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Reply To: Hi . We run a small footwear retail business and have done so for 37 years . We use our database of customers and facebook as a major part of our marketing program . My question is when we are allowed to reenter the market place do you suggest that we go back with a short term  aggressive discount marketing program or continue on with our normal marketing program which is more informative marketing than hard sell ? The informative marketing program has worked well in normal trading times but the present could be called anything but normal .RegardsGrant Collins

Hi Grant,
The one thing you need to always remember is discounting is like a drug. In retail circles, we call it heroin. You get a hit, and then you want another hit and then another and you are in a never-ending cycling that you cannot stop.

There are some incredible retailers who use discounting effectively (eg. Briscoes, Kathmandu, Rebel) but their strategies are interlinked to the fact they have a significant portion of their range as home-brand or they have complete vertical integration. Likewise, they manage the categories on discount and margin mix carefully.

The rest of the retail world use discounting strategies, ideally, in a very considered way. Sometimes you do need it to try and activate or reactivate customers who have changed their behaviour. It might be linked to clearance or it may be part of a high-low approach.

Now unless you have a specific strategy that utilises the above, now is not the time to start. What you were doing was working. So you need to do more of that and provide all the authentic, genuine and engaging reasons your customers want to shop with you.

You have a database and hopefully, you have behavioural or basket level data from that. If you examine that you may be able to test some incentives to bring customers back to shop with offers that specific appeal to them. Sneakerheads may be related to an offer across a range or gift with purchase or related to different transaction types (eg. if we are hand to mouth with $$ Laybuy and Afterpay are perfect).

If you don’t have a transactional e-commerce store you need it pronto. Shopify is outstanding and there are many other ways to achieve this. Shoppers habits have, are and will continue to change. They may come into the store and covert an item, only to get home and decide, “Yes I need that” so they can pop online, secure the product and have it in the hands a day or two after. Seamless.

The other thing to consider if/when you do have an online store is to make sure you are managing the keywords on your site and Adwords to improve your search. This is an art and science but can be incredibly powerful to keep you on page 1 of Google. Just last night I decided I needed new shoes for my birthday next week and there were a specific Veja I wanted. I saw it online at one store but then did a Google search to see what else was available in case there was a different colour-way. Guess what? I actually bought it from a different online store.

37 years is a long time to be in business. Customers clearly love you. Connect and tell that story. All of the best customer/retailer relationships are a balance of rationale, functional and emotional motivators. Make sure you communicate across those in a considered way.

This is an incredible opportunity. Good luck.