Since our trip to the Spring ABC show a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about how local retailers can fight off both big box and online retail attacks on their business. Marketing to pregnant moms, especially millenials is not an easy job, and made harder by price competition.
Today’s local baby stores suffer several challenges:
1. They have to serve as hands-on testing facilities for consumers who are open about leaving the store to get a $5 savings at Amazon or other on-line outles.
2. They can never compete in selection or everyday low price with big box stores like Walmart or Babies “r” Us.
3. They often don’t get unique items slated only for special distribution in special big store deals.
4. The Millenial Mom shops online and even more than being price-sensitive, is proud to be a savvy shopper by getting the lowest price.
On the other hand, local businesses have strengths that can’t be duplicated. Here are a few ideas we got from input from other experts or that we’ve seen work in other categories, often with real success. They do require either challenging how business is done today, or investing in more people to get the job done correctly.
2014 is the year where baby expos go mainstream. You might dispute this date, but suddenly everywhere I’m hearing about a new mom group creating a local event. Manufacturers are clamoring for them, because for many it’s a way to get in front of pregnant moms in a way they don’t usually see. These events hosting anywhere from 50-300 moms can involve a little bit of planning but not near as much as the work of the convention-sized trade fair that scares most people off. It depends on your market, but manufacturers will pay good money to be at these shows and meanwhile you have an added opportunity to introduce your store and your expertise. Quit jealously talking about Magic Beans success and run one of your own.
You probably have trade allowances figured out, with cash back or dollars off incentives for taking a new SKU or loading up on a specific seat or stroller you’re expected to push. But have you ever suggested an ad allowance? Advertisers sometimes have discretionary budget for special advertising programs. You might be able to pay for a big ad in your local baby circular or even newspaper if you’re including specific products, and this budget will be incremental to what you’re already getting.
Janet Fairlie-Vogt on our LinkedIn group says “Don’t forget the value of blogs, and how small knowledgeable business are recognized by larger brands. Explore the opportunity to collaborate with one big brand that fits your business, with mutual benefits both ways.” Manufacturers now spend a lot of money on sponsored and other posts to targeted audiences. And even if they don’t pay, they will often send you samples to review. Maybe with the freebie they send your way, you can afford to lower some other prices.
Michelle Zacharias at Squishy Snak Pak suggests you form alliances with mompreneurs who are especially interested in the personal connection and your value at telling the back story of moms creating products for other moms. Often, these moms don’t get the distribution at big box stores so will feel special loyalty to you.
Would it kill your margin to offer a “ask us to match online prices” policy? If someone says they are leaving to buy elsewhere, can you match the price or close to it? Can you ask the customer if it’s worth their time (time is money!) to go home to order and wait at least a day for the product versus paying $3 more for the immediate satisfaction. This requires having agile sales people who are allowed to deal on the floor and can talk to customers without offending them, but this may be key sales training you’ll be required to do in the new economy.
In our discussion on LinkedIn groups, we had many comments about the importance of the personal touch and getting to know your customer. Lenore Cunningham of Lake Group Media suggested “old is new” use of direct mail to stand out from the competition. Obviously, the personal touch is a huge advantage for a local retailer, but how can they use it to really make a difference?
Are these good ideas? New ideas? Stupid ideas? Do you have more? Share what you know in the comments below!
Also, check out our LinkedIn group for sharing info on marketing to new and pregnant moms.