No business could hope to escape the Covid pandemic in Ireland unscathed, but a fairly small gift shop that had depended almost entirely on tourist and passing trade for its sales was hit particularly hard.
OMG Entertainment Zhivago Gifts, located in Shop Street, Galway, had opened in 2011 and was doing a steady trade in novelty gifts and music. OMG Entertainment had become the largest music store in Galway, with groups of between twenty and thirty tourists visiting from the tour buses being a frequent occurrence. It is now the only remaining music store in Galway, with a large range of CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray and Vinyl, which took up about 30% of the store space, the rest being devoted to the sort of gifts that would appeal in particular to tourists. Most of them were Irish-themed, some of them were quirky, and there was a section devoted to seasonal gifts.
There is a loyal core team of employees, who have been with the company since it opened, and during busy seasons an extra four or five part-time employees are taken on to help with the increased footfall. Local foreign language schools look to OMG to take on students who need to improve their English and to gain work experience. This is a company that takes its responsibilities to its local community seriously. However, at this stage it lacked a dedicated in-house marketing team.
The pandemic brought everything to a standstill. The options under these circumstances are extremely limited; change, or go under.
Zhivago knew that there was a growing interest in, and consciousness of, the origins of the products, and that gifts which had been made in Ireland would be regarded more favourably than those which had not. Alongside this, the increased costs of shipping make Irish products a more favourable alternative to those manufactured in, for example, the Far East and China.
Zhivago Gifts turned to Emarkable with a clear and simple commission. Change the sales from shop floor to online, and do it as quickly as possible. Concentrate on the age group 21 – 65, and look to markets, not only in Ireland, but also in the USA, the UK and Europe. More than eleven million tourists had visited Ireland in 2019, and they, as well as those who had had to cancel their plans for the following months, would form the customer base that Zhivago hoped to target. At the same time, Zhivago needed to keep the Irish customer base, particularly during the Christmas season, as the average spend on gifts for Irish buyers is over 500Euros.
This was quite a challenge, but Emarkable drew up a plan of action in a very short time, and then put it into practice. We began with a clear assessment of how things stood at the time. There were audits of the various social media platforms and strategies, which led to a twelve-month social plan. The same was done with the search engine optimisation and Pay Per Click strategies, and, perhaps most important of all, an assessment of the training requirements, with a plan for its implementation.
Analysis of the market needed to be clear and detailed. Competition in the digital field under the current circumstances was strong, so the website needed to be user friendly as well as fast, and there needed to be a monthly reporting system so that changes could be tracked and any necessary adjustments made in a timely manner. Key performance indicators needed to be identified, and a clear digital marketing strategy written to enable the team to run the new system efficiently and effectively.
The development of brand loyalty is always important in such projects, but this needs to begin with bringing in new customers, which would be done by offering first-time purchase and referral discounts. Pay Per Click advertising on Google formed part of the project, and search engine optimisation here concentrated on keywords such as Irish Gifts, Gifts Ireland, Irish Merchandise, Irish Gift Shop, and more.
COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme
Emarkable negotiated funding from the DETE Online Retail scheme, designed to support Irish retailers through the coronavirus pandemic. They were able to use this support in the development of the new Zhivago website.
Today, Zhivago Gifts is running strongly, with a noticeable improvement in customer relationships, and a 238% increase in Google and social media traffic. Online sales are doing well, and are particularly encouraging for the domestic market. Visits to the website have increased by 300%, and 69% of visitors now return to the website.
Zhivago’s plans for future development include further improvements to the website for mobile and site speed, targeted promotions, and a clearer development of data on customers to allow for an increase in engagement and an improvement in online sales.
Zhivago has moved from a situation where its future was in danger from a situation over which it had no control, and which could not have been foreseen, to one where it can look to the future with confidence, knowing it can keep itself aware of trends on its on line sales and react accordingly, and watching its customer base expand and increase, as a direct result of the actions it and Emarkable took to protect and strengthen it.