A Quick Recap of My Autumn Fair Talk on Retail Blogging
At this year’s Autumn Fair I was asked to give 2 seminars on retail blogging. The talks went really well and I met lots of retailers that were keen to see how they could use blogging to promote their shops. I am however aware that not everyone could make the talks or Autumn Fair, and I don’t want you to miss out!
So, for those who couldn’t attend the show, missed the talks (or those of you who were there and wanted a quick recap) this post is for you.
I’m sharing my slides and giving a full transcript of the talk (which gives a lot more details that the slides impart) so you too can see the benefits of blogging as a marketing channel.
Breakdown: How Blogging Can Boost Your Gift Shop or Retail Business
The talk was called ‘How Blogging Can Help Boost Your Gift Shop Sales’, the examples for this particular talk focused on a gift shop but I think it’s important to stress that blogging is universal. The tactics work equally well for card shops, stationery stores, lifestyle boutiques and more.
The retail blogging talk consists of 4 main areas:
- Why you should blog
- How to create compelling content
- Saving time by making retail blogging the base of your marketing strategy
- and then making sure you get a return on your investment.
Before we started I introduced myself, which is probably not necessary on this website where you can find out all about my background and career via the about page.
So let’s skip that and move on to the important part, the training.
What is a Blog?
For anyone new to blogging, a blog is basically a website or part of a website that is updated regularly.
The updates are known as blog posts and traditionally those posts are organised with the most recent showing first; older posts are then archived away as new content is added.
Blog posts can take any form; text, images, video, audio – anything that suits you.
Blogging in the Greetings & Giftware Industries
Before we got to the main tips part of the seminar I want to give you a quick look at how retailers in the greetings & giftware industry are currently utilising blogging as a marketing channel.
My industry research shows that of 642 independent companies surveyed only 35% currently have a blog on their website; that equates to 225 out of 642. Of those 225 companies, only 43 (19%) have blogged in the last month.
This shows us that currently blogging is under-used in the greetings and gift industry. Providing a great opportunity for retailers!
The second part of the research looks specifically at the top ten gift retailers online.
By contrast 9 out of 10 of these online shops has a blog and 6 of them have posted within the last month.
This shows that blogging is a marketing tactic embraced by big, successful retailers.
Part 1: Why You Should Blog for Your Business
So why are myself and the Autumn Fair organisers encouraging you to blog for your retail business?
Easy, we want you to reach more customers and make more sales.
& how does a blog do that you may ask?
Well, every time you create a blog post you have the chance to do a few things.
First, you can solve a problem or provide value to a potential customer. This may be answering a question about a product or helping them to decide between several options. All of the normal interactions you may have with customers in your store can be translated into blog posts that help online shoppers make a buying decision.
By providing this value you can also build up “know, like and trust” values with your potential customers. These factors are vital in making a customer want to hand over their hard-earned cash.
At the same time, creating a new blog post also sends a positive signal to Google (and other search engines) that your website is active and it should be sending people to you.
I should point out however that this “good signal boost” only works if your blog is part of your website; if it’s hosted on a 3rd party site like blogger or wordpress.com that’s a separate website and it won’t work in the same way.
So by adding new content in the form of blog posts and signalling to Google that your site is updated, you’ll be attracting new visitors to your site. And that’s where your blog content has the chance to turn those people into leads and buyers.
As I mentioned earlier blog posts can come in any shape, size and format, but for the sake of this talk I want to focus on 2 types of blog post in particular; product focused posts and customer service focused posts.
Product Focused Blog Posts
A product-focused blog post is what you’ll find on top retailer Firebox’s blog. The content shares information on the products they sell online, helping a customer come to a decision or tempting them to buy.
Customer Service Focused Blog Posts
A customer service focused blog post doesn’t single in on any individual product or range but instead provides another type of value to their customer.
I wasn’t able to find a B2C example of this in the gift market but I did find an example from one of Autumn Fair’s exhibitors, greetings card publisher Blue Eyed Sun.
Knowing their retail audience would be attending Autumn Fair, director Jeremy Corner created an “Essential Guide to Autumn Fair 2018” this was full of useful information about how to attend the event, the best hotels to stay in and the best restaurants to visit.
Rather than directly pushing his products Jeremy was providing value to his customers, helping them save time looking up information they would need in visiting the show.
This creates brand awareness for Blue Eyed Sun and can even make people want to reciprocate the value they’ve received.
Now we’ve seen two types of blog post let’s see how they would lead to a purchase.
Again let’s break it down into 2 options.
The first (on the left) is direct, people read a post are sent to a product and then go to the shopping cart and checkout.
Alternatively, the less direct route is to take visitors from a blog post to a mailing list. This is a lower commitment, you’re not pushing them to a sale straight away. Once the potential customer is on your mailing list you can then use an email series to tempt them into purchasing a product.
Now we know the basics of blogging, let’s see how we can create compelling content.
Part 2: How to Create Compelling Content
The big question is… how do you create content that generates leads and buyers?
Ok, first of all, you need to create content that is specific to the customers you want.
The more relevant, the more likely people will buy.
Now if we think in terms of a gift shop. You may have a customer walk in who spells out exactly what they want: they need a birthday present for their grandma.
For you as a retailer that’s easy, you say “ok this is what I recommend”.
The blog version of that is just the same, you might have a blog post “10 birthday presents that Grandma will love”; that’s nice and straightforward.
But not everyone who comes into your gift shop is that decisive.
Sometimes people are just browsing or they’re not ready to buy. Sometimes they’re just passing your shop in the street, in their own world listening to music and totally oblivious to you.
