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Laying a Strong Foundation for the Next Generation of Customers

The only constant in this world is change. Looking ahead and planning for the future are key aspects of running a successful business, and this includes adapting to an ever-changing customer base.

Taylor’s Do it Center was established in 1927 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, by Robert B. Taylor and his associates. Today, the company has grown to include 21 locations across Virginia and North Carolina, with some locations operating under the brand Pleasants Hardware, and is in the third generation of family leadership. Additionally, five members of the fourth generation are actively involved in the operation, including Meg Taylor Walbridge, who has been leading company communications since 2017. Hardware Retailing spoke with Walbridge about the methods Taylor’s Do it Center has implemented to establish relationships with the next generation of customers, as well as why they put them in place.

Building Relationships

Taylor’s Do it Centers and Pleasants Hardware locations range from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, and most are located in suburban areas.

“Our customer base are the local DIYers and homeowners who live within a three to five mile radius of the store,” Walbridge says. “We try to strategically place our stores in neighborhoods for the convenience of our customers.”

Because its stores are located in the heart of communities, and the operation’s focus is on locals and homeowners, the company is always looking for ways to engage with customers and build relationships with them, Walbridge says.

This relationship building includes the upcoming generations of customers.

“We believe that when we put in the effort to build relationships with younger generations now, when they do have a home or need to complete a DIY project, we will come to their mind, and they will shop with us,” Walbridge says.

A lot of the engagement and relationship building with younger generations starts online, and Walbridge and her team realized early on that e-commerce was an important part of the equation.

“Over 60% of our customers’ journeys start online,” Walbridge says. “And probably a good deal more of the younger generation’s shopping starts online with the addition of social channels.”

Many operations realized the value of e-commerce during the height of COVID-19, but it is also an immense draw for upcoming generations.

“Younger consumers appreciate the ability to easily check online to see if a store carries the product they need and if it is in stock,” Walbridge says. “So making sure we’re putting effort into our e-commerce platform by showcasing all of our products and providing the flexibility to reserve a product online and pick up in store is important.”

Marketing also plays a large role in building relationships with younger generations of consumers, and for Walbridge and her team, their marketing strategy changed with the reevaluation of the usefulness of print ads in their operation.

“In 2020, we took an even closer look at the cost of a print ad and how we could use that money differently,” Walbridge says. “With the continuing decline in readership of the newspaper, we realized that it didn’t have good ROI. So we took a step back and began testing different marketing strategies at different store locations.”

Walbridge and her team decreased print marketing efforts, moved circulars and ads online and placed a renewed emphasis on social media.

“We knew social media was important, especially with younger generations, but we still weren’t getting quite the traction that we wanted,” Walbridge says. “We began looking for ways to grow our social media accounts to reach more people.”

Those efforts led to the company partnering with a local company, Mix+Shine Marketing, which led to investments in influencer marketing and Instagram reels.

Super Socials

In 2021 Walbridge and her team started experimenting with influencer marketing.

“We began working with micro-influencers, or influencers with fewer than 100,000 followers, who weren’t working with bigger brands or big-box stores,” Walbridge says. “The goal is to find local influencers who are tailored to the areas we serve.”

While Walbridge has found some of the influencers on her own, the marketing company the business teamed up with has been able to help identify people who are a good fit, she says.

“We started by giving a $150 gift card to an influencer to do a project using products from our store,” Walbridge says. “They would film the trip to our store and the creation of the project, then tag us and market our operation to their followers. Sometimes we even gave the influencer a $100 gift card to raffle off to their followers.”

By 2022, influencer marketing gained traction, and the Taylor’s Do it Center and Pleasants Hardware social media followers started growing, and plans for additional and more consistent projects were put into place.

“We began partnering with influencers more broadly and less on a project-by-project basis,” Walbridge says. “We found that influencers could advertise our sales and promotions in a different and interesting way while reaching more people online than we ever could on our own.”

The operation is now at a point where it utilizes influencer marketing fairly consistently and creates content a month in advance so it is ready to go when sales or other promotions are available. For example, the business has worked with a woman who showcased the process of repainting her front door using products from the store. They also featured a family who visited the store to choose plants for their house.

“Instead of only doing a print ad that says we have all these plants coming in, it’s really neat to go this route and be able to showcase our incoming products in a unique way,” Walbridge says. “Influencer marketing is growing. It provides a digital version of word-of-mouth marketing and has a larger reach than traditional marketing.”

The other advantage of using influencer marketing is that the operation can better measure how successful the efforts are and how many people are being reached, along with what influencers their customers connect with the most.

“Being able to pinpoint influencers who we know connect well with our customers is instrumental to building trust, which is a big part of building that relationship with the next generation of shoppers,” Walbridge says.

Instagram Reels, 15-second multiclip videos viewed on a special tab in Instagram, have been another area of concentration for the company to help create ties with the next generation of customers.

“Instagram Reels get more reach than a standard post,” Walbridge says. “And they are particularly popular with the younger demographic, so we began using them to showcase our business’ personality.”

Taylor’s Do it Center and Pleasants Hardware social brands use employees in these posts to establish those connections.

“Instagram reels have been a ton of fun for our employees and really allow our customers to connect with them and learn their personalities,” Walbridge says. “Our customers see those same employees when they come into the store, so building those relationships online allows for better, more comfortable in-store customer service because there is some familiarity.”

To keep everything organized and to avoid missing any promotions or sales, the business works ahead and creates a batch of reels for each quarter to be posted when needed, and the reels have become quite popular. One reel reached 17,300 views and over 500 comments.

“My friends tell me all the time how much they love our Instagram Reels,” Walbridge says. “And it’s not just them; I hear from my uncles, parents and older generations too. It’s just a whole new tool that we have had so much fun utilizing.”

The Key to the Future

While Walbridge and her staff continue to engage with the next generation of customers, they are also learning that they are not all that different from previous generations.

“Preparing for the next generation of shoppers doesn’t necessarily mean changing the way you do business,” Walbridge says. “It means providing your customers with additional ways to interact and access your business.”

Providing high-quality customer service along with friendly expertise will build a relationship with any customer, no matter their age. What may change is where you meet that customer on their individual shopping journey.

“The younger generations may be more digital, but that doesn’t mean they don’t value the in-store experience,” Walbridge says. “So it is a matter of developing the tools to meet them online and then carry that warm, customer-friendly brand through all channels of communication, both online and in store.”

Dog Days

Taylor’s Do it Centers and Pleasants Hardware locations are dog-friendly and welcome many canine customers. Treats are located by checkout counters and photos of the dogs are often shared on the company’s Instagram. The operation is even in negotiations to work with a dog influencer.

“We have a lot of fun with the dogs that visit our stores,” Walbridge says. “And I do think being dog-friendly assists us with building relationships with younger customers. A lot of people got pets in the last few years, and they like bringing them everywhere they can.”

3 Social Media Tips to Connect With Younger Customers

  1. Showcase your personality. Have fun by engaging your team, customers, pets and all the things that make your store unique.
  2. Keep it local. Work with social media influencers who are a part of your community and have shared interests in lawn, garden and home projects.
  3. Engage the community. Your loyal customers are your best influencers. Partner with them on events, nonprofits and organizations that they care about.

About Carly Froderman

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