Merchants Square is the retail shopping district situated adjacent to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Historic Area. It includes over 40 shops and restaurants that attract both locals and visitors in the area. Pritchard Volk Consulting was contracted in 2005 to serve as the outsourced Director of Marketing for the Square. In this function, we balance promoting the location as the cultural center of town (through events and promotions) with attracting and maintaining loyal customers to the retail shops and restaurants (through advertising, electronic media, public relations, and a customer loyalty program).
As the Directors of Marketing we work with the marketing arm of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to facilitate, coordinate and execute all advertising and promotions for Merchants Square., After initiating a review of the marketing initiatives that were in place at the time of our hire, PVC embarked upon developing a strategic marketing plan. The plan is a living document that is reviewed and updated each year. As part of the updating process, Pritchard Volk Consulting conducts the following activities:
- Annual on-line survey with loyalty program participant database (now over 13,000 subscribers).
- Annual workshops/focus groups with shop owners and restaurateurs.
- Ongoing monitoring and analysis of retail and restaurant trends and competition.
- Keeping abreast of trends in the social media arena
- Meet with stakeholders to make sure we have understand of the goals for the year.
- Design and coordinate tactical instruments such as contest, promotions, and collateral to help meet these goals
In our mission to promote Merchants Square as a distinctive shopping and dining experience, we have:
- Guided Merchants Square through redesign and launch of a new website in 2012.
- Worked with the CW ad agency to coordinate the Merchants Square media buy.
- Established an electronic media presence for the Square, including maintaining and updating the website, Facebook page, Twitter account, electronic calendar, analytics, etc. In addition, we have conducted electronic media workshops for the merchants in the Square.
- Coordinated electronic marketing efforts with all retailers and groups having events in Merchants Square
- Secured bids and overseen production of graphic design, printing and electronic media efforts.
- Established an opt-in electronic customer loyalty program, the Merchants Square Insiders, which enables subscribers to be the first to know about events and promotions both in the Square and in the shops and restaurants through a monthly e-newsletter. The database has grown to over 13,000 subscribers since the program’s inception in 2006. Usage of the website and ability to track promotions through the website have grown commensurate with the growth of the program.
- In 2011, created, monitored, and managed an on-line sweepstakes with the goal of building the “Fan” base on Facebook and increasing the number of potential customers in our database. The program was highly successful. The sweepstakes netted 4,500 new Facebook fans and a provided over 8,000 new names to the Merchants Square loyalty program database.
- In 2012, PVC created a Holiday e-magazine with editorial celebrating all the enchanting things to do in Merchants Square and Colonial Williamsburg during the Holidays.
- In 2013,designed and are implementing a year-long strategic marketing and communications plan to celebrate Merchants