do it. Accepting payments on mobile devices speeds up checkout and provides greater flexibility. Also look into mobile wallet solutions, which are increasingly popular with younger consumers.

2. Convenience

Whether shopping in-store or online, consumers in 2017 are all about convenience. For e-commerce retailers, that means offering free shipping and returns and the ability to track shipments. Make shopping easier by letting customers set up accounts so they don't have to re-enter information every time they buy. Offer subscription programs for consumable products or “buy again” options for frequently ordered products.

Related article: How to Scale your Marketing Plan for Lasting Impact in the New Year

For brick-and-mortar retailers, convenience means a well-stocked store with well-trained staff that’s knowledgeable about your products. If you have both a physical and digital retail presence, consumers will expect to be able to order online, then pick up their products or return products in-store.

 

3. Personalization

Small retailers have long relied on the personal touch to give them an edge—and it works: an Accenture Interactive study reports that “56 percent of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer in-store or online that recognizes them by name.” However, in 2017 you’ll need to go beyond just remembering faces. Smart retailers will use loyalty and membership programs to collect information about what their customers buy, how they shop and what offers they respond to. The good news: 54 percent of shoppers are willing to share personal information and shopping preferences with retailers in return for personalized offers, emails and other marketing materials.

In 2017, e-commerce retailers will use chat bots to answers customers’ questions, make suggestions and otherwise personalize the online experience. Brick-and-mortar retailers should focus on getting to know their customers and building loyalty with a “personal shopper” approach, such as having sales assistants contact customers when new shipments come in or set aside items they think regular customers might like.

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The end of 2016 saw several traditional department stores, such as Sears, JCPenney and Macy’s, struggle with disappointing sales; all three plan store closures. Online retailer Amazon announced it will open physical stores, while Target and Walmart are opening small-scale versions of their huge locations. What gives?

In 2017, small, specialized and independent retailers will capture customers’ hearts. Shoppers want unique products—hence the growing popularity of shops that specialize in artisanal and local goods. Instead of wandering the aisles of giant superstores or endlessly clicking among a selection of 25,362 different blue sweaters, shoppers are looking for small, welcoming stores that offer a carefully curated selection of products.

5. “Retailtainment”

Consumers of all ages are spending less on “things” and more on experiences. And if they do need to buy a “thing,” they can just pull out their phones. Given this shift, what will it take to lure shoppers into physical stores in 2017? People still want to gather in public places, touch and feel merchandise, and be entertained “in the real world.” The most successful retailers will tap into these desires and create a memorable experience by offering a mix of retailing and entertainment—call it “retailtainment.”

Click here to read more articles on sales & marketing from our small business experts.

New technologies such as augmented and virtual reality are already being implemented to add a new level of interaction to shopping at large retailers; in 2017, they’ll increasingly become available to even small businesses. You can also incorporate “retailtainment” using low-tech methods such as hosting events in your store or displaying work by local artists on your walls. Try holding a live fashion show in your clothing boutique or hosting cooking classes in your home goods store. Throw a special Saturday-night sale and invite a local band to play in-store. Small retailers can also piggyback on larger entertainment concepts by locating near movie theaters, restaurants and amusement arcades where consumers go for fun.

 

I think 2017 is going to be an exciting year for retail. By planning how your store will incorporate these five shopper trends, you can make it one of your most profitable years ever.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.             

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Was one of your New Year's resolutions to get more customers? Every small business needs a steady stream of new business to keep it going—and growing. Here are six ways to attract more customers in 2017.

 

1. Reach out to dormant customers. One often-overlooked way to get new business is to contact former customers who haven’t purchased from you in a while. Use loyalty marketing software or customer relationship management (CRM) software to track your customers so you can automatically follow up with them when a certain time period has passed. Depending on your business and the nature of the relationship, you can reach out to them with a phone call, email or special offer. This is also a good time to find out why they stopped doing business with you. For example, perhaps they experienced bad service or poor product quality and never told you about it.

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2. Get referrals. Word-of-mouth has always been a great source of new business for entrepreneurs. Accelerate yours by setting up a system for asking satisfied customers for referrals after every sale. For example, when you follow up with customers to make sure they’re satisfied with their purchases or to provide additional training, make it a habit to request referrals. You can also ask for referrals via email, inserts in paper bills or at the point-of-sale. Don’t stop at customers: ask friends, family, colleagues and even employees if they know anyone they can refer to your business.

 

Related article: 7 Ways to Boost Engagement from Your Social Media Posts

 

3. Offer a special for new customers only. This is a time-tested promotional tactic for a reason—it works. Try offering a two-for-one dinner special at your restaurant, a 30-day introductory membership to your karate studio or a free consultation with your accounting firm. You can either handle the offer yourself, or try using Groupon and similar services, which can help extend your reach. (Helpful tip: if you use such services, be sure to spread the deal over a long enough timeframe that your business doesn’t get overwhelmed. The goal is to attract new customers and wow them with your service so they’ll keep coming back—not to create angry customers because you ran out of product.)

