By David Hall, Vice President, Pro-Active Websites
Irrespective of whether you are selling online, the first impression your company makes is typically through your Web site. The number of online shoppers is growing rapidly, and they are turning to the Web first to shop for musical products and services. Although the Internet can be a highly competitive place, especially when it comes to big-box and online-only dealers, it’s important to remember that brick-and-mortar retailers will always have the distinct advantage of direct, one-on-one interaction with their customers.
This is a tremendous edge, and it’s crucial that you make a great first impression. It is imperative for you to keep your Web site current and continually promote the benefits of shopping in your brick-and-mortar store. Make changes that cater to the ways people want to shop now. Get involved in social networking, i.e., Facebook and Twitter.
The real key is influencing Web shoppers to get in their cars and drive to your store. How do you accomplish this? What are some of the key motivators that will make customers take action? Focus on convenience, tremendous customer service and your ability to get customers’ hands on the instruments and products they are considering buying. Businesses that ignore offering online shoppers reasons to come in to their stores are doing so at their own peril.
Rather than tell you what I think you should be doing, though, I thought it would be more effective and valuable for you to hear advice from fellow music retailers.
I contacted several retailers whom I respect and asked them a variety of questions, focusing on how their Web site helps drive traffic to their brick-and-mortar stores.
Our panel includes the following distinguished contributors:
Name: Michael Sausedo: Store Name: Burt Murdock Music; Title: eCommerce Manager; Years Online: 12
Name: Larry Biernacki: Store Name: Music Center of Deerfield, Libertyville Music, Antioch Music; Title: Vice President/Secretary; Years Online: 10+
Name: John Bertrand: Store Name: Bertrand Music; Title: President; Years Online: 10+
Name: Ted Eschliman; Store Name: Dietze Music; Title: Co-Owner; Years Online: 10+
Question 1: What promotion, product or service has the greatest effect on your walk-in traffic? Why does it bring people in?
Sausedo: The biggest direct result of walk-in traffic generated by our Web site was when we transitioned to Pro-Active Websites. Turning our static, informational-based site into a full eCommerce destination. Customers are now able to view many of our products and services online, and then come into our retail locations, where we personally answer their questions. We give them the physical experience of shopping with the benefits of Internet convenience.
Biernacki: We did a Constant Contact promotion to offer our customers an instrument cleaning using our Ultra Sonic Cleaning System at a reduced rate. Our “Clean your Instrument” promotion included a YouTube video showing how the system worked. People were impressed to see the garbage that comes out of their instruments using this process, and we had 20 customers bring in their instruments for cleaning.
Bertrand: We had great success with an Introduction to Ukulele Circle. We advertised through our Web site, social media and flyers placed at locations like Starbucks, bagel shops and Panera Bread (and given to customers daily). We had more than 60 participants and sold several ukes. We had more than 30 sign up for an ongoing Uke Circle on the first and third Wednesdays. It is still going strong!
Eschliman: We’ve never looked at our Web presence as a traffic builder…more as an identity definer for our local market. We’ve used it in conjunction with our major sales, guitar month, Christmas and back to school. Everything is set up to support what we do in the store, with all online graphics and in-store signage consistent with each other.
Question 2: How are you building your e-mail list? What types of e-mails do you send out? Are you using an e-mail service, such as Constant Contact or MailChimp?
Sausedo: We build our e-mail list by informing customers of specials or promotions that are available only through our e-mail advertising. While they are completing their in-store purchases, we gather their information during the transaction and incentivize their participation with an introductory coupon or discount. Additionally, we occasionally hold giveaways or drawings where participation is only allowed via e-mail enrollment. We use Constant Contact for all of our e-mail communication. Since 2007, it’s been a useful tool to add or remove customers, and isolate the type of information the customer is interested in receiving. It has a variety of options for social media integration.
Bertrand: We use EMMA (e-mail marketing system). We build it with every customer who comes into the store. We send out sales announcements via e-mail on a regular basis. We promote our school of music, Headstart Music Program and group lesson specials. We use our Web site to sign up new private and group lesson students. We sell on eBay and use those sales to generate customers on our e-mail lists.
Eschliman: We harvest information at the cash register and through social media. We definitely use Constant Contact, and hope to improve our skills there.
