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Tactics to scale demand in online retail

Jan 29, 2021


  • Your ability to scale demand in retail should be top priority
  • Be remarkable in everything you do to cut through the noise
  • Create connections that live after the actual transaction is made

Retail is all about selling products with a profit. Everybody working in the industry knows this. But the actual transaction is the result of a lot of activities, tactics and strategic decisions. And as all retailers know - the first transaction is only the beginning. It should plant the seed of creating a repeat customer at your store.

Scaling demand is the ability to get more shoppers interested in buying products at your store. And that's not an easy task. Competition is fierce and chances are you don't have anything unique to sell. This means that in order to scale demand, most tactics and strategic decisions shouldn't only take point in your products.

This isn't a checklist, and this post doesn't hold the key to easy success. The objective is to make you think about how you're currently focusing on scaling demand - getting you to take a critical view at your current setup, and look at your activities with a demand generation perspective.

In short, the ambition for this post is to get you to ask your retail team and colleagues, how do we get more people interested in buying our products and scale demand in an online world?

Scale demand with remarkable social media marketing

Your potential customers are on social media. So you should be too. Most retailers are also active on social media, but the level of commitment varies a lot. For many, social media is mainly a place to promote products. After all, it's something that can easily be attributed into sales and whether or not the investment makes sense, is defined by your return on ad spend or time spent by humans. 

But focusing on your products is not the only way to scale demand for your retail business on social media. And only focusing on your products is a battle that is often focused on price.

A different approach to social media marketing in retail is to focus on establishing a voice. Be someone your potential customers actually want to follow. And that's best done by not taking point in your products.

Be remarkable in everything you do

The make or break to cut through the noise in a social media feed is to be remarkable. The benchmark for being remarkable is set by the brands themselves using their own social media accounts. But retailers should focus on emulating the same buzz around their business that brands have done almost since the birth of consumerism.

But what does being remarkable actually mean? In this context it means that somebody will actually pay attention to what you do, because you do something different to the rest.

Walmart is one of the largest retailers in the world. It's an institution in retail. As a well-established brand, it uses its social media presence to move beyond product pushes. It's introduced Walmart Storytime as a way to grab attention. Not only is it being noticed, but it's establishing a format that can live in the native environment of social media. This will ensure it increases time spent by potential customers being influenced by the Walmart brand.  

And chances are some consumers will probably buy their next children's book at Walmart.

Wallmart story time

That's just one example of thinking outside the box to cut through the noise. To get started use these three bullets to start the conversation in your retail team about adjusting your social media tactics to better scale demand for your business, and not just specific offers.

  • On which social media platform are my potential customers?
  • What are they interested in on a non-product level?
  • How can we transform that interest into a format we can brand and repeat?

Use influencers to scale demand for your retail business

Marketing at its core is about getting somebody to change their current way of doing things. A brand needs to make sure that change has some longevity. Consumers are not that willing to change habits. We need a filter to cope with all the messages that are thrown at us constantly throughout a day.

That's also why a reference from a friend, family member or someone you trust is one of the most powerful ways to get us to change our habits. But it's a very tricky thing to control and use actively in your marketing. Word of mouth traction is often related to your retail businesses as a whole, and not one campaign. In retail it's perhaps even the worst news that travels the fastest.

Influencer marketing can be seen as a way to utilize the mindset of word of mouth in an attributable format that can scale demand for your retail business. Influencers already have a group of followers that trust them. So by tapping into their audience, you'll skip a lot of steps needed to take if you only relied on your brand's trust. 

Who you partner up with matters

It's not as easy to simply look at how many followers an influencer has in order to decide whether or not they'll be a good fit for your retail business. Their social media presence should match your values. You're placing a lot of your credibility in the hands of an influencer. 

influencer marketing in retail

But the amount of influencers is only increasing. So you should be able to find just the right profiles that can help you scale demand for your business using influencer marketing tactics. It's important to keep in mind that influencer marketing is also a symptom of ads decreasing in value. And it's getting more difficult for your marketing team to target your potential customers due to ad blockers.

Authenticity is truly the key to success if you want to actively use influencers to scale demand for your retail business. So you shouldn't see influencer marketing as campaigns pushing products. You want to use the trust the influencer has and build a connection with the audience they've influenced. If you're able to do that, you've successfully scaled demand.

Scale demand for your products by placing them in a story

Retailers need to acknowledge that the products they sell are not unique. The only unique element is how you present them. And if you want to cut through the noise, telling a story has worked for thousands of years, and it still does. Storytelling can easily become a buzzword that most acknowledge makes sense, but find difficult to actually implement. But telling a story using your products is a great demand tactic in retail that will set you apart from your competition. 

You tell a story with your products by presenting them in a different setting and breaking free from the well-known grid view of endless rows of products that look somewhat similar. Retailers pride themselves on their in-store experience. They work hard to get it right and offer an inviting environment to shop. 

Product storytelling is a way of positioning your products in a story that your potential customer can identify with. And through the power of storytelling, you're able to place your consumers in that setting making them want to live that story - and to do that they need to buy your products.

Product storytelling

Imagine yourself shopping at IKEA. You're constantly placed in different settings that might suddenly spark an urge to get a new pillow for your couch - even though you actually only went in looking for plates. Or imagine seeing an ad with a family on a camping trip enjoying life. That might get you to actually buy a tent. 

If you're able to tell a story that connects with your potential customers, you'll be able to get more people to explore your products and buy them at your store.

If you're an expert in your category, make sure we know it

Finding products to choose from is not difficult for a consumer. In fact, it's the exact opposite that is the challenge. So if you are an expert in what you sell, make sure to use that to your advantage, and help your potential customers discover the products they desire.

Being an expert is closely connected to being trustworthy in retail. And that's great news for consumers because you can't fake your way to being an expert in retail - at least not in the long run. This means using your category expertise to scale demand for your business and products, can only be done if you truly are an expert.

Category expertise

In the physical retail space we know we can approach a person with our product related questions - is this a good running shoe to start out with? Will this laptop match my requirements for gaming? What makes this dishwasher different from other brands? 

Retailers need to understand that just because the shopping is done online, it doesn't mean the questions are not still there. But technology also prevents these kinds of conversations happening at scale. So retailers need to have different tactics running to support this:

  • Produce blog content that takes point in your potential customers' questions
  • Create videos that explain how the products are used
  • Guide your visitors in their shopping journey by asking them questions about their needs

If you're able to translate your expertise to potential customers, you'll successfully increase your chances of getting more shoppers to explore your products. And chances are you'll be recommended to others because you were able to help a customer make an informed decision to buy the product that matched their needs.

These different approaches to scale demand for your retail business are only a small insight into how you can stand out. The best thing you can do is take the knowledge you have about your market, customers and products to identify potential ways for you to optimize your demand tactics. Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on where to start.

Jesper Wilhelmsen

Jesper Wilhelmsen