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Independent retailers historically have relied on traditional, offline methods of marketing. Business owners utilized forms of marketing and communication that had not changed in decades – retailers who had success with direct mail, local advertising, and telemarketing had little impetus to change.

This resistance to new marketing techniques is largely generational, and it’s starting to change. First, customers are changing. Older people, typically late adopters, are becoming comfortable with new technology. The profile of disposable income is shifting as well; while the baby boom generation still has more purchasing power, Gen Y is also earning and attempting to emulate the lifestyle and leisure of their parents.

Second, the business owners themselves are changing. As owners prepare to hand over the keys of their stores to the next generation, new opportunities arise to complement existing marketing approaches with methods that reach the new generation of customers.

The Next Generation


The new generation is accustomed to the constant din of information. They’re comfortable with mobile technology and social media on various platforms. Of the more than 840 million monthly active users on Facebook, 45% are 34 and under and 69% under 44.

Small businesses have begun accessing these online populations through new marketing techniques. While still an emerging trend, this transition is already occurring. Small businesses are focusing more on inbound marketing such as social media, SEO, email, and blogs rather than direct mail, paid search, and telemarketing. 57% of small businesses currently are using Facebook , blogging, and tweeting to create a conversation with their customers and distribute content.

Forward-thinking business owners are focusing on digital content because that’s where the eyeballs are: the average user spends 15.8 minutes on Pinterest, 16.4 minutes YouTube, 12.1 minutes on Facebook, and 3.3 minutes on Twitter .

The Transition


The new generation of retailers recognize that having a physical store and pushing marketing to consumers through advertising will not be enough. They will create a dialogue with their customers through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other emerging channels.

Consumers will demand better content, personalization, and access; and in turn stores will demand the same from their brands. Brands will need to collaboratively include retailers in the production, merchandising, and buying experience. Brands need to be malleable to new e-commerce and retail models. If brands do not support these shifts and empower their channel partners, consumers will look to other brands that are innovating.

The emerging new guard of retailers and customers creates an exciting opportunity. With customers accepting of new marketing channels – and retailers gaining comfort with using them – the market is as ready as ever for innovations in brand-to-retailer marketing.