The village is online – and so are the retailers who really get parents!
This month our wonderful guest blogger is Natalie Manuel from Baby Box, who are killing it in the parent & baby industry online – a competitive space where you need to stand out.
When we dreamed up the idea for our retail store, Baby Box, it was simply about providing parents with support and advice in store. As a mother myself, I’d felt invisible in some stores, and thought there would be real benefits in having a place locally you could go to for things like car seat hires or installs, or breastfeeding tools.
The dream was to offer an independent specialist shop, which in turn would build and support the parenting community around us. It’s probably the same dream that motivates most small business owners – you want to make the world a little better.
Parents seek support online – obviously
As we opened the store, we realised we’d need an online and social media strategy if we were going to reach the people we most wanted to serve. Emily Writes wrote an article which basically said the parenting village is online now and that’s definitely true. As a business who wants to help and engage with parents it was pretty imperative we entered that village, in an authentic way.
Operating online has led to so much for our businesses, and personally. But it hasn’t been easy! Even now, with an online store that takes orders like clockwork and a growing fanbase on social media, we still haven’t really started when it comes to selling things online.
Baby Box’s omnichannel strategy when we started
From day dot, we built our store to operate as an “omnichannel” retailer. We have a whole blog post on our website about what this means, but the sum of it is: we are here when you need us.
At the start our key strategy was to offer an ecommerce platform via our website, which linked seamlessly with our physical bricks and mortar store. This was actually surprisingly easy to do – modern point of sale systems make this painless.
But having a live website was redundant when no one knew who we were, or what we sold. We had to market ourselves!
At the start we tried to do this via traditional platforms. We ran adverts on the radio, and we signed up as advertisers in parenting magazines and that kind of thing. The theory was that people hear about your brand, they get exposed to it, then eventually they visit the store and become customers.
For us the result was… Crickets. Literally more people came in from conversations we had with those we knew, then from any of the expensive adverts we had run!
Things changed when we started focussing on value
It wasn’t until we really started offering a lot of value online through all our social platforms and running online adverts that anyone started noticing us. Now we try and post things that are useful to our customers everywhere we go online.
We have thousands of followers on Facebook and a growing Instagram tribe – and these people also pay us! They are our customers, the people we’re here to serve. They tell us in store every day “I loved that post about the lactation cookies” or “I saw your email about…”. It’s actually beautiful (if I do say so myself).
Sharing is embedded in who we are, as a business. We’re connectors. We get the products and we get the people who will use them. In the shop we’re running product demonstrations and we’re explaining what you need and don’t need when you have a baby. We’ve found a lot of that continues in the online space.
For example, on Instagram we’ll often post about products we’ve got coming into the store and we’ll share why we’re excited about them and what makes them handy. If it’s interesting to someone they can DM a question or they can click on the shoppable link.
It’s not just about sharing about the products though. Online we share funny things related to parenting, and quotes that help our customers just get through the day. I think it’s because we aren’t focussed on selling, that we see good engagement on our social posts and a few shares too – which just helps us reach more people we can help.
Giveaways give us the opportunity to connect
Where we can, we run giveaways on social media. For example when we brought on a new supplier we ran a giveaway on Facebook where we gave away a stroller. What a privilege that was for us! We knew it was a great product and the mum who won it was over the moon.
We ran that giveaway using Facebook Messenger to keep in touch with those who entered, and we did the draw over Facebook Live. If someone commented on our post we would send them a message to confirm their entry and provide updates on when it would be drawn.
It was amazing doing it this way because people started to tell us why they were entering (so many entered for family members) and when we did the Facebook Live we got a lot of encouragement from those who were watching. It felt real, because it was real. People came together.
That process also involved a lot of personal learning for us. We didn’t pay anyone to run the Facebook Live for us (it was literally just us going Live!) and we co-ordinated all the Facebook messages ourselves because there was no one in New Zealand really doing Facebook Messenger as a specialist thing at that point, particularly in the way we wanted to do it.
The reason we did it differently was because, for us, it wasn’t about the Likes. We sure increased the Likes on our Facebook page, but there are better ways to run giveaways if your goal is to get a Like on your page. Our goal was to connect. To talk to people, almost as if we were talking in the shop. To say “Hey, come view our Live, give us a smiley face and let’s be excited for the person who wins!”
Since then we’ve run a few giveaways that way, and now the challenge is to figure out how to co-ordinate something similar on other social platforms.
Our biggest challenge in 2018, as we grew our social media platforms and increased the number of followers and the number of shoppers as well, was to stay connected with people.
From a marketing perspective, it costs way more to win a new person over than it does to sell to someone who has used your product or service before. We prioritised thinking about ways we could encourage repeat purchases a lot last year.
This led to us rolling out this amazing loyalty program which helped our customers earn points in the store and receive updates or provide feedback via email. A lot of time went into making sure the loyalty program was good fun and not too annoying.
Now, someone can sign up online or in the shop, and they start earning points on purchases or for things like following us on Instagram. It’s easy to use, intuitive, and it rewards those who love our shop the most.
Engagement is key for 2019
For 2019, our focus is on engagement. What you’ll see this year from Baby Box is literally more of my face and the faces of our friends, customers and staff. We’ll be posting more on Instagram stories and using Facebook Lives to review products. I’m excited about that, and I know it’s going to continue to push us to learn and develop, and to expand our team to bring in the right skills.
Come and be part of our journey.
If you’d like an analysis of how your social media strategy is going, and how it can be improved, we offer FREE Social Media Audit’s to all New Zealand businesses. You can get yours here: