For specialty retailers, this past year has been unique. From adopting new ways to gain customers, to brands and retailers focusing on staying connected virtually, the challenges have been great. These challenges proved too much to overcome for many retailers who were forced to close their doors due to reduced foot traffic and revenue.
But, some brands and retailers were able to pivot, come together, and generate success.
Recently, Rick Saez, host of The Outdoor Biz Podcast sat down with Envoy B2B’s Sales Executive, Matt Dobrowolski, along with John Holmes, General Manager of Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus, and Morton Nace, General Manager of Medved Running and Walking Outfitters to review some of the ways they’ve created and accomplished success throughout the past year.
Check out the podcast below to hear the full story, or keep scrolling to read the podcast summary.
How did your Retail Store Generate New Business?
Establishing new business during the height of the pandemic took both grit and creative thinking. But both Bill & Paul’s and Medved were able to cultivate and execute ideas to assist in generating new business this past year.
As people responded positively to getting outdoors during the pandemic, Bill & Paul’s saw several new customers come into their store. To capitalize on this opportunity, they jumped into executing digital search engine optimization on their website and Facebook page to create more brand awareness. Email marketing and messaging soon followed and became more prevalent as they informed customers about their safe, curbside, in-store buying, and online buying options.
Later on, Holmes explained that new direct sales tactics also played a large part in their strategy to generate new business. And with that, they understood that customers wanted to be able to see, touch, and feel their products first-hand.
“For our kayak sales, we would literally carry a kayak out to our front lawn, have the customer sit in it, feel it, and touch the paddle,” Holmes explained. “If they didn’t buy it, everything would get wiped down and put back into the store. But as people started to spread the word that we were willing to do that, we had a lot of customers come in and tell us that their friends and family had a really good experience and felt safe.”
For Medved Running and Walking Outfitters, they noticed that word of mouth was a large factor in their strategy to reach both new and existing buyers. Through this, email campaigns played a part in getting the word out about their shop.
Medved also made a point to ask themselves what special experiences they could offer to excite and bring in new customers. As their team worked together, they were able to put together an online business for their customers.
“One thing that exceeded my expectations was offering an online virtual shoe fitting experience. That was very successful and customers were receptive to it,” Nace explained.
Medved brought the human connection to virtual shoe fitting by asking the clients questions about their shoe history, figuring out what challenges they were having, and what their particular needs were when it came to finding the perfect shoe. Taking it one step further, they had their customer put the camera on the floor as the sales rep watched them walk in order to assess their unique situation. From the conversation, Medved employees were able to pinpoint their clients’ needs and offer a footwear solution to fit their situation. From adults to kids, people were open-minded and received a cool experience from it as well.
Beyond customers just getting the same shoe or same product that they were used to, they were able to actually have a full fit virtually in order to create buzz and bring in new customers.
What is One Crucial Thing Businesses Need During Through The Pandemic?
“The most crucial thing businesses need through the pandemic leads back to what we all know so well, and that’s having customer service,” stated Dobrowolski.
But, how can a retailer provide excellent customer service? One way is by having the proper knowledge about the products they are selling. And that starts with being educated by a brand’s sales rep.
In fact, 80% of retailers say they need their reps assistance to learn about a brand’s products in order to better sell them. Without brand reps taking the time to train sales associates on products, and offer retailers the tools they need to succeed - like storytelling tools, mobile-first content applications, and assortment campaigns - the chances of the product being offered to a customer drops dramatically.
Because Bill & Paul’s and Medved’s staff were trained and given resources needed on specific products, they were able to offer great customer service in order to gain life-long customers in the end.
What Digital Changes Have Brands Made that Assisted Your Store?
When it came to the digital shift once the pandemic hit, Holmes noted that the brands that had online inventory transparency were some of the most important to Bill and Paul’s Sporthaus.
Holmes explained that “On-hand inventory reporting or futures that offered reliable data allowed us to manage our inventory better and communicate with our customers a lot better.”
When brands empower retailers with consumer demand data through systems like Envoy B2B + Locally, retailers are able to make smarter buys, ensure availability to their customers, and increase sell-through by keeping what’s selling restocked before it runs out. And having transparency into a brand’s inventory became key as demand for many outdoor retail products increased throughout the year.
“In that same vein, a lot of our vendors added several digital assets for us to use in our marketing. And the brands that did the nicest job with that tended to get a little more exposure,” stated Holmes.
When retailers are provided with sustainable go-to-market tools from their brands, it gives them what they need to successfully sell the brand’s products. By offering a content sharing and asset management tool, brands are able to share supplemental imagery and videos with retailers to assist in their marketing efforts.
“It’s tough for smaller retailers to go out and get high-quality imagery. So having easier access to that through B2B platforms was cool,” concluded Holmes.
The Biggest Success Takeaway
Overall, one of the biggest takeaways is that brand reps need to be hands-on with their retailers for the best chance at success. Along with that, reps need to be digitally enabled by their brand in order to provide retailers with what they need to have a successful season.
“Moving forward, I think the brand reps that are going to excel the most are the ones that have figured out the efficiency of utilizing a digital platform. It’s not the perfect situation for everyone, but if you can show them what the top booking items are and provide them with a showcase of digital line showings to make it really quick for the buyer, it will in turn probably give you more time to to be hands-on, working through that personal touch and individual strategy with each retailer,” stated Dobrowolski.
With a powerful suite of tools including replenishment and pre-book recommendations, digital storytelling, an easy content sharing platform, and assortment campaigns, brands and reps are able to enable their retailers to build a better business and increase their sell-through.
Listen to the Rest!
Want to hear more ideas, tips, and success stories from Envoy B2B, Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus, and Medved Running and Walking Outfitters? Be sure to listen to the full podcast by clicking here.
For more great podcasts, check out the following:
- Podcast: How Envoy B2B + Locally Enables Brands to Better Support Specialty Retailers
- Podcast: What Retailers Want and How Brands Can Provide For Them