Retail Marketing Strategies For Tough Times

Developing unique, memorable marketing strategies in these challenging times is a major issue. In this article, we look at the 5 ways one travel agency approached the problem; consider what lessons we can learn and how we can apply the same thinking to the food retail sector.

Travel Disruption Luggage

Imagine, pre-COVID-19, you were a successful business that had a diary full of work and, overnight, it disappeared. You were then told the next time you would get work would be July 2021.

That is what happened to Select Travel Services in Perth; my travel agent.

What do you do now!?

Well, for a start, don't panic. Rather, you accept you are in a disruptive market situation and you start thinking outside of the proverbial 'box'.

The following techniques, used by Select Travel, can and should be considered by all business in this challenging year.

What lessons can we learn?

  • Identify The Pain

    Have you identified the “pain” your customers are feeling and can you formulate a positive message in your marketing strategy to recognise that and address it, head-on.

    Select Travel - Tested Positive For Missing Travel

    Travellers, like me, are missing being on the road. Select Travel realises this and has pivoted its marketing messaging, asking me if I have, “Tested positive for missing travel?”.

    My challenge to you is simple:

    (a) Do you know the pain of your customers?
    (b) Are you addressing that pain head-on?

  • Have You Expressed Empathy?

    Have you then shown empathy with your customers. Chrissie and Kym from Select Travel have followed the headline with an empathy letter, that does not promote their product, but empathises with their customers.

    They use sentences like:

    “We hope you are OK and managing to get through these interesting days”

    “We thank you for your lovely phone calls. It is appreciated. We miss you.”

    “We remain positive and cannot wait for our borders opening safely.”

  • If Required, Repackage Your Offer

    Select Travel’s core business is overseas travel. That does not exist at present and therefore the answer is to diversify. Their package now includes customised vacations within Western Australia.

    We are all having to change our product mix. Do not hold onto the products that will not sell. Selecting the right product range is essential for survival.

Coffee voucher
  • Network With Other Local Businesses

    Who can a travel agent network with?

    The local coffee shop. Select Travel has sent all their customers a personal coffee card that can be redeemed at Cambridge Corner Store, which is located in the nearby shopping centre. The card has to be handed in and it has the clients name on so that Select Travel can measure the success of the campaign and who used the token.

    My challenge to you here is this... What business in your location can you network with and do a joint marketing campaign with to grow your trade?

Shop local
  • Buy Local

    We are all being told to buy local and customers want to buy local.

    Select Travel points out that Expedia, Wotif, Trivago, Kayak and Tripadvisor are all American-owned and that Skyscanner is Chinese-owned.

    These are all Select Travel’s competitors.

    Select Travel is owned by locals in Perth and they have printed the following marketing slogan on their flyers...

    “So book with Select Travel and be part of the solution”

    Is it obvious in YOUR marketing material that you are a local business and part of the solution?

    This marketing campaign was not expensive, it was a campaign targeted at existing advocates of the business. It addressed the needs of the business and the wants of the customer.

    The newsletter finished with a clever list of movie picks that the customer should watch:

    Lost in Translation;
    Midnight in Paris;
    The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel;

    What a great way to use movies to inspire the customer to travel!

    If this had of been a food outlet, it could have been movies based on food.

Now... when can I catch that plane again and go travelling?

Better grab that coffee first!


John Stanley

John Stanley


John Stanley is a retail consultant specialising in the farm retail sector. Based in West Australia, he is a sweet chestnut and pig farmer as well as consultant and conference speaker with clients in 35 countries. He is the author of several books in this subject, including the book 'Food Tourism... A Practical Marketing Guide'

Great minds think alike.

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