For those people, you need content that raises awareness and interest in your business. They need a shop window that sparks their interest or an in-store display that makes them pick up a product and take a closer look.
The blog version of this retail experience is having content that helps customers know, like and trust you. So you might have a blog post that details the unique “5 step quality check” that every product goes through before it leaves your shop.
Which takes us nicely to our next ingredient of compelling content, Value.
So as well as being specific your content needs to be valuable to your ideal customer.
Luckily your business has you, and you’re a wealth of information about your customers and your products. And all that knowledge you already have or the questions people ask could be compelling content for your audience.
Now if you’re a little stuck for inspiration there are a few online places you can go to. Simplest of them all is Google. If we take Valentine’s Day Gifts as an example, type this into Google and you’ll get the top results related to that search term.
Scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll get related search terms. Keywords that people are looking for that could inspire a potential blog post for you.
If you flip to the news results you’ll even get the top blog articles, which gives you further inspiration of what content is already out there and popular.
So once you know who you’re writing your blog for and what they might want help with it all comes down to the content.
Another really useful site is answerthepublic.com
Here you can search any word or phrase and it will find all of the questions people are asking about that thing.
In the slide above you’ll see the example of “Christmas Gifts” but the site can be used for any subject you can think of, from an event such as Christmas to a specific product range such as “Paw Patrol” or “Pusheen”, which both generate over 100 questions.
Compelling Content Ingredient 3 – Make it Clickable
The next element of compelling content is the first thing that people see, which is the headline. A good headline is clickable.
There was a study by Copyblogger that found on average 8 out of 10 people read headlines but only 2 out of 10 read the whole article. This tells us that if your headline is no good people won’t read your blog post, and if people aren’t even reading the post you’ve lovingly created, you’re wasting time blogging that you don’t have.
Headlines are regarded as so important to online marketers now that tonnes of research goes into it these days. Just type the subject into Google and you’ll see just how much blog content is devoted to the subject! While it’s definitely worth a read I want to give you a quick cheat.
If you google “headline analyser” you’ll find a number of sites that will tell you if your titles are good. The one I use is by CoSchedule. As you’ll see from the slide above, it gives a traffic light scoring system (red, yellow, green). The closer you can get to a score of 70 above the better.
So once your headline has pulled people into your site the next component of compelling content is the quality of your post.
This means any images have to be high quality, same for video and audio. Well lit, framed perfectly, shot well etc.
For any text, you have to make it easy to read. People don’t process online words in the same way they would a book or printed papers; online people tend to scan read so you have to take this into account.
You need to write in plain English, which means short sentences and limited long words.
You also need to format your text. Long blocks of text should be broken into smaller sections with headings that are easier to read. If you ever wondered why you see so many list-based blog posts online, just consider how easy to digest they are.
It’s worth noting also that while you should primarily be thinking of your customers it’s good practice to make your content work for search engines too. If you create blog posts with lots of images make sure the images have a descriptive file name and “alt tags” so the search engine knows what the image represents.
Our last 2 ingredients of compelling content make the retail blogging process more compelling for you rather than your customer.
First is that you need to make your blog content purposeful
By this, I mean that you should have a reason why you’re going to all this effort with retail blogging.
So for every blog post, I want you to decide on what action you want your readers to take. Do you want them to:
- buy something?
- show interest in a particular product by joining a mailing list?
- read another blog post?
- share your blog post?
In every blog post, you need to include a “call to action” that tells them exactly what to do next. They might not do it, but either way, it gives us something to measure later on.
Ok, the final element of our compelling content is to add share buttons and make it shareable.
It’s also another positive signal to Google that you’re doing something good that’s worth seeing, which could mean even more traffic coming your way.
Part 3: Saving Time! Making Retail Blogging the Base of Your Marketing Strategy
Which is why it’s a good idea to save time and use retail blogging as your marketing base.
Now there are two ways you can do this; the first is to repurpose your blog content.
Your posts can be used as content for:
- Email newsletters
- Social media updates
- Proof of expertise for Journalists (they’ll often look you up to see what else you’ve written to see if you’re a good source before working with you).
- Landing pages for Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
Similarly, you can also recycle your blog posts.
The important thing is that any blog content you create is your property and you need to use it as much as you can to save yourself time.
Part 4: Getting a Return on Your Investment
Now the final bit of the puzzle is to ensure that you’re getting a return on your investment.
A good place to start measuring the impact of your retail blog is Google Analytics.
Now analytics can get quite complicated, but a simple way to look at it is that you want to track a blog visitor from the moment they enter your site, and along the path that you have designed for them with your blog content.
This falls into 4 main reporting areas of Google Analytics.
First, we can aim to track visitors via referrals, this will tell is where blog traffic is coming from. Giving us a good idea of what content works best with which traffic source. You may find that Gift Guides work well on Instagram but get no interst on Facebook; while the Facebook audience love help articles and Instagram hates them.
The next reporting area to consider is page views, this will tell us which content and headlines are working best. Enabling you to recreate the format of your most popular content.
Next Google Analytics gives us a helpful tool to use; the URL builder. This enables us to add a unique tracking code to our call to action link. This will tell us how many people are taking the action we want them to take.
Lastly we can set up goal tracking, this allows you to track a visitor around your site once they’ve left the blog. You could for example set up a goal tracking sequence of:
Blog Post > Product Page > Shopping Cart > Checkout > Order Confirmed
which determines if a customer has purchased a product that you recommended in your blog post.
So there you have it, a 4-part quick introduction to the world or retail blogging.