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What is retail marketing? Strategies, types, and examples

Reading Time: 8 minutes

While we all know the word “retail,” we might not know how to define “retail marketing” in contrast to other types of marketing. In short, retail refers to arrangements in which producers sell bulk products to distributors at wholesale prices, who in turn sell them to consumers for a higher price that covers storage, marketing, labor, and other expenses.

The retail industry has existed for centuries, but it continues to change and evolve in response to emerging trends and markets. In this article, we’ll go over the meaning of retail marketing and take a look at some use cases that illustrate key elements of effective retail campaigns.

What is retail marketing?

Retail marketing involves all of the ways a business acquires customers and gets those customers to buy their goods and services.

The basics of retail marketing campaigns revolve around four main factors, which are often called the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion.

  • Product: Even though retailers don’t usually create their own products, their selection of items is still a key selling point. Customers want to know that you have what they’re looking for.
  • Price: Such a competitive retail market puts significant downward pressure on prices. You might want to raise your prices to earn a greater profit on each item, but that will also push some of your customers to competing retailers that offer the same product at a lower price.
  • Place: Place can refer to the actual location of a physical store, but it can also refer to online visibility. Getting the top results on Google for a given keyword can be just as valuable for online retail stores as having a prime location on Fifth Avenue in New York.  
  • Promotion: Retail promotion is all about connecting with customers and making them more aware of your brand. If consumers don’t know you exist, they won’t think of you when they want a product. Even after reaching the initial stage of awareness, they may need to engage with your brand several more times before becoming comfortable enough to move forward with their first purchase.

Types of retail marketing

All retail marketing shares some common characteristics, but you’ll need to develop a custom promotional strategy that makes sense for your unique business across retail operations. Keep in mind that these campaigns won’t work as well on their own. Make sure to integrate multiple channels and leverage marketing analytics in order to generate even more outreach and sales.

Store-based retail marketing

If you have a physical storefront, it’s important to fully leverage the promotional opportunities of that space. Putting a little energy into store-based marketing will help you bring in more repeat customers while increasing the amount of money the average person spends during each visit.

  • Events: Retail stores are the perfect places for events, and you can hold a variety of different events depending on your audience and brand image.
  • In-store displays: In-store displays could be anything from a centerpiece for a particular product to a digital display board that shows a selection of social media posts from your customers. They give you the chance to spice up the shopping experience and experiment with different types of visual content.
  • Sample products: Samples are a great way to get shoppers interested in a product they might not have looked at on their own. They’re particularly effective for items like makeups, colognes, and lotions that consumers will feel more comfortable purchasing after they’ve had a chance to try them out.
  • Interactive boards: these are interactive, in-store displays that show relevant information and allow shoppers to get pricing and product info, watch relevant videos, etc.
  • In-store promotions: When you go to the grocery store, you probably expect to find some products on sale. While major promotions typically receive a significant marketing push, everyday discounts don’t always need to be advertised outside your store.
in-store promotions

Back-to-school displays are a classic example of effective in-store marketing. They place a variety of relevant products in the same section at the time of the year when people are interested.

Unified displays are effective in multiple ways. First, they ensure that customers can quickly find what they’re looking for instead of wasting time looking around the store.

Furthermore, they give retailers opportunities for cross-product promotions. If a customer walks in for a notebook, chances are they’ll walk around the back-to-school section and end up leaving with more than what they came in for.

Non-store-based retail marketing

Outside of a physical store, retailers still have a variety of marketing tools at their disposal. These include traditional choices like catalogs, posters, referrals, and even direct mail. Plus more modern methods such as websites, social media profiles, and email and SMS campaigns.

  • Direct mail: Making sure customers know what you offer is a major hurdle for retail marketers. Sending out physical catalogs and promotional information might sound old-fashioned, but it can be a cost-effective option for stores that want to get the word out to local buyers. Direct mail is ideal for physical stores that cater to a specific location.
  • Posters: Posters are often associated with movies, fundraisers, and other events, but they can be used to advertise almost any discount or promotion. Remember to use text that’s large enough for viewers to read from at least five or ten feet away.
  • TV ads: TV marketing is another good way to get in touch with local consumers. Local TV ads can be highly targeted, and video content offers a lot more room for creativity compared to things like posters and mailers.
  • Press releases: if you have a unique or interesting offer, such as an event or very special promotion, you can write press releases for local journalists. They may cover the event or promotion in their newspapers (or TV news if it’s particularly special) that can drive traffic to your store.
  • Word of mouth: Word-of-mouth marketing is an incredibly valuable resource for both physical and digital businesses. Consumers trust input from their friends, family members, and neighbors far more than they trust conventional promotions. Referral programs are an easy way to incentivize recommendations and generate more referrals from your existing customer base.
message to refer a friend

Referral rewards are an easy way to motivate your existing customers to introduce their friends and family members to your brand. Stitch Fix gives users a $25 bonus for each new customer they refer.

