The internet and social media have quickly changed how bakeries can reach their customers. Bakers share some tips and techniques that have worked for their businesses.
Getting customers in the door seems one of the most basic tenets of operating a retail business, yet marketing can be the one skill that remains elusive for many bakery operators. The difficulty often lies in that results can be hard to tabulate. More customers equals success but in what timeframe? Marketing efforts often take time and repeated exposure for the full effects to be felt, and often by that time, many different techniques have been tried, so defining which one is working can be troublesome.
Word of mouth has often been cited as the most effective form of marketing in the baking industry, and while that remains unchanged, other marketing methods are changing quickly. One of the biggest changes has been the rise of the internet and smartphones, which give consumers instant access to the full breadth of information available online.
Rise of world wide web
According to Modern Baking’s Full-Line Retail Bakery Research, only 24 percent of retail bakeries had websites in 2001. By 2009, that percentage had flipped to 65 percent of bakeries with websites. The number has increased slightly since then, with 74 percent of bakeries reporting company websites in a recent email survey of Modern Baking readers.
Having a presence online is easier than ever. It can be as simple as registering your bakery name and address. One fifth of all searches on Google have to do with location, according to the search engine. More consumers are using the web to make daily decisions, and you are missing sales if your bakery doesn’t show up on searches.
While you can start small, a website does provide the best visibility. Google and the Small Business Administration (SBA) teamed up to help entrepreneurs create an online presence. Three tips they offer for a website are: Post as much information about your business as possible, including location, contact information and description; upload high-quality photos and videos to show your unique offerings; and make your website user-friendly–think about its flow and layout.
Aliyyah Baylor, co-owner of Make My Cake, Harlem, N.Y., was featured in a video produced by SBA about the benefits of creating an updated and informative website.
“Our website is an extension of our business. It’s our virtual sales person and that’s very key,” Baylor says in the video.
She hired a food photographer who captured the details of the bakery’s products that make them so appealing, such as the toasted pecan on the red velvet cake and the chocolate swirl on the sweet potato cheesecake. Baylor who co-owns the bakery with her mother, JoAnn Baylor, focused on making the revamped website user-friendly with a clean look and the photos representative of what the bakery produces every day.
“A picture can say so much. I want my clients to be able to look at our website and as soon as they see a slice of German chocolate cake, their first thought and their continued thought throughout the day is I can’t wait until I get a slice of German chocolate cake,” she says.
“My mother always said it doesn’t matter what it tastes like, if it doesn’t look right, no one’s going to eat it. That visual that people can see through the website I think is very important,” JoAnn Baylor adds in the video.
Marketing via socializing
In conjunction with websites, or if creating a website prove too intimidating, many bakeries are utilizing Facebook and other social media websites, such as Twitter, Foursquare and Pinterest. Think of social media as the new word of mouth. It’s not in person, but it is just as effective and with the world (especially the younger generations) becoming increasingly hooked to mobile devices, communication through texts, emails and social media almost is more credible.
And chances are, social media, in some form, is here to stay. Daily Twitter usage among adults doubled in the past year, according to Pew Research Center. It also yields results: 67 percent of retail companies have acquired a customer from Facebook, according to Hubspot Research.
In Modern Baking’s recent email survey, 60 percent of bakeries responded they have a Facebook page with 24 percent using Twitter. (More than 66 percent have both a website and Facebook page, and nearly 9 percent only have a Facebook page.) Almost one-third reported no use of any social media. The majority, 30 percent, update their Facebook page two to six times a week, almost 13 percent update daily while 24 percent report updating only occasionally.
“Hopefully we update Facebook and Twitter once a day if not more,” says Sandra Holl, co-owner of Floriole Cafe and Bakery, Chicago. “We definitely aim for at least once a day.” Holl and her general manager, who also updates the bakery’s accounts, try to find a good blend of what’s going in the bakery and other articles they find interesting or think their followers would like to know about.
“I think it’s important to have a mix of information and other things so you’re not always just promoting yourself,” Holl adds. “You need to interact and interacting isn’t just, ‘Hey, we have croissants and granola.’ It’s also, ‘Hey, this something I found interesting.’ Think of it as a conversation; in a good conversation, you can’t talk about yourself all the time.”
Couponing:the next generation
One of the more recent marketing strategies is online coupons or daily deals like Groupon or Living Social. Consumers can buy $20 worth of product for $10, for example. Any quick web search of bakeries and Groupon pulls up a slew of horror stories, such as the bakery outside of London that lost a whole year’s profits when the owner offered a 75 percent discount on the product.
Closer to home, Mission Minis in San Francisco also struggled when owner Brandon Arnovick offered two dozen miniature cupcakes at a 50 percent discount. The bakery was new, and Arnovick wanted to get its name out there, so he quickly jumped at the chance to offer the Groupon. Three days of craziness followed with bakers working non-stop and some customers walking away empty-handed.
“I think they’re worth doing. Let the daily deal be your loss leader vs. buying advertising,” Arnovick says in a TechCrunch video about his experience. “We’ve learned to slate them every three months. I do look at it like I’m buying an ad and make sure the fine print is not so fine. It says call 48 hours ahead, and we pick the flavors for your order. It’s a force to be reckoned with, but it can really help businesses and it can really hurt businesses,” he adds.
No matter which marketing method you chose to use, be consistent and provide relevent information.
Who are your customers and how can you reach them? For the first time in history, generations are being separated by 10- to 15-year periods, instead of the traditional 20 years, said Jane Buckingham, president, Trendera.com during her session “Bridging the Generational Divide” at the recent Dairy-Deli-Bake in New Orleans. Current consumers shopping your bakeries are most likely in one of four generations: Traditionalists born between 1925 and 1945, Boomers born between 1946 and 1964, Gen X born between 1965 and 1979 and Gen Y (also known as Millennials) born between 1980 and 1995.