Brick and Mortar Retailers Should Embrace the Smartphone

What is showrooming?
People visiting and using a physical store as a showroom, so they can touch and feel the product, and then go away to  buy on-line.

I have heard this term over and over again by independent retailers who are using it as an excuse for their declining business. In reality, more people actually research on-line first and then go to purchase in-store.

Many independent retailers are scared of the smartphone and what they think that means for them and their business.  In actual fact, knowing that the smartphone is a permanent connection between the retailer and the consumer, they should be embracing it. Smartphones allow an exchange of feedback and conversation with each other.

5 Suggestions on how to use this knowledge to your advantage:

  1. People research product on-line first, so make sure your website is up to date with product information including features, specs and pricing.
  2. Since people look at dealer locators and where to buy product, make sure your website is optimized so that customers can find you in the first place.
  3. Have a newsletter signup bar on your website to help grow your database so that you can keep your customers informed about new arrivals and brand promotions.
  4. Keep your social media accounts up to date and make sure that you respond regularly to people who tweet/chat about you and their in-store experience.
  5. Make it easy for your customers to research product right in your store, with the use of tools such as QR codes and Blippar apps.

These are just a couple ideas that will help keep your customers coming back for more.

Product Sampling as a Marketing Strategy

Product sampling has long been a traditional way to introduce new people to product or to introduce a new product into the marketplace.

Sampling at a trade-show has traditionally been an effective way to introduce your product or new product to new people.  There are a few problems with this strategy though. One is the fact that many people at the trade-show may not be your target market, so you will have wasted your sample. Secondly, many people go to these shows just to collect the freebies and may not be willing to actually purchase the product at a later date.  Thirdly, there are often so many companies sampling products at trade-shows that your product may not stand out in the crowd.

Direct mail sampling can be very costly if you have a very targeted market. The other day I came home to see a BIG bag of cat food hanging on my front door knob. I don’t have a cat and will never own a cat. Most of my neighbours don’t have cats. This product was costly and a huge mistake on the part of the pet food maker. They needed to be a bit more strategic in their approach to reach their real end consumer.

Beer Sampler

To stand out from other product samples, you need to BE CREATIVE. Here are a couple ideas that will help your product get noticed by the right consumer:

Create Strategic Partnerships
Find a partner with the right audience for sampling so there is no wasted product or reach.

So for example, you are launching a mosquito repellent, but travelling to outdoor trade-shows across the country is too expensive and doesn’t match your strategy.  Create a partnership with organizations such as provincial parks or campgrounds, who will hand the samples out to everyone who purchases a park pass. This will come with a fee of course, but you are reaching people who are spending time in the outdoors and will likely try the product out within minutes of receiving it. If the product lives up to its claims, those same people are likely to go to their local store to purchase it for their next outdoor or camping experience.

Gift With Purchase
Not only will you increase sales of your regular product, but you will have introduced your new product to an already loyal customer.

So for example, you are an athletic shoe company launching premium socks into your product mix.  There are lots of other sock brands on the market so it is difficult to get people to try your amazing socks.  Target your already loyal customers and offer a FREE pair of socks with every purchase of shoes or workout gear worth $100 or more.  Customers will be enticed to buy product in the moment since they will be receiving a gift with a high perceived value. Not only will you be increasing sales of your regular product, but you will have introduced your new product to an already loyal customer. If they love the socks, your fans will spread the word, plus the next time they need socks, they will think of your brand.

Also read “How to Use Samples to Promote Your Product” at for more ideas on how to make sampling work for you.

Also read “Sampling goes digital as marketers look to track results” at Globe and Mail for Small Business for more ideas on how traditional sampling is changing.

Attention To Details Convert Consumers To Fans

I love when a brand takes the extra time to pay attention to the little details that allow a customer to continually make small discoveries about the brand. A brand should consider how they can make each consumer touch point a unique experience.

The online buying experience from storytelling through shopping cart checkout to the delivery should be memorable. BUT the brand experience should not stop there. What happens after Fed Ex drops off the package at your door?

A great example of the ongoing discovery is “Johnny Cupcakes“. I am not going to expand into the history of this lifestyle brand – I will let you explore the website and discover the story on your own.

First, the package was not your typical brown box, but a custom bag with fun illustrations. Once opened, the tissue paper was not only branded but expertly creased and folded. Inside the tissue was a “freshly sealed” bag ensuring that the product was not ruined during shipment. A couple stickers were tucked inside as a little extra gift.

Johnny Cupcake Delivery Packaging

Johnny Cupcake Delivery Packaging

The attention to detail though does not stop there. Check out the hangtag with retro design that emphasizes the bakery theme.

