Ask the Experts: Use strategic thinking in retail marketing – From the News and Observer

Hummingbird CreativeCulture

icon175x175The retail rush between Thanksgiving and Christmas is over, and it’s full steam ahead for making sales in the new year. But is there a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy for retail businesses?

Wendy Coulter, founder and CEO of Hummingbird Creative in Cary, says marketing a retail business begins with strategic thinking.

“The very, very first thing you need to understand is your customer,” Coulter said. “For every target market there is going to be a different set of tactics and different set of channels we’re going to use to push the marketing message out.”

Retailers need to find out where their customers shop, what they read, if they’re online and their needs, habits and interactions with their brand.

“It’s not just understanding their demographic,” Coulter said. “It’s understanding their actions.”

Coulter also said retailers need to pinpoint what makes their business stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Once owners know who they are selling to and what makes them unique, they can select the marketing channels, including social media – that will work best.

“A lot of (owners) are experimenting with social media without understanding if their customer is there,” Coulter said. “With social (media), people don’t think they are spending money. But they are spending time on things when they haven’t really analyzed if the target market is there and paying attention.”

If your retail business has found its place in the market and understands its customer, niche marketing – targeting your efforts where your customers are – can come into play.

That approach could include social media and print, television or radio ads.

Retail owners also want to appeal to their customers by using responsive and mobile-friendly designs on their websites.

“Responsive design is when you look at your site on a phone it looks different than when you look at it on your iPad, and it looks different than when you look at it on your (computer) screen,” Coulter said. “And the site is built specifically for each of those different experiences.”

Mobile design means the website is easy to view and use from mobile devices – even if it doesn’t have the same look when viewed on a desktop.

“Retail mobile sites might only have the map function, phone number and maybe a special that pops up,” Coulter said. “That’s all that somebody with a phone sees because that’s really all they need. They either need to call you or need to get to you, and they might need to know what promotions you’re offering or what events you have coming up.”

By Carla Turchetti
Correspondent January 12, 2015

Carla Turchetti is a small-business writer and journalist. Reach her at

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