Shop.org just released the 2009 State of Retailing Online (SORO) Marketing Report in partnership with Forrester Research. Their research showed retailers are spending more on the Internet while at the same time cutting in other marketing areas.
Here’s what they found: “Almost half plan to stay the original course and spend largely as planned, approximately one third is ratcheting back spending, and the remaining quarter is actually increasing investment in their Web businesses beyond the original plan.”
Those surveyed say they are increasing spend on the Web, specifically in search engine optimization (SEO), email and social marketing. “80% of Retailers Surveyed by Shop.org feel that the online retail channel continues to be better suited to withstand an economic slowdown than other channels.” Over half think sales in other channels will continue to slow this year.
Local Business Experiments with Social Media Marketing
Here’s a real world example of a small business that was primarily traditional marketing but recently experimented with social media. I spoke with Wil Feller, founder of Goldsmith Co. Jewelers. He owns the family-owned business that has one location in Utah. They’ve been in business for 38 years. After running traditional advertising campaigns, they worked with their PR firm and consultants to put together a social media strategy. They first discovered that most locals had never heard of them or been in the store.
Goal: To increase foot traffic to store and increase awareness of their business to a new audience.
Online Presence (Before): Weak Web presence and very few search results. No blog and no presence on social networks.
Strategy: Along with their PR firm and a social media consultant, Goldsmith invited thirty influential bloggers for a red carpet evening. The bloggers were introduced to a new line of jewelry they could wear. Goldsmith Co. gave them coupons for free pearl necklaces to give out to their readers. The coupons were good for the week before Mother’s Day.
Results (After): Goldsmith Co. has a Facebook Page, many blog posts on popular “mommy blogger” sites, they’re on Flickr, and the campaign brought more than 5,000 people to their store. People waited more than two hours in a line that stretched across the block and they gave away thousands of necklaces. They were exposed to a younger clientele. Within a week if you searched for “Utah jewelers,” on Google, the blog posts and press release were high on the list of results (The same can be said for the if searching: “Goldsmith Jewelers, Utah“) They were invited to be on a radio show and the evening news.
They (and their agency) were shocked at the response. It was unlike any advertising they’d done before. The bloggers didn’t just write about it on their blogs, but they talked about it on Twitter and Facebook.
“Nothing we’ve done has even come close to what this was - whatever the total investment was, it was worth it,” noted Trevor Feller, the manager at Goldsmith Co. The company is now planning to use social media for Christmas saying it’s cheaper than traditional advertising and keeps them on the radar. They’re investing in a new ecommerce website too.
Interestingly they say that sales have been impacted in jewelry repair - whereas before the recession they probably would have sold more jewelry. As people cut back spending they’re fixing things more often than buying new. Goldsmith Co. has seen the most growth in their repair services and is in a good position when customers are ready to spend on bigger purchases.
(Side note: when I told them this interview was for the AMEX Open Forum for small businesses they proclaimed love for their American Express Black card. They are raving fans!)
In essence social media marketing is partnering with your actual or potential customers. It takes a different thought process and approach. While it’s not a good match for every business it can be in situations like this where you hope to reach new customers.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Component
This campaign could have been even more successful with an SEO strategy — for instance, had they gotten links to the Goldsmith website linked from a unique keyword phrase such as “Utah wedding rings” or another phrase. Obviously the campaign did help their search results even without an SEO focus (because when you target a phrase it also helps you rank higher for similar phrases). Still, they could be more deliberate about it.
Almost every small business is looking for new markets right now. Internet marketing such as this social media campaign is especially appealing, if like most businesses right now, you’re watching costs.
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About the Author: Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc. and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Her own blog is Newspapergrl.com (Twitter account @newspapergrl). She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.