Question 3: What was your most successful online sales promotion?
Biernacki: Ours was rent your instrument online and receive a free month of rent and a free music stand.
Bertrand: End of the year blowout sale. We promoted it heavily on our Web site and through e-mails. Sales for this event topped $50,000.
Eschliman: We stumbled on some niche items that went viral, like a tuner promotion that was picked up by some consumer Web sites, and sold several hundred units via mail order. Since we look at our Web site more as a support tool rather than a means to itself, we really don’t expect it to have a dynamic impact on sales.
Question 4: What types of social networking are you using? How do you feel it has affected your walk-in traffic?
Sausedo: We’ve been active on Facebook and Twitter since 2007. We use it as a tool to communicate with customers in a non-sales environment. We get their feedback on products and services, and educate them on new products and industry trends.
Biernacki: We are using Facebook. It’s pretty new to us and has not translated into sales as of yet.
Bertrand: We use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Each tool has its own personality and draws people.
Eschliman: Facebook has been good for us, somewhat because of the deepening of customer relationships. The bigger impact is on our staff. Because so many are participating, we find it’s a good way to communicate the intent and breadth of our sales events in a more profound way. I don’t think you can ignore the opportunity to get the word out to “our own.” We have a Twitter presence, but, being slow out of the gate on that, we’re still building.
Question 5: What types of content do you plan on adding over the next six months (videos, photos, audio, articles, interviews, etc.)?
Sausedo: Upcoming content includes videos and reviews of new products and services. We will do more promoting of our special events and expand our online product inventory.
Biernacki: We are planning on putting videos of our teachers on the Web site. These short video bios will show parents and prospective students what the teacher can do for them, and give them a better idea of the teacher’s personality and commitment.
Bertrand: We use all of the above. One of the most successful is our informational videos on Learning to Play for New Music Students.
Eschliman: We’d love to include more video product demonstrations and testimonials. It’s hard, because you don’t want to be perceived as an “amateur hour.” If you’re going to do it, you need to do it well (or not at all!). We rely heavily on vendor videos. Contact your sales reps; they’re always happy to help.
Question 6: What are some of the ways you bring attention to your Web site?
Sausedo: With many of our customers using smart phones, the use of QR codes in our advertising has become an easy way to connect with customers via their mobile devices.
Biernacki: We promote our Web site on all of our printed materials, including bags, business cards, flyers and occasional promo items, such as pens, buttons, etc. I’m always on the lookout for new ways to get the Web address out to people. So, if you have any ideas, please let me know!
Bertrand: The Web site is promoted in all of our advertising and giveaways, including flyers, bags, postcards, pens, etc.
Eschliman: We include the Web site in all print advertising, on our store vehicles, promotional brochures, invoices and receipts. We include it in our Web advertising partnerships (link advertising) and all e-mail correspondence includes the Web site in our signature lines.
In addition to the ideas and success stories that are detailed within this article, I’d like to offer an additional tip: Start leveraging location-based apps for your retail store. There are a number of applications for smart phones and iPads that allow people to upload status messages to their social network accounts that report to their friends where they are. When they “check in” at your store, it’s good for your business.
There are plenty of good resources out there covering FourSquare, GyPSii and others. Use this tactic with discretion, however. Some people might find this to be a little intrusive, even when they have opted to check in and share their location with the world.
You should investigate Facebook Places, the long-awaited feature that brings location-based functionality to the most popular social network in the world. It gives you the opportunity to offer discounts to shoppers who check in and share their activity with their Facebook network. Music retailers should make sure they are listed in Facebook Places so their customers can check in and share their experiences with others. Encourage visitors to “check-in” from your store by setting up tabletop displays with information on Foursquare, GyPSii and Facebook Places. Offer them a discount when they upload their location.
The four retailers interviewed for this article have more than 40 years of Internet experience. They have been in business for more than 100 combined years and are respected as retail leaders in their markets. I’d like to thank them for their contributions. Use these ideas to help increase your brick-and-mortar store traffic, and continually explore ways to use your Web site as a tool for driving traffic to your brick-and-mortar store. The results are well worth the effort.
David Hall is Vice President – Sales & Marketing for Pro-Active Websites. The company specializes in Web development and network building for dealers and vendors within the music products industry. Contact David at email@example.com.