 

4. Clean up your online presence. A few small changes to your business website and local search listings can make a huge difference in attracting more customers. Start by making sure your business website is mobile-friendly. Most people now look for businesses on their mobile phones, so if your website doesn’t display properly when they find you, they’ll look elsewhere.  After that, improve your website SEO by making sure you’re using the proper keywords to attract the right type of customer. SEO can get tricky, so it’s worth enlisting professional help here. Finally, if your business relies on nearby customers, make sure you’re easy to find using local search - this means claiming your listings on local search directories, such as Google My Business, and making sure these listings are complete and accurate. It’s important to be consistent in the spelling and capitalization of your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP) across all your online listings. This means you shouldn’t spell out “Street” in one listing and “St.” in another.

 

Click here to read more articles on Sales & Marketing.

 

5. Step up your digital marketing. Once your website, SEO and search listings are in order, investing in online advertising can help attract even more new customers. Try using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising—it’s easy to create your own ads that fit your budget. Plus, you pay only when someone clicks on your ad, so you know you’re getting results. Advertising on social media, such as Facebook or Pinterest, can also be very effective if your target customers spend a lot of time there. Social media advertising can target your ads very narrowly to specific customer groups, such as women who have children under age 5, live in St. Louis, and buy organic food.

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6. Co-market with related businesses. Other businesses can be a great source of new customers. How? Look for businesses that are complementary, but not competitive. For instance, if you own a pet grooming business, complementary businesses might include a

veterinarian’s office, a dog-walking service, a doggy daycare or a pet-sitting business. Contact these businesses and ask if you can cross-promote with them. For instance, you link to each other’s websites, put the other company’s brochures or business cards at your point of sale, place ads for the other business in your email newsletters, or recommend each other to customers.

 

These six tips are set up to help you win new customers. Once they’re in the door, it’s up to you to provide the kind of outstanding service that will keep them coming back.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com.  A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

                                                                                                                                  

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Viral used to be something you didn’t want any part of, but for small businesses using social media, “going viral” is a constant objective. While social media can be a great, cost-effective way to reach customers, it can be a challenge for small businesses to cut through the noise and have their posts seen.

 

Here are 7 best practices to ensure your social content is working for you.

 

1.     Post consistently

 

The best chance to have social content that works is to make sure you consistently post on your platforms of choice. A few times a month won’t cut it. The best frequency varies by platform. For LinkedIn, you may want to be posting just one or two times a day, max. But for Twitter, a “tweet’s” life is often only an hour or less, so you may want to post 4-8 times per day (sometimes, even sending the same or a similar tweet within the same day or week).

 

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Also, it’s better to be on one or two platforms consistently than being inconsistent across a bunch of platforms.

 

2.     Add pictures and videos

 

People have short – and shrinking – attention spans. So capturing attention often boils down to being visual. Think about it; Emojis have replaced words in communications!  Take a cue from that and add photos and videos to your social content.

 

Statistics show that adding visual content will boost engagement. If you have a product to show off, this is a no brainer. If you are service-oriented, trying using a photo with some words over it or a complementary photo to your text as a way to engage current and potential customers.

 

Also, explore visually-oriented platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Carol Roth

 

3.     Try different verbiage and times

 

Mix up the language you use on social media. You may find being clever resonates or perhaps your customers like a more straightforward approach. Social media provides an easy and cheap platform for testing, so pay attention to what works.

 

Also, mix up the timing of your posts. You may find on certain platforms, certain times of day do better or worse. For me, mornings and evenings are great on Twitter, but there’s a dead zone mid-afternoon. Keep testing!

 

4.     Engage an influencer

 

A great way to make content go viral is to have someone with a big following share the content. People with big audiences are busy (and like to have a benefit for leveraging the audiences that they have built), so spamming them doesn’t work well. Instead, include them in your content. Or, go through a service that will allow you to pay an influencer to post for you (with proper legal disclosure).

 

Related article: 5 Ways to Use Social Media to Better Run Your Business

 

5.     Pay

 

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Speaking of payment, targeted boosting of content can really create a great return on investment. Facebook and YouTube are two platforms where targeting is strong and returns tend to be more tangible. Again, you can stretch a small budget and test to find out what works as an added bonus.

 

6.     Be helpful

 

Nobody likes to be hit over the head with advertisements over and over again, so while it’s ok to throw out an offer from time to time, include other helpful content as well as fun content that aligns with your brand. For example, if you sell gardening tools, post content (either created by you or that you found elsewhere) on the five best ways to make your vegetables grow bigger and faster, or something like that. Or share photos of vegetables that look like animals (who wouldn’t want to share that?)! It will help you attract more loyalty and a bigger audience that will be receptive when you do have an offer to make.

