In a time when every other business article starts with “economic uncertainty,” it’s hard to feel confident about the future of retail. Whether or not the “uncertainty” actually results in a down economy, there is no doubt that consumer spending is volatile and trending downward as consumers worry about the future. And, this likely is affecting your brick-and-mortar locations.
If you’re looking for ways to increase foot traffic and sales in your stores, a gazillion articles will tell you that sales or promotions drive traffic and that creating a seamless online and in-store experience will make customers happy. But if sales are everywhere and everyone is investing in new integration technologies, how do you stand out?
The answer can be relatively simple: Focus on something your brand and your customers care about to drive both in-store and online traffic, like honoring your local community members.
Reward Local Communities
For many brands with brick-and-mortar stores, it is essential to build community ties. Whether your stores are in Boston, Massachusetts or Bakersfield, California, you want them to be part of the fabric of the local community. One of the best ways to do this is to honor everyday locals who contribute to make these communities better, such as teachers, military members, nurses and first responders like firefighters and EMTs. These are the people who walk or drive by your stores every day on their way to work—wouldn’t it be great if they know you appreciate them?
Take Michaels, the arts and crafts brand with over 1,200 store locations. They promote in-store discounts for teachers, military members, and seniors.
By offering this specialty discount to community members, “we can provide a richer experience and additional perks to groups we highly value,” said Steve Woodward, Senior Director of Digital Experience at Michaels.
Not only does offering a community discount create an emotional connection because the brand recognizes something significant about how these community members identify, like as a teacher, but it enables your brand to create custom experiences for them. For example, online, Michaels has a page dedicated for teacher projects. In stores, once associates know if a consumer is a teacher, they can thank them for their hard work and also recommend supplies that they can use in their classrooms.
Beyond Michaels, brands like Target, Home Depot, Madewell, and SONIC Restaurants leverage community-based discounts around community holidays like Veterans Day, Teacher Appreciation Day, Back-to-School, and more to drive both online and in-store sales. These kinds of promotions have proven to be more effective than a general discount because of the emotional reactions they evoke in consumers.
How to Build In-Store Community Offers
Here are some best practices for making communities feel special in stores:
- Decide on an exclusive offer for students, teachers, military members, or other communities, such as 20% off for students.
- Identify a way to verify community members. For instance, SheerID’s Verification Platform can instantly verify community members through a simple form. This way, you ensure that your offer is exclusive.
- Promote your offer through in-store signage and online advertising highlighting community members, such as pictures of military members using your products.
- Train your in-store associates on engaging community members, such as thanking military members for their service and showing nurses products that meet their needs, such as comfortable shoes. Personal touches like this make customers feel extra special.
When you reward community members with special deals in stores, you win their business for the short-term, and because of the emotional connections you build, you plant the seeds for loyalty to blossom. Emotionally engaged customers are far more likely to be repeat customers. In fact, in a recent study of students, teachers, military members, first responders, and healthcare workers, 72% said they are more loyal to brands that offer an exclusive community discount.
Create an Omnichannel Rewards Strategy Today
If you want to learn more about how to build emotional connections with customers in stores and online through community offers, SheerID can help. Contact us today to learn more about creating verification programs for community groups such as students, teachers, and military members and our exclusive omnichannel features designed to optimize your in-store success.