8 Things Every Independent Merchant Needs To Be Doing…

The Photiq team is always keeping an eye on what small businesses and especially independent merchants are up to to when it comes to promoting their business and advertising thier products. We have been surprised by how many stores do so very little to communicate with their customers and bring foot traffic in through the door, so we decided to put together a list of all the small things that make a big difference for informing and retaining customers.

If you are a merchant and think that you are marketing savvy, then use this list as more of a check list, otherwise this list should be used as a ‘merchant-marketing-bible’.

Ready? here we go…

mailing-list1. Build an email list – This is so simple and easy to do but massively effective! When your customers are in your store and about to make a purchase, ask them if they would like to sign up to your mailing list and be kept informed about sales, special events and new arrivals. The Photiq team has seen sophisticated sign up forms as part of PoS systems and we have also seen a home made table on a large sheet of paper where customers write down their name and email address. We are happy to report that both work perfectly well.

So when you do have a sale, some fun new arrivals or you decide to host an event in your store (more about this in point 5) then invite people on your emailing list! Its nice to keep emailing people regularly but not spam them with unnecessary content, so make sure you have something interesting to say. There are lots of places where you can build or upload mailing lists and send out nicely designed emails. There are free trials for you to decide which platform you like, but you are likely to have to pay a monthly subscription fee. Here are just a few sites that the Photiq team found that we liked:

  • MailChimp – The offer a pay-per-email or a monthly plan option, MailChimp lets you customize how you want to be billed and is free to use if you have less than 500 subscribers per email list. Its a hugely popular email marketing service and a fun and colourful service which has some fantastic features
  • AWeber – AWeber has been around since 1998 and works with more than 110,000 businesses, non-profits and agencies. They are known for their customer service – besides email, they clearly display their phone number on the homepage and even have a live chat feature and setup wizard to help first-time users set up their account instead of leaving them to discover features on their own. Their popular features includes autoresponders, analytics and even social integration (e.g. collecting subscribers from Facebook). A 30-day trial is $1 and provides full access to all features.
  • Constant Contact – They allow small businesses to create and manage e-mail lists and professional looking newsletters. The site boasts to have serviced over 300,000 customers. Blank templates can be made into whatever you want them to be…
  • iContact – Here you can create, send and track e-newsletters. You can also create and send surveys, auto-responders, blogs, and RSS feeds. iContact offers a free trial without requiring a credit card, which is nice. The service charges you on the number of contacts you have, not the number of e-mails sent or a flat fee basis.
  • Vertical Response – This company offers a pay as you go model or a monthly subscription. In addition to offering surveys, they also allow you to send postcards from your browser. You can customize your postcards online and VerticalReponse will send them for you, offering a unique and an additional way to get in touch with your prospects or customers 🙂

yelp_logo2. List your store on as many sites as you can – The Photiq team thought that every small business would have a listing on, but it turns out that this is not the case. We are getting to the point where, if you are not discoverable on the Internet then consumers will be suspicious about your store and won’t want to come in. Also listing are great for when people are trying to find local information on a search engine such as Google.

Yelp is just one place to list your business. Here are a few more:

  • Google Places – Tightly integrated with Google’s search and map services, Google Places is free for both users and businesses, and results automatically show up during searches. Once you ‘claim’ your place you can start adding information about you business and include photos and videos if you like as well. You can also respond publicly to individual reviews (good or bad). But that’s where Places ends. To promote your business further, you’ll have to turn to AdWords.
  • Angie’s List – Unlike other sites, Angie’sList doesn’t cover restaurants and it isn’t free for users. Consumers have to pay a membership fee to access the site. Businesses do not (and cannot) pay a fee to be listed. Businesses with good ratings (at least a B) can advertise, but only if they offer Angie’s List members a discount. The company says that anonymous reviews are not allowed, which minimizes spam. And companies registered with the site can respond to reviews, free of charge.
  • Yahoo Local – this site is huge, with more than 50 million reviews written on the site, and tens of millions more available via professionally curated partner content. Search for a restaurant, for example, and you’ll probably get dozens of user reviews, plus dozens more drawn from blogs and magazines
  • TripAdvisor – if your business happens to be a hotel or restaurant you need to be on here. With 60 million reviews, it’s nearly three times the size of Yelp. Enough said…
  • Facebook Pages – Yes we are including Facebook in with the business listings. This is probably the most fun site out of the bunch. Its more visual with photos, you can link it to a Twitter, Instagram or your blog for content to be posted automatically and start to build a following.

