Drive retail revenue without blowing your budget
by Lisa Wells & Justin Racine

The way your customers search, shop and share information online is changing on a daily basis. Understanding what works and what doesn't with today's digital consumers is the key to driving retail revenue for your store. Where do you start and how do you keep up? While it may seem like a daunting task, there are a wide variety of low-cost or free tools available that, when combined with real-time analytics, can help you increase in-person and online sales traffic.

1. Online Advertising

Creating effective advertising is challenging in the first place, but when you add in the technology factor, it can seem even more complicated. Before you begin, remember that your customers have multiple purchase options. Your ads have to convince shoppers to choose you first and foremost. Let's look at some different strategies within online advertising that help drive that kind of consumer behavior. Dynamic Remarketing Even among users, many people don't know a second component of AdWords—known as Remarketing—exists. This is the process of serving up ads to people who have previously visited your website when they search for topics or terms related to the services you provide. Remarketing is critical to the success of your Internet store. Online customers have many options when shopping, and they may visit your site several times before making the first purchase. Remarketing ads allow your business to stay in front of users as they navigate the Web so your business ad appears—ready to click—when the time for buying is right. Keyword Ideas Google offers a free service that allows you to research keywords and phrases before you purchase and incorporate those words into your online advertising campaigns. Knowing what your target audience is searching for online is important because if you don't do this legwork up front, you will be throwing advertising dollars down the drain. Google's keyword planning tool helps minimize this risk by giving you an idea of what keywords are in demand and how many people are actually searching for them on a monthly basis.

2. Local Online Advertising

Both Google and Bing allow you to set up ads that appear to Web users who are within a specific geographic location in terms of zip code radius; these are called geolocation ads. Using a local radius for online ads can ensure that your business ads appear in specific locations to maximize your ad's generation of higher quality leads/sales for your physical store.

3. Google Analytics

Analytical data helps you see what is and is not working in terms of your ads and the content on your website, as well as the navigational flow of your site. Analyzing what you have tried in the past, how it was received and what action came from it will put you ahead of your competition and give you valuable insight about your customers' wants, needs, likes and dislikes. Additionally, Google Analytics allows you to see how users are accessing your website\'97either by desktop or mobile device—and what browser they are using to get there. This can help determine how to set up your website. Is your site mobile responsive? Should it be?

4. Email Campaigns

By now, most providers have figured out how to use Constant Contact or another service to send out a mass email. If you're not doing this on a regular basis with your existing customers, rest assured that your larger competitors are. When cash sales come into play, email is even more important for retaining your clients. Online shoppers have consistently demonstrated a natural tendency toward putting items in their cart and then leaving the site before they checkout. A variety of factors can cause that to happen, from ease of checkout to shipping charges to a ringing phone. Drip email campaigns, triggered when a shopper doesn't complete an order, can help you win back those customers before you lose their interest overall.

5. Social Media

Social media is not only a college kid's game. It is also a tactic used by savvy marketers to introduce consumers to their brands by sharing stories, pictures and other posts that encourage a viewer to click or share. Done right, social media creates a content bridge that connects people with your main website. Done wrong, it will cause you to spend a lot of time and energy without seeing much in terms of results. How do you create a content bridge and generate ROI using social media? Start by focusing on your audience, just like you would with any face-to-face conversation. People engage with content they relate to and want to share with their friends. Share content related to lifestyle activities, and events, with a link back to your main site for more information and products that are helpful during those occasions. More than likely, someone will click through and/or pass that information on to a friend. When it comes to navigating an ever-increasing world of Web content, customers and companies are looking for a more personal interaction. Providers have a unique opportunity to be expert resources for the needs of their customers. Use this knowledge as a way to build trust and a deeper relationship with your customer through the ads, content and social pages that you share. The world of traditional advertising and marketing may be shifting, but customers still want the same service and attention they have always demanded. Leverage these tools to deliver this, in real time, at the moment your audience needs it most.