New Jersey retailer goes hyper-local to drive bricks-and-mortar sales

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Can bricks-and-mortar stores survive — even thrive — in a world that seems to be embracing all things online and digital? The key lies in local marketing, and to see it in action, look no further than Lawrence Township, N.J., a small community just outside the state capital of Trenton. That’s where Debbie Schaeffer and Peter Weedfald have applied new-school marketing and sales tactics to old-school relationship-building techniques.

Schaeffer is the third-generation owner of Mrs. G TV and Appliances, a full-service dealer of middle- and high-end domestic kitchen equipment and televisions; the retailer primarily sells to the public but also works extensively with contractors and kitchen designers. Weedfald is senior vice president of sales and marketing for Sharp Home Appliances. The two joined forces in Sharp’s Radius initiative, an innovative way to build and maintain a local trading area.

By failing to properly deploy their assets, Weedfald says, “Many retailers today are in the sales avoidance business.” Radius’s effectiveness stems from creatively leveraging all available resources for maximum impact in a way that exploits the inherent weaknesses of the online world.

Weedfald says many retailers separate the most essential assets of their organizations, preventing them from complementing each other: The website resides in cyberspace, the customer relationship management staff is a corporate office and team members who are responsible for promoting product are kept inside the store — not engaging with the community.

“Why does a store ask me to go in, fill up my cart and pay at a self-serve checkout?” Weedfald says. “I can do that on my smartphone and have the item the next day. At that store, real human capital is being wasted.” Staff, he says, are missing the opportunity to interact with customers on the floor and put a human face on the shopping experience.

“If a customer can order something off their smartphone from 5,000 miles away and have it delivered in one day, then a local store should definitely be able to do likewise,” he says. If not, the store is not capitalizing on its proximity and squandering another advantage.

Making outreach real

The Radius program, designed with observations like these in mind, consists of five essential components.
Google Analytics: Google searches conducted within a five-mile radius of Mrs. G are sifted through keywords. If relevant terms such as “convection microwave” or “microwave drawer” are discovered, those potential customers are contacted and introduced to Mrs. G.

“There’s no guarantee that it will result in a sale,” Weedfald says, “but tailoring an outreach in this manner is more strategic marketing than blanketing the whole United States.”

Google searches conducted within a five-mile radius of Mrs. G are sifted through keywords. If relevant terms are discovered, those potential customers are contacted and introduced to Mrs. G.

Mailers: Several versions of glossy, deluxe mailers, each highlighting a Sharp product and customized for Mrs. G, are sent to local architects, builders and designers. Sharp covers the cost of production, and the list of recipients includes only professionals in Mrs. G’s trading area — the people who will specify what products will go into their clients’ kitchens.

Knowing that repetition fosters recall, the pieces are sent multiple times. “It serves the dual purpose of introducing both the product and the service Mrs. G can provide,” Weedfald says.

Social networking: Content from both Sharp and Mrs. G is concentrated on the latter’s Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages to ensure that they reach the targeted trading area.

Email marketing: News of new products, promotions and events at Mrs. G are sent to local prospects based on a carefully selected book of addresses.

Physical opportunities: “Debbie has been very kind to invite us to open houses and cookouts she does,” Weedfald says. “We can actually go in there with our aprons on and cook in our super-heated, 485-degree super oven, or our microwaves or our convection ovens to help amplify the brand position of Sharp, but also to promote Mrs. G’s brand promise, which is to better serve her community than her competition can.”

Capturing opportunities

Sales and marketing, traditionally separate tasks carried out by separate staffs, must effectively merge to implement Radius.

“Under a traditional system, if a marketing person saw an opportunity with a place like Mrs. G and requested funding for a campaign, their boss would say, ‘What are you talking about, that’s sales. We’re marketing — we concentrate on big things like radio and TV promotions.’ With that approach, you miss a huge opportunity,” Weedfald says — he runs both marketing and sales within the Sharp organization, and says the key to creating this essential integration is to “core down and heavy up.”

The Radius program ran at Mrs. G from August through December 2017, and Weedfald says Sharp business was up 60 percent from the same period in 2016. The level of success firmly convinced him of the program’s effectiveness. “This is what everyone should be doing,” he says.

At Mrs. G, that’s beginning to happen. “We’re developing similar cooperative programs with other vendors, although each has their own way of marketing to and connecting with our customer base, so we don’t work exactly the same with any two,” Schaeffer says.

The Radius program ran at Mrs. G from August through December 2017, and Sharp business was up 60 percent from the same period in 2016.

“We don’t have the expertise to do all the Google analytics and determine the best keywords. But working with Peter and his team, we can get there.”

In addition to being more effective because it closely targets each outreach, Radius can be implemented at a lower cost.

“Marketing is expensive and time consuming, so the more we can work with a competent partner, the better it is for us,” Schaeffer says. “We know that every dollar is spent wisely.”

Detroit-based Paul Vachon writes for various trade publications, in addition to feature stories for consumer magazines and books on Michigan history and travel.

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