15 Digital Marketing Ideas for Retail Store Owners

social media on phone

Retail store owners wear a lot of hats, especially in the early days. 

You’re managing inventory, training staff, working with vendors, and countless other tasks that your business needs to run smoothly. 

You know digital marketing can help increase sales, but you’re struggling to find time for it or even know where to start. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of low-cost, easy-to-learn digital marketing tactics you can try today. 

  1. Live videos
  2. Promotional emails
  3. Employee spotlights
  4. Branded hashtags
  5. Social media stories
  6. Google Shopping Ads
  7. Contests and giveaways
  8. Messenger apps
  9. Behind the scenes looks
  10. Holiday posts
  11. Current event participation
  12. Videos and GIFs
  13. Surveys, polls, and quizzes
  14. Facebook groups
  15. In-store apps

1. Live videos

Videos are a great way to engage with customers, but did you know that 80% of people prefer live videos over pre-recorded ones? 

To get started, all you need is a platform with live video options, like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or Vimeo—which you probably already have!

What should you do a live video about? The options are endless! Live videos are great for doing in-store tours, Q&As, and even product features (giving your digital audience a behind-the-scenes look at your retail store is also a great omnichannel selling tactic!). 

To increase engagement, try announcing your plans for the live video in advance so your followers can plan to tune in. 

woman holding phone

2. Promotional emails

They may be one of the oldest tricks in the digital playbook, but nothing beats an engaging promotional email. 

In fact, one study asked people “How often, if ever, would you like to receive promotional emails (e.g., coupons, sales notifications) from companies that you do business with?”

The response? 

61% of people said they’d like to receive those emails at least weekly, and 86% said monthly. That’s a ton of opportunity!

But how can you get started? 

You’ll need an email platform and an email list (Shopify can help you here!)

From there, try creating a simple email template you can use to announce your latest product or sale, or get personal by showing your store’s community involvement or behind-the-scenes photos and stories.

marketing sherpa email study

3. Employee spotlights

A study showed that 52% of website visitors go straight to a brand’s About page after visiting its homepage. 

What can we learn from this?

Shoppers want to see the people behind the brand. That’s why employee spotlights can be such a powerful tactic. 

Think of employee spotlights as miniature introductions of your store staff to your customers. Whether you host them on your website or your social media accounts, they’re a great way to add a personal touch to your marketing efforts and introduce your customers to the people they may encounter when they visit your store. 

employee spotlight instagram

Source: Architect’s Wife

4. Branded hashtags

A branded hashtag connects customers not just to your products but also your brand—but what is it exactly?

Take Old Navy’s #oldnavystyle, for example.

Customers post pictures of themselves wearing outfits from Old Navy on platforms like Instagram with the hashtag #oldnavystyle, which has created an online community around a shared love of the clothes Old Navy offers. 

Pick a unique hashtag that speaks to your brand values and use methods like social media, emails, and even in-store signage to encourage shoppers to use the hashtag. Make sure to follow the hashtags on social media so you can repost and feature customers in your newsletter to incentivize even more sharing!


Source: #oldnavystyle on Instagram

5. Social media stories

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp all have a Stories functions for instant, dynamic, and quick video content. 

There are nearly one billion users across these four platforms using Stories regularly. And nearly 64% of brands were using or planned to use Stories in their digital marketing strategies just last year. 

To get started, all you need is an account on one of the social media platforms we listed. 

Start by doing daily check-in stories, “look around the boutique” stories, product unboxing stories, product tutorials, and customer-service-themed stories. 

This is a powerful way to generate quick video content that can be categorized and saved using the Highlights feature in these apps.

beardbrand instagram

Source: Beardbrand on Instagram

6. Google Shopping Ads

While this guide provides lots of free (or nearly free) ways to promote your retail store, in many cases, the saying "you have to spend money to make money" rings true. 

But as a retail store owner that may not have a huge advertising budget, you don't want to spend your money on just anything. You'll want to make sure you're spending it where you'll get a good return on your investment. 

One advertising channel that can have a great ROI is Google Shopping Ads, which is why we encourage you to check out and bookmark The Retail Store Owner's 11-Step Guide to Launching Google Shopping Adswhich will walk you through how to set them up, step by step.

Downloadable Digital Marketing Playbook

Since you’re interested in digital marketing, we also recommend checking out The Digital Marketing Playbook for Retail Store Owners. It’s packed with even more advice on this topic. Plus, you get to download it and keep it forever!

Get your copy

15 digital marketing ideas for retail store owners

Continue reading to view all 15 ideas, or use the list below to jump to one that stands out to you!

7. Contests and giveaways

Social media is a great way to promote your retail store, but what if you don’t have a big following yet?

For retail stores, an easy way to get people to follow you and engage with your brand is by doing a giveaway or a contest. 

Some ideas to get started:

  • Run a contest in collaboration with another store, brand, or vendor to expand your audience
  • Use contests to build excitement for new product releases 
  • Plan contests as a way to sell overstocked products 

Make sure you communicate clear participation requirements and adhere to the platform’s promotional guidelines

instagram giveaway

8. Messenger apps

A great way to sell more products is by making it easier for potential buyers to ask you questions and claim offers on the platforms they’re already spending time on.