On top of the bonus for the user who makes the referral, some companies also give a bonus to the referral themselves. Consumers are more likely to try out a new brand if they know they’ll get a discount or other perk for their first purchase. From there, if they like the product, they’ll most likely come back for repeat orders at full price.

Digital retail marketing

  • Website: Even if you don’t sell any products online, it’s important to have a professional website that illustrates your brand image while giving visitors information about what you offer. Keep in mind that adding tracking pixels to your site will enable you to leverage website activity data for use in retargeting campaigns.
  • Social media marketing: With nearly 4 billion active social media users on Earth, you can’t afford to miss out on the large and diverse audience that social media offers. 
  • SMS marketing: SMS marketing is expected to grow by an average of over 20 percent per year between 2019 and 2025. When possible, you should give customers the option to receive your communications through email, SMS, or even other channels. Read our guide on SMS marketing if you’re considering using this channel.
  • Email newsletters:  $1 spent on email marketing leads to roughly $42 in return, making it one of the most lucrative channels out there. A weekly or monthly newsletter will help you stay connected to your core audience and maximize the lifetime value of each lead.
email with weekly deals

This message from Cosmetic Love is an excellent email marketing example. The “Weekly Deals” header tells readers exactly what to expect. The best promotion is conspicuously displayed with a large image and clear information about pricing.

After that, they show two extra deals plus discounts on the most commonly viewed products. Cosmetic Love manages to communicate a lot of details about their promotion in a message that readers will be able to scan in no more than ten or twenty seconds.

Check out these articles to learn more about optimizing your email campaigns:

3 retail marketing case studies

Now that you understand the basics of retail marketing, let’s take a look at these concepts in action. We’ll examine the cases of Amundsen Sports, Divatress, and the Gap to determine how they were able to craft compelling retail campaigns and advance their business objectives.

Amundsen Sports

Amundsen Sports knew the brand image they wanted, but they were having difficulties making that come through in their promotional emails. Even when they were able to put together a good message, they were spending too much time editing for it to be worth the trouble.

After switching to Omnisend, team ecommerce leader Frithjof Solheim says that they’re now able to build “super clean” emails with our drag-and-drop interface. Amundsen’s new welcome, cart abandonment, and order confirmation sequences continue to drive sales for their brand.

Order confirmation emails statistics

Overall, more than 29% of all Omnisend-driven sales come from those three automations alone, and they can be set up in just a few minutes. Using automated messages to keep customers engaged is one of the most reliable ways to increase sales. 

The email below is a great example of the clear, simple design that’s perfect for transactional messages.

Amundsen email of order confirmation

Divatress

Ten years ago, Divatress founder Rob Lin moved his company to a full-digital business model—well before that became a common approach for retail vendors. Along with Omnisend’s email automation, he recently started leveraging our SMS tools in order to stay in touch with customers.

“At this point, I can’t imagine a world without SMS marketing. It’s really taken off. Our SMS subscribers are growing much faster than email subscribers. SMS is just becoming more and more important for us and it’s definitely not going anywhere.”

—Rob Lin

Abandoned carts used to be a key source of lost revenue for Divatress, but their new cart abandonment workflow now recovers a significant percentage of those leads. In fact, 29% of their abandoned cart sequences lead to conversions.

In contrast to traditional single-channel campaigns, the Divatress abandoned cart workflow combines email with either an SMS message or a push notification. The first two messages are sent as emails ten hours apart, while the third message comes with another email plus a text message or push notification based on the user’s preferences.

Cart abandonment workflows

Gap

The Gap is one of the most recognizable clothing brands in the United States. So their marketing challenges are a little different compared to what a typical ecommerce vendor might experience. But their marketing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate lessons that are just as relevant for smaller businesses.

One of the most interesting elements of their recent results is that offline sales have actually gone down by 16% relative to pre-pandemic figures from 2019. On the other hand, online sales went up by 82% and now constitute 40% of their total revenue. That increase has more than offset their brick-and-mortar losses, leading to an overall increase of 13% from 2019 including both online and offline sales.

A new Gap partnership with Walmart is another illustration of the company’s ability to adapt to changing industry standards and customer preferences. The new Gap Home line is exclusively available on Walmart.com, helping them capitalize on Walmart’s existing audience.

Gap products

Above all, Gap’s strategies show that even traditional retailers can redefine their image by connecting their existing brand to new online channels. 

Conclusion

Retail marketing changes every year, but many of the same strategies have remained effective for decades. 

If you’re looking to stand out from competitors in a crowded online marketplace, you need to find ways to leverage your product, price, place, and promotional value while communicating that information to customers.

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Bernard Meyer
Article by
Bernard Meyer

Bernard is the Director of Content at Omnisend, with a passion for good research, helping ecommerce businesses with their marketing automation needs, and beating absolutely everyone in Mario Kart 64.


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