Like many town centres in New Zealand, downtown Tauranga faces challenges as shopping behaviours evolve with new technologies. We’ve also seen for some time the impact of large malls drawing foot traffic away from our main streets. Downtown retailers have felt the impact of change and are having to work hard to attract customers to their stores.
In Tauranga there’s a number of developments under way that, once in place, will breathe new energy into the CBD, not least the significant Farmers Tauranga Development which will feature a blend of retail, residential and dining sure to draw plenty of locals and visitors to the Elizabeth Street end of town. There’s no doubt some big property investment players are backing the Tauranga CBD and, along with the new Waikato University campus, the future is looking brighter for those plying their trade downtown.
In the meantime, retailers need to redouble their marketing efforts to draw in customers against the current challenging landscape.
Retail marketing has often been defined by the “four Ps” – product, price, place and promotion. Obviously the product and price offering needs to be tailored to the target market and competition. Product and price strategies are big subjects in themselves but I’d like to talk about some ideas around place and promotion.
If we regard the mega centre malls as a significant competitor for customers, we need to identify where the point of difference is for mainstreet retailers. What are the pros and cons? What’s the reason to visit? Malls are protected from the elements and afford easy, free parking. They feature aircon and food halls; they’re franchised, predictable and convenient. But perhaps they’re actually more than just that.
People crave community, maybe just to people watch or be seen, or simply just to be together. Malls might be formulaic but they’re also a community gathering spot, a destination where there’s a bit of a buzz. ‘Stuff’ is happening.
So, what do mainstreet retailers have that the malls don’t? I’d suggest that the best of them have personality. They have a specialty, they’re a place where a shopper can make a special ’find’; something unique, something they can tell their friends about. A place where they feel a bit special. Those mainstreet retailers who are not big brands but offer the same offering as mall stores might well struggle to attract the foot traffic.
Place marketing is about pumping the store’s personality. Store layout, décor, fixtures, props, window displays, tote bags, awnings, signs and curbside boards are all an opportunity to express a store’s uniqueness. Thinking about the store as a destination and viewing it from the shoppers perspective is powerful. What does the shopper experience approaching the store – are they recognising the store’s uniqueness? What are they greeted with when they step into the store? Are their senses being treated to appealing sight, sound and smell experiences? Do they get a smile?
Is the street a destination? Often retailers will share the same clientele. Can partnership marketing be arranged between the neighbouring stores? The hip term is “collabs”. These collaborations are strongest where there is a synergy between participating stores’ clients. Tactics can include coupon sharing, discount shares and events such as holiday celebrations. Getting out of the store can be effective in creating community. Market day-like events where stalls are on the footpath are an example of this.
Retailers can lobby local government and business associations for help in beautifying the retail streets. Often simple and affordable projects such as installing hanging flower baskets can do much to make a visit to the main streets inviting and pleasurable.
Of course promotional activity goes hand-in-hand with place marketing. Customers are not going to show if they don’t know what the store offering. Relying on customers finding a store by walking by is simply not going fly in this day and age where online shopping and the draw of malls is a significant factor.
Many retailers offer online sales in concert with their in-store offering. Some stores may not necessarily have a shopping site, but certainly they need a strong online presence with a well-produced and maintained website, and active social media channels.
Boosting social media posts and Google advertising work to draw customers more strongly than organic reach only. Planning and executing online promotions needs to be well-managed to ensure optimal ROI is gained. For example, thinking about seasonal bias will mean that a retailer can target promotions in those seasons where online shopping versus foot traffic may be stronger.
Other tactics to be considered are email marketing and influencer campaigns.
The simple formula for mainstreet retailers is to pump up that unique personality. Give customers a reason to visit and keep coming back, and take every opportunity to let them know what’s on offer.
Scott starts his projects with a structured, analytical appraisal that provides the foundation for creative thinking in which the goal is always to connect with an audience. “There needs to be reasons for doing everything we do. So we’ve developed simple processes that get to the crux of a campaign, project or larger strategy that maps out clear building blocks.”