Business tips by bussiness

Charlotte Biggs from the Card & Gift Network looks at 6 ways gift shops can use online marketing to boost sales in 2018…

Just before the festive shopping rush I completed a year long research project into how greetings card & gift businesses promote themselves online. Amongst the companies I reviewed were over 300 retailers.

It might seem like an exhausting task to undertake (and at times it was) but as someone who’s job is to help greetings card and giftware companies sell more online through good promotion it seemed like a good idea to look beyond my own circle and see what the industry was up to as a whole.

The research gave me lots of insights into how retailers use online marketing and most importantly it showed me lots of ways shops (online and offline) can improve their marketing to make the most of the digital world.

I want to share with you 6 key points from the research and show you how this information can help you boost your online marketing in 2018. 

6Make Your Social Media Stand Out from the Crowd

Analysing data from 343 retailers it was immediately clear that social media marketing is the most popular channel of promotion for card & gift retailers.

A massive 88% of businesses surveyed were using between 1 and 7 social media channels to market their greetings card and giftware products.

This level of potential competition means that retailers have to become the best of the best to stand out

But how do you do that?

Retailers need to look for ways to offer greater value to their potential customers. This might involve providing information for local shoppers, increasing the variety of your posts or even using newer technology such as video, which is already becoming increasingly important on social media.

Need a little inspiration?

Retailer Merry + Bright Gifts are a great example of a bricks and mortar gift shop using video to promote their products, creating videos that showcase the products they sell.

5Create Blog Posts to Reach New Customers

While my research into how retailers promote online showed social media was widely embraced this wasn’t the case with other forms of online marketing.

Just 47% of the companies analysed had a blog to showcase their shop.

It’s fair to say that blogging is a time consuming practice, perhaps that goes some way into explaining the low level of involvement from card & gift shops; but for retailers it offers a way to reach new customers so it’s worth considering.

Much like you’d help a customer find what they’re looking for in your shop, a blog is a great way to provide customer service and guidance to shoppers who aren’t quite ready to buy.

With every blog post you create you have the opportunity to target a new keyword (the words and phrases people type into search engines) and with it you can reach out to a potential new customer.

4Build Your Own Email List

Alongside blogging, traditional email marketing was also overlooked by many retailers in my research; Just 48% (164 retailers) had email sign up forms on their website.

It can be easy to write email off as an outdated form of communication since the arrival of social media, but there’s a reason it’s still one of the most popular marketing methods for professional marketers.

An email list gives you two amazing advantages that over half of the businesses I surveyed were missing out on.

First by opting into your mailing list a shopper is telling you they’re interested in what you do and want to know more; you’ve been given permission to get in touch with them and potentially turn them into a customer.

Secondly, by offering a “free gift” in exchange for signing up to your newsletter you can find out even more about what they’re interested in. Let’s pretend for example that in your shop you have new shipment of scented candles. If you were to put together a quick guide to buying scented candles and offer it free to shoppers who join your mailing list, anyone who signs up is not only showing they are interested in your business but that they’re also interested in scented candles, and more likely to buy a scented candle than your average joe.

If you’re not one of the 48% collecting email addresses get started as soon as you can and turn those mystery website visitors into subscribers then customers.

3Send Your Adverts to the Perfect Place

The next part of my research into how card & gift retailers promote themselves showed just 15% (52 shops) had used paid advertising to promote their business in the last year.

This was one of the figures I found least surprising, paid advertising can seem like a scary prospect where you could easily lose a lot of money and make no sales. When you get advertising right however it can result in a surge of orders and new customers for your shop.

With adverts there’s a lot to consider, the design, the offer, the budget, but an often overlooked aspect of the perfect advert is where on your website your advert points.

Many retailers set their advertisement to go to their homepage, which can mean wasted opportunity and budget. If for example your advert is targeting people searching for “rose scented candles” sending searchers to your homepage, which has a hundred different options (including scented candles) might not be the most effective plan.

If instead you send them directly to a landing page which offered a discount coupon for scented candles in exchange for an email address you’re more likely to turn that visitor into a subscriber and then a buyer.

2Consider DIY PR to Get Your Shop Featured in Newspapers & Magazines

After I’d looked at advertising the next element of my research focused on PR (public relations) where I found only 10% of the card and gift companies reviewed had used PR services in the last year.

Like advertising, there’s a good chance that many shop owners are put off PR by the idea of paying a costly agency fee, and that’s not surprising.

There are however free tricks any retailer can use to seek out publicity for their shop.

Social media provides an easy way for you to connect with journalists. Follow the hashtag #journorequest on Twitter and you’ll get a constant stream of journalists looking to collaborate, which could secure more promotion for your shop.

Alternatively you could use email to pitch an idea for a story direct to a journalist. Look up the contact details for journalists in your favourite newspapers and magazines, then review the features they publish; beyond your products, you’re a wealth of information use this knowledge to suggest a story idea and you could earn publicity for your business.

1Start Learning SEO Basics to Boost Your Shop’s Potential

The final marketing method I researched was SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation). While many of the shops surveyed have well structured websites, only 5% of the retailers reviewed had a highly rated SEO score for their website.

This means that a massive 95% of retailers could be using SEO tactics to improve how search engines see and rate their website, which could result in them getting more free traffic from search engines.

To make those improvements retailers need to learn SEO basics at the very least. There are thousands of free articles and resources online, but I’d recommend checking out the SEO Learning Centre on the MOZ website; as SEO experts they’re a brilliant source of quality information.

In Conclusion

Social media aside my research into how card & gift shops promote online shows there’s lots of potential for retailers to use online marketing. Even if you tackle just one of the marketing channels discussed today you’ll be improving your chances of reaching more shoppers and winning more customers.

You can see the full report on how card & gift retailers promote online on the Card & Gift Network website.

There are also introductions to each of the marketing areas reviewed, which can be accessed for free in the Card & Gift Network School.

About Charlotte/Card & Gift Network

Launched in 2009, Card & Gift Network is an online platform supporting and showcasing the greetings card and giftware industry. Comprising blog, directory and online school, the website unites designers, makers, retailers and suppliers from across the industry to explore a world of cards and gifts.

The site was founded by Charlotte Biggs. Charlotte worked for a greetings and giftware publisher for six years, before moving into online marketing in 2009. For the last eight years she has been helping card and gift businesses to promote themselves and sell more online.