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Audience Building: The Key To Building Thriving, Local Stores

By Bill Schildknecht. Posted in Insight

August 08, 2017

When it comes to marketing, most retailers focus their effort and dollars on the geographic areas with the highest concentration of stores. This makes logical sense—but often leaves outlying stores in the cold. Because those outliers receive less brand marketing coverage, they suffer from the highest attrition. By rethinking the approach, retailers can provide geographically dispersed stores with the support they need to thrive in an era of shrinking marketing budgets.


The Struggle Between The Haves And The Have-Nots

Stores located in urban or highly populated areas have a huge advantage over rural and outlying stores from day one. They get the benefit of mass media advertising campaigns, and they have a wider pool of customers and potential customers from which to draw. Through activities like email list building, these stores have a valuable asset from which to drive traffic and transaction frequency.


Stores outside of a retailer’s primary geographic concentration tend to start from a disadvantage. They do not receive nearly as much mass media marketing support as other stores, leaving store leadership with the task of developing cost-effective, local marketing strategies to bridge the gap. This leaves them in a constant struggle to attract new customers into the store and protect their most valuable customers when competitors inevitably come into the market.


Breaking The Model At A Local Level

Email marketing and social media are a cost-effective way to build a local audience and grow engagement, providing a lifeline for geographically dispersed stores.   But the local store management needs to be 100% focused on delivering an excellent in-store experience – one that positively differentiates the in-person experience from what is very much an impersonal e-commerce transaction. How can local store audiences be built at scale?

  1. Start with a simple analysis that shows the size of each store’s audience. This gives a baseline from which to gauge audience building efforts. An automated dashboard allowing weekly/monthly views is even better.
  2. Identify a few stores most in need of audience building and pilot tactics to grow the store’s marketing base. Email collection is an obvious quick win and can be integrated into a store’s operations without significant interruption.
  3. Local stores have a competitive advantage over e-commerce in that they are part of the local community. The store team is part of that community and can begin to participate in the community dialog via social media. With some training & support, each store can claim its own Yelp and Google listings, and create social media profiles at the local level. Encourage store managers to capitalize on things like local events and local hashtags to connect directly with their local audience. They can also share brand content, promotions and campaigns to further engage their shoppers.

Providing Brand Support For Local Audiences

The corporate marketing team can support local stores in a cost-effective way by leveraging data and drilling down into local segments. So, instead of taking a wide-angle view of 10 million people in a CRM system, marketers focus in on regions, districts and individual stores. Insights can be pulled from that data to create customized offers and communications for hyper-focused segments in a single store, and those insights can be shared with store management so they can incorporate highly relevant messaging into their local social media and online marketing efforts.

Audience building at a local level insulates geographically dispersed stores from online competition and the scarcity of mass media budget dollars. By fostering local store team participation in growing their addressable audience and participating in the social media dialog, stores can more fully leverage their inherent competitive advantage.