People use different sites to search for information and so you do need to be on them all. The initial set up takes a bit of time, but then updating them with content only takes a few minutes out of the day.

3. Get a website and make sure it’s optimized for mobile! – The Photiq team was shocked when we saw that only 8% of small businesses have a mobile presence. Compare that to 11 million Facebook pages that are out there! Small business mobile websites are a must! With the vast number of consumers who use their cell phones for everything they do, mobile shopping has become a huge trend. If your small business does not have a mobile website, you’re losing a lot of money on potential clients.

mobile-websites-1Creating a website is a lot easier than it used to be and you do not need to be able to code. What’s more, there are a lot of places where you can get a really good looking website for free. There’s not a huge amount of difference between the various offerings out there, but here are just a few places that we thought of. There are many, many more:

the-beginner-s-guide-to-twitter-d5e5ee72244. Use social media – Many stores still do not do this, but there is actually more of a measurable impact on you business if you are selling a product, so social medis is great for merchants! Consumers love to browse products online – yes men as well as women, so if you have a few Pinterest Boards showing off your merchandise and people know where they can buy a certain item that they like, then they will be heading your way! More over people like to share items that they like. There are photos everywhere on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram of products in stores or people trying things on in fitting rooms…

Most importantly you need a Twitter handle. The Photiq team for example is @photiq. Instagram also uses Twitter handles and they are rumored to be coming to Facebook too, so you should really start using them. Just like you would blog – about new arrivals, events, promotions, sales etc, you should tweet these announcements too. In fact you can feed your blog posts to Twitter and then from Twitter to Facebook, making less work for yourself  🙂 If you take a photo on Instagram there is a share option for every photo you take.

Why not have your Twitter handle on your business cards, in your fitting rooms and in your store window? Every time a customer takes a photo of your store, or an item in your store, they should be tagging your store to it!

5. Host events in your store – You have the space. You can stay open a little later than normal. Hosting an event in your store is a great way of thanking your customers for shopping with you and making them feel valued. All you have to do is invite everyone on your mailing list (if you followed point 1), add the event to your website, include it on your Facebook page and inform people when they are in your store about what is coming up.

The Photiq team also suggests that you offer your guests a free glass of wine and a 20% discount for showing up. If you make it a fun evening then your customers will remember you and your store.


6. Get friendly with the local press – Local magazines and the local press are better outlets for you to get the word out about your business. The simplest thing to do is get listed on the classified pages. But if you can say something interesting that you think readers you like to hear about then you can write articles or give an interview.

More recently we are seeing blog posts on “20 best places to shop in [city X)”. These are very popular with readers and blogs will always include a link to your website, so its great to get onto these if you can. You can then also promote that fact that you were voted on to these lists and that it was your products and customer service that got you there. It will definitely help you to build up a following.

loyalty cards7.  Create a loyalty scheme – The Photiq team recently posted about an experience in a chocolate store, where they were given a card that would be stamped every time they bought a bar of chocolate and on the 10th purchase, the chocolate bar would be free. This is a common loyalty scheme at coffee shops, but there is no reason why this cannot be done at other stored too. It almost certainly guarantees customers coming back to your store in stead of going to another one, the next time they want to make a purchase.

The Photiq team thinks that these are fairly easy things to implement, even for the non-technology savvy person. There is always help at hand if you don’t know how to do something in the form of video tutorials on YouTube or a telephone helpline to get you going. Good luck!

eco-shopper-boutique-bag8. Give out eco-shopper bags – Eco shopper bags are great for some free advertising and lady customers especially, just love them. They are not expensive to produce and it is not unusual to charge for them. They really are better for the environment and if you can encourage your customers to re-use them, then its better for you and better for the environment.

Good luck and please feel free to leave comments and further suggestions for your fellow merchants!


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