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Using Your Online Presence to Drive Offline Sales from Your Customer Base and Beyond, Part 2
(by: Tom Swanson
(Copyright 2005 Tom Swanson

In the last article in this series, I talked about a few basic ways to drive in-store sales by using your online presence. In this, the last installment of the series on this topic, I’m going to cover some more in-depth strategies to boost sales at your brick-and-mortar location.

Create an Online Customer Rewards Program

You can institute a customer rewards program that you post on your web site exclusively to drive offline sales from your online presence. First, encourage both current and new customers to sign up for the customer rewards program when they buy something in your store. They can then visit your website and participate in the program from the convenience of their homes. For example, you could set up a points system whereby your customers acquire points for every purchase, and then keep track of their progress on your website. Once they rack up a certain amount of points, they can redeem them for merchandise, discounts, etc.

Having a program like this in place will encourage repeat visits from customers to both your store and your website, and once they’re there, you can introduce them to new specials, upcoming sales, etc. This will, in turn, encourage repeat patronage from these customers. Many times, in fact, customers will actually buy more products than they normally would if the rewards that you feature in your program are incentive enough for them to desire more points. High-profile rewards could include things like plane tickets, new electronics, spa packages, etc.

If you’re at a loss to what kind of rewards program to implement, there are a ton of turnkey solutions out there. A quick online search turned up customer-loyalty solutions from Destination Rewards (http://www.drloyalty.com/), Online Rewards (http://www.online-rewards.com/index.html), and iRebates (http://www.irebates.net/) along with countless others. Obviously you’ll want to shop around, do some research, and make sure that you find a solution that best fits your needs. And of course these are paid programs, but often times turnkey solutions are lifesavers for busy businesses owners.

Develop Online Incentives to Visit Your Store

A great way to encourage patronage from your current customers – and new customers, for that matter – is to develop online incentives to visit your store. When customers visit your website, encourage them to sign up for your e-newsletter for an exclusive online coupon that can only be redeemed at your store.

These coupons don’t have to be complicated to work, either. For example, if you’re already having a sale, you might offer a coupon that entitles customers that sign up to receive an extra 5-10% off the sale price. Consumers love promotions like these – they make them feel like specially valued customers and leave them satisfied with their purchase because they got a good deal.

Be sure to encourage your customers to check your website for announcements and specials regularly. Let all current and potential customers know that, by giving you a little information, they can take advantage of incredible savings offers. Advertise that you do this. Become known for it – your website traffic will increase dramatically and so will your bottom line.

Once you have some online incentives in place, you can partner with other savings/coupon-aggregating sites that feature savings for their site visitors from all sorts of businesses. Some of them require that you pay to have your business listed with them, but others are free. Two popular sites of this type are CoolSavings.com and CouponMountain.com.

Institute an Online Referral Program

As you probably know, word-of-mouth advertising is a very effective way to get new customers. Well, if your customers are already talking about your business – or even if they aren’t – why not give them a reason to send their friends to your store? Implementing a program to encourage customers to refer people to your store is another great tool for driving in-store sales, and using the web to do it makes it hassle-free because you can automate most of it.

For example, you can add a section to your website where customers can register for your referral program, just like they would for an e-newsletter. Once they register, you’ll have their information in your system so the next time someone says they were referred, you’ll know who referred them and you can add loyalty points to their account or just give them cash, which is always a hit.

In addition to rewarding customers who refer other customers with immediate incentives, you could run a contest and reward the customer that gives you the most referrals with a more substantial, larger prize. This will emphasize the fact that you encourage referrals and that you reward the customers that refer new customers to your store.

One note about getting referral information from new customers: often times, even when one customer says, “Tell them I sent you” to a new customer, the new customer forgets to mention it, and then you end up in a situation where you’ve inadvertently upset the customer that referred them in the first place, because they’re not getting the reward they thought they would. To avoid this, you should train your sales staff to ask of everyone that checks out how they heard about the store.

Not only will you be sure to find out about all the customers that are referring other customers, but you’ll also learn a lot about how customers are hearing about your business in general, which might very well give you insight into some of the media you’re using or into potentially innovative ways to market your business in the future.

Each of these ideas will help you bring current or new customers that visit your website into your store. Make sure that you take advantage of the new in-store traffic though – when a new customer walks in your door, make sure your sales staff are greeting them properly and offering to help them without coming off as pushy. And make sure your store environment will foster repeat visits. It’s one thing to drive traffic into your store, but it’s another to retain those new customers. Give them a shopping experience they won’t soon forget. Taking these steps will ensure repeat visits, loyal customers, and lots of referrals.


About the author:
Author: Tom Swanson Web Site: http://www.lowhangingfruit.com Email:tom@itimeinc.com Phone: 563-323-4609 Tom Swanson’s experience in sales, marketing, copywriting, multi-media advertising, and publishing have given him incredible insight into the world of marketing both online and off. Tom writes articles to help local businesses learn to strategically leverage their Internet presence and capture easy online profits. His articles include thoughtful, down-to-earth explanations of various marketing media and philosophies, and local businesses can take away simple tools, ideas, and techniques that they can implement to shape their local Internet marketing efforts. © 2005 Low-Hanging Fruit


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