 

7.     Hop on a trend

 

If there is a hot trend happening, whether a holiday or an actual social trend (like Twitter’s trending topics), adding relevant content and hashtags related to that trend can help build new followers and customers find you and share your content.

 

About Carol Roth: Carol Roth is the creator of the Future File™ legacy planning system, “recovering” investment banker, billion-dollar dealmaker, investor, entrepreneur, national media personality and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett-produced technology competition show, America’s Greatest Makers and TV host and contributor, including host of Microsoft’s Office Small Business Academy. She is also an advisor to companies ranging from startups to major multi-national corporations and has an action figure made in her own likeness. 

 

Web: www.CarolRoth.com or Twitter: @CarolJSRoth

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Carol Roth to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Carol Roth is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Carol Roth. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Now that we’re a few weeks into 2017, you may have noticed that some of the fervor of everyone’s New Year’s resolutions has begun to fade. It’s not even February yet, but gyms aren’t quite as crowded anymore, and you’re not seeing nearly as many Facebook posts of your friends sharing their oh-so-healthy dinner plans. The good intentions are still there; it’s just that change can be hard to maintain long-term.

 

Luckily, when it comes to making marketing resolutions for your small business, it’s a lot easier to implement changes that will have a lasting impact on your business’s success. By strategically focusing your marketing plan on the tools, channels, and tactics that will achieve the most dramatic effects for the least amount of extra time and effort, you can scale your marketing up painlessly this year, and ensure that the results don’t disappear along with all those diets and 5 a.m. jogs.

 

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Here are three easy tweaks in particular that I’d recommend making to your digital marketing strategy in 2017 in order to make a long-term difference and reach your goals.

 

1.  Make real connections with Facebook Live video streaming

Video has long been recognized for its unique effectiveness as a marketing tool, but the cost and effort of producing a high-quality video could often be prohibitive for small businesses. That’s why Facebook Live is such a game changer. Packing even more power for your punch than prerecorded video, live streaming gives viewers a sense of immediacy and personal connection that is key to creating the kind of customer relationship that promotes real brand loyalty. And it’s accessible to anyone with a smartphone – no expensive equipment or extensive preparation required.

 

Showing your customers around behind the scenes at your business, sharing your story from the intimate setting of your home or office, or even just goofing around on live video are all easy ways to connect with your audience that can pay off in spades when it comes to creating lasting results.

 

Related article: 6 Productivity Hacks for the New Year

 

2. Reach a millennial audience using Snapchat   

The messages sent on Snapchat may only last for a few seconds, but this social media platform looks like it’s here to stay. And with a user base composed mainly of younger demographics, it’s the perfect tool for targeting millennials in a new and wildly effective way.

 

The fleeting nature of Snapchat posts makes them perfect for extending exclusive limited time offers, and the popularity of the platform makes engaging with customers easy - ask your audience to share short videos, pictures, or doodles in response to a question or to enter a contest. You can even hold a Snapchat takeover, in which you allow someone popular with your audience to post on your account for a specified amount of time to draw in new fans. Any and all of these options are effective when trying to reach millennials and even Generation Z, and an investment in these demographics now can make for lifelong relationships.

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3. Grow your audience exponentially through influencer marketing

Whether you’re just starting to build up your online audience or you have an established group of followers but are looking to expand your reach, influencer marketing is hands down the most efficient and effective way to gain access to large new swathes of your target audience - and create a favorable impression on them.  People trust word-of-mouth advertising much more than anything a company itself produces, so tapping into the trust that influencers already enjoy within their audiences is a powerful way to gain attention.

 

Click here to read more articles on Sales & Marketing

 

From writing an informative guest post on an industry expert’s blog, to partnering with a celebrity on social media to boost awareness of your brand, different tactics work for different target audiences. Find out who your audience trusts and follows, and approach them with a mutually beneficial offer in order to build a relationship. Even just one such connection and collaboration can earn your brand a significant new following that will stay loyal for the long haul.

 

By making these three additions to your marketing strategy this year, you can achieve dramatic results that have a true, lasting impact on your bottom line. And if that’s not enough motivation to stick with your resolutions, then I don’t know what is!  

 

About Shama Hyder

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group – a global online marketing and digital PR company. She has aptly been dubbed the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country. Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn named Hyder one of its “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media. Her web show Shama TV was awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was awarded the “Excellence in Social Media Entrepreneurship” award for 2016 by Anokhi Media.

 

Web: www.shamahyder.com or Twitter: @Shama.

You can read more articles from Shama Hyder by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Shama Hyder to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Shama Hyder is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Shama Hyder. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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