For example, Facebook and Instagram direct messages can be great ways to interact personally with your customers and create one-on-on experiences that instill confidence in your brand. In fact, according to Facebook, 69% of people say being able to message a business helps them feel more confident about the brand.

facebook messenger
Source: Facebook

9. Behind the scenes looks

For digital marketing retail experiences to come alive, think about showing what happens behind the scenes to your customers. 

If you work with an offsite manufacturer who meets with you about production or you have local vendors deliver goods to your stores, share that with your audience! 

Give a glimpse of what puts products on your shelves and gives your services the value they bring to your customers.

To get started, you need agreements with your suppliers and anyone else involved stating they’re OK with you posting this content. It could be incredibly effective if and when you do!

10. Holiday posts

At the beginning of the year, download a holiday calendar with the date of every legal, religious, and observed holiday. 

This is a great way to plan social media posts and other digital marketing retail content in advance. You can even get creative and post for some of your favorite “national day” celebrations that add a sense of humor to your posting. 

Krispy Kreme does a weeklong celebration of Instagram posts and giveaways every year in honor of National Donut Day.

national donut day krispy kreme instagram

Source: Krispy Kreme on Instagram

To get started, check out the holiday calendars we linked above and integrate them into your content calendar. Consider creating a custom graphic in Canva or another easy online tool for this to look professional with branded content.

11. Current event participation

Participating in current events, political movements, and community happenings may sound scary. But it’s a powerful way to take a stand, align yourself with a cause, and attract the type of customer you want buying your products and services. 

To get started, think about your ideal customer, and about what you believe in and want to promote alongside your store. Then select ways to take a stand on social media and across your other channels.

12. Videos and GIFs

80% of customers say they utilize video and web content to make a buying decision—reason enough for retail store owners to consider adding videos to their digital marketing strategy!

Especially now, as COVID-19 is preventing you from connecting in-person with shoppers as much as you used to, video can connect customers with you and your store from the comfort of their home.

To get started, decide what type of video content you have the resources to create. Whether it’s a video blog (vlog), an informative how-to video, or a catchy GIF, animated content is a powerful way to get customers engaged with your store, your products, and your services.

 Think with Google video statistics

13. Surveys, polls and quizzes

As a retail store owner, you may be familiar with asking for feedback in-person, but did you know you can use social media to collect feedback and customer insights as well?

One of the quickest ways is through Instagram Stories. Through a quiz, open-ended question, poll, and slider, you can get real-time feedback from your customers once they view and respond to your Stories.

Instagram poll option

14. Facebook groups

Think about starting a Facebook group around an event or common interest for a subset of your customers.

A lot of retailers who offer classes or pop-up events may want to use a private Facebook group to let customers share more safely and personally.

This is a way to give your store’s brand visibility and shows you’re invested in your customers.

15. In-store apps

While not every retailer is ready to introduce an in-store app to their digital marketing mix, apps can be great incentives for getting shoppers into your store. 

You can start with a simple digital punch card reward system at checkout. But you can also get sophisticated and create an app that works like an in-store assistant, with product guides, reviews, and descriptions. 

Can you imagine scanning a tag in a clothing store and being able to swipe and see images of the clothes modeled on different body types? This could reduce fitting room reliance and enable faster sales. You can even create free qr codes with Shopify's QR code generator.

in store qr codes

Decide what fits and run with it

While these ideas can be exciting ways to engage your customers, they’re not for everyone. It’s important to examine where you’re going to get the biggest bang for your marketing buck and start there. 

Leveraging any type of digital marketing for retail is a great first step. The combination of both your physical and digital storefronts can help promote your business, establish your brand, and get more customers.

Attract and retain customers with Shopify

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Digital marketing retail FAQ

What is digital marketing in retail?

Digital marketing in retail is the use of digital channels such as websites, email, search engines, social media, and other online platforms to reach customers and promote products or services. It is a way for retailers to connect with their customers and build relationships. This type of marketing allows retailers to reach a large target audience, personalize their communications, and track customer engagement. Digital marketing in retail can also provide insight into customer preferences and behaviors, allowing retailers to tailor their marketing strategies and drive sales.

Why digital marketing is important for retail?

Digital marketing is important for retail because it allows businesses to reach a wider audience and connect with their customers on a more personal level. Digital marketing enables retail businesses to drive more sales and increase their brand awareness by targeting the right people at the right time. It also allows them to personalize their messaging and create more effective campaigns that are tailored to their customers’ needs. Additionally, digital marketing helps businesses track their success and measure their ROI in order to optimize their campaigns and make sure they are getting the best results possible.

What are the 4 principles of retail marketing?

  • Understand Your Target Market: Identifying and understanding the needs, motivations, and behaviors of your target customers is the foundation for successful retail marketing.
  • Create an Effective Branding Strategy: Strong branding can help differentiate your business from the competition, as well as help customers recognize and remember your business.
  • Utilize Multiple Marketing Channels: Utilizing multiple marketing channels will help you reach the widest possible audience and maximize your marketing budget.
  • Measure and Analyze Results: Tracking the effectiveness of your retail marketing efforts will help you determine what’s working and what’s not, and enable you to make adjustments to improve your performance.