Johnny Cupcake Hangtag

Johnny Cupcake Hangtag


I absolutely love the use of the oven mitt and rolling pin to continue along the same theme. Bon Appetit!

Johnny Cupcake Neck Tags

Johnny Cupcake Neck Tags

There are so many more details, but I don’t want to ruin all the surprises that this one simple t-shirt holds.

At what point did I switch from being a customer to being a believer in the brand and becoming a serious fan?  The shipping bag had me intrigued. The hangtag had me wanting more. The oven mitt tag put me over the edge.

It doesn’t stop there…. check out Johnny Cupcake’s social media feeds to discover original content that speaks to their brand uniqueness!


“Do more of what makes you happy!” __Johnny Cupcake

What Creates The Total Brand Experience?

Building relationships with retailers and consumers through multiple touch-points creates the TOTAL experience.

In-Store Displays: Floor or wall displays have been proven to  increase sales by upwards of 45% or more. Having a section that stands out from the clutter will have people looking at your product before the competitors.

Sales Tools and PKs: Kits and product knowledge sessions for the floor staff gives the tools and education they need to sell your product. Creating sales incentives keeps your brand and product top of mind with the sales team.

Seeding: Getting your product into the right hands will drive word of mouth business. For example if your product is for a specific industry such as Kayaking, develop relationships with Kayak instructors and organizations/clubs.

Co-op Advertising: Local advertising helps drive traffic into the retailer to find your product. Brands and retailers usually split the cost 50-50 up to 5% of their total bookings (orders). This is a great way to support your retailer and help drive sell-through.

Promotions: In-store contests or a Gift with Purchase (GWP) is a great way to introduce your brand or product to brand new customers as well as build brand loyalty.

Events: Creating an event in a community or at one of your retailers helps build brand awareness and brand loyalty.

Future blog posts will expand on each of these touch-points to give you ideas of what you can do create your TOTAL brand experience.

What is Your Creative Process?

Having a creative process is important for delivering a design project on time, on budget, and on strategy.Our Creative Process

Client Brief
A discussion with client to determine needs and budgets. This will better enable the creative director to write the initial creative brief for the design team.

Research + Analysis
Researching and analysing the client’s industry, customers, and competitors will help define what the client’s needs are and determine their competitive advantage.

The generation and sharing of ideas brings the creative juices to the forefront.

Execute Ideas
The design team takes the brainstorm ideas and develops concrete ideas to present to client.

Presentation to Client
The presentation of concepts to client allows for discussion on direction and strategy

Design Development
The design team takes chosen concept and discussion points through to process and development.

Refine and finalize the design details, such as typesetting and photography touch-ups, before moving into production

Final print or web ready artwork is followed through to proofing and printing or programming and testing.

Finished Product
Delivering the WOW factor to consumers for call to action.

Following through on the full creative process ensures that the client receives a product that delivers on all objectives. Next step: Track results!

What Makes a Great Social Media Team?

A team that is passionate about connecting brands with people will be successful in building new and long-term relationships.Your Social Media Team

Marketing Director –  Developing a strategy is the first most important step before heading into Social Media territory. A Marketing Manager will determine which Social Media platforms are the best fit for your brand. They will lead key messaging and help keep the campaign direction on track.

Content Developers – Unique content is king and multiple content developers can keep the stories flowing often and consistently. Storytelling is a big part of social media; whether it is through 140 characters, a photo essay or a blog post.

Graphic Designer – Creative graphics keep the reader interested as well as give the opportunity for people to share visual content with others.

Digital Manager – Having someone on the team who can develop custom apps, track traffic through analytical software, and who is always looking for advancements in technology will ensure your content and messaging is always top of mind.

A great team will create new fans and build upon the loyalty of current fans through content filled engagement that make people feel like they are a part of the process. How connected is your team?

Do You Have a Brand Manual or Style Guide?

If you have answered this question with a “no” but deal with vendors / suppliers / media on a regular basis, then you need to consider working with your designer to create one.

At the very least, it is important to have a style guide to keep your look consistent across all consumer touch-points. Having on hand a quick guide to your corporate fonts and colours is a time saver as well as ensuring that your logos will be seen accurately on everything from websites to t-shirts.

Style Guide and Brand Manual

If you do a lot of advertising or graphic work, a brand manual is key in keeping your messaging consistent across all platforms. A brand manual outlines everything from your mission statement to how your taglines should be used to what photo filters to use on your custom photography.

Being in control of your brand across all touchpoints is a very important step in helping you keep all your dots connected.