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Customer Relationships Bring Big Profits to Small Retailers

Most retailers have learned that a well-designed Internet presence alone does not ensure success.

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Small retailers understand that success is rooted in building long-standing customer relationships. They nurture their best customers over time by learning and remembering individual preferences and interests, acquiring this information directly from customers through personal interactions. And they keep in touch with customers by offering mailing list sign-ups for newsletters, pre-sale announcements, coupons and mailings about other upcoming store events.

Small retailers grasp the importance of building customer relationships through personal communication and growing their profits through repeat sales. Studies show that repeat customers:

  • buy more often,
  • spend more than first-time customers,
  • cost less to acquire (because they already know your business), and
  • even pay a premium price for your product.

And repeat customers refer new customers. Add this up, and a repeat customer can yield big profits over time.

One of the most efficient and inexpensive ways for retailers to drive repeat sales is via e-mail marketing. But how can you, the small retailer, use e-mail marketing effectively? Simply apply the same techniques you've used in-store:

  • Ask visitors and customers their preferences
  • Observe their behavior
  • Request their addresses for future communications

Then use what you know to communicate with your customers according to their interests.

The internet can level the playing field for you if you observe and apply the tactics of e-business leaders. But small retailers, with limited technology and marketing resources, have been slower to adopt these practices. Still, you already possess the keys to online success--your existing customers and website visitors.

Most retailers have learned that a well-designed website alone does not ensure success. The idea that "If you build it, they will come" is no guarantee. The real key to profitability is getting customers to come back over and over again.

E-mail marketing is one technique that delivers a return on your website investment by turning one-time site visitors and offline customers into repeat customers. Retailers use e-mail to drive customers to their store or website by promoting new products, special sales and holiday offers. Customer e-mails can be anything, as long as they're interesting and relevant to the customers who receive them. And your e-mails should include a clear call to action, the "click-here-to-buy" button that links your customers back to your site or a "print this coupon" call-out that drives them back to the store.

Getting Started

If you have a strong offline presence, you can easily add an e-mail address collection column to your in-store guestbook. And offer your customers a special reason to join your mailing list--access to inventory, offers, specials or promotions. Invite customers to special events, such as trunk shows or holiday sales. Whatever you do, make sure to collect the e-mail address!

The critical success factor is simple--know your customers and get their e-mail addresses. If you're doing business online today, then you're capturing information about your customers with each order. Even if you're not taking orders online, you can collect the e-mail addresses of prospective customers who visit your site by allowing them to opt-in for more information or to sign up for gift or event reminders. You can collect personal interest information from these visitors as well.

Your goal as a small retailer should be to provide compelling, relevant and personalized communications with your prospects and customers. You can do this and still have time to run your business. The key is to find the right e-mail marketing solution that's specifically developed for small business. Small business owners have less time, smaller budgets and fewer resources than their larger counterparts. If you are a small-business owner, you should look for solutions that do the work for you and that are affordable.

Find a solution that manages your e-mail lists, formats e-mails in HTML and text, complies with federal legislation, protects consumer privacy with unsubscribe (opt-out) functionality and provides campaign results reporting. Today, you can find solutions that are available on a monthly subscription basis and hosted by an ASP (application service provider) so you don't have to run and support the software yourself.

With little investment in time and budget, you'll discover that e-mail marketing will help you build loyal customers that bring you big profits via repeat business and word-of-mouth. The playing field is level. Isn't it time to get in the game?