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Astute online marketing is also at the core of Jane.com’s strategy. The list of platforms is long, including advertising on Facebook, Google, Bing, Twitter and Pinterest. The company’s strategy also utilizes retargeting, product listing ads, app ads and “abandon cart” email campaigns—when customers add something to their carts but don’t buy it, they’ll get an email saying something like, “You wanted this—there are only three left!”
Another Utah-based online company, Eleventh Avenue, describes itself as a “boutique marketplace that focuses on social shopping.” The company started in 2010 as GroopDealz, a daily deals site, and has recently rebranded as its focus is broadening to include social selling.
Harrison Mitchell, CEO of Eleventh Avenue, says that with several thousand boutiques represented on the site, Eleventh Avenue allows shoppers to “love” items and create collections of their favorites that then appear on their Eleventh Avenue page for others to see (similar to a Pinterest board). Customers can also follow boutiques to stay up-to-date on their latest offerings. Daily emails alert customers to discounts and limited-time specials posted on the site’s deals marketplace.
For sellers like Jen Brooks, who owns Treehouse Treasures, access to customers through Eleventh Avenue has made a big difference. She began selling her handcrafted décor boards at craft fairs and expos, but found the high inventory needs and low sales volumes to be frustrating.
She says, “Being with Eleventh Avenue, I’ve been able to create a product I love and my customers love, and run it at a really great price. I can set the quantity I want to sell, and know what my workload will be in the few weeks after the sales run. I’ve always had huge numbers with Eleventh Avenue—it’s increased my income amazingly.”
She explains the biggest advantage is consumer reach. “Advertising can be such a big expense for a small business. With Eleventh Avenue, you’re just paying a small commission fee to be part of the site, and you get massive exposure.”
Social media has also helped level the playing field for smaller local businesses. Both brick-and-mortar and online retailers utilize the opportunity for increased visibility and relationship building. Rod Works uses social media’s visual platforms to connect with customers.
“Showcasing our product seems to be the best, so with us, it’s easy for us to show multiple products at once on Pinterest or Instagram, even Facebook. We can represent it in a layout form, where the customer can relate to it, see it and realize they’ve got to get that,” says Brackett.
The King’s English Bookshop uses Facebook and Instagram to let customers know about upcoming store events, author signings and more. For Holman, it’s important to avoid getting too routine with social media. “You know you can schedule your Facebook posts out ahead of time, but I think you have to be up close and personal, post things that matter to your store, that matter to your community. Like today, we have the Girl Scouts coming. I’ll post that they’re coming at 4, and then post pictures after.”
Offering Something Unique
For many local businesses, offering unique products gives them an advantage over the e-commerce giants.
“We’ve found that offering a product or service that customers can’t find online is the most important,” says Rod Works’ Brackett. “If you’re comparing something like running shoes—in a style and model you can find anywhere—a lot of people will go online to find the cheapest price and buy it. But with us, we offer unique products you can’t find everywhere. And we do hands-on decorating and merchandising. Customers will come in with a picture of a blank wall, and our employees will walk through store and build something specific for them. We help them fill up parts of their house, a little bit at a time. That hands-on service is something you can’t get online.”
Brooks finds that her Treehouse Treasures customers love being able to order something they can personalize. She says, “People really love seeing their own names on things; I think it does play a huge role in my numbers. When I sell things that are standard, I still get the sales, but people love their legacy; they love to have their names on things.
“They also seem to like that I take pride in my work. I’m really a perfectionist. I feel like I put extra effort into things, make sure it’s measured straight. They know my name now on the site. When the daily advertising comes out, they’re excited when they see my name, and they’ll ask me when I’m going to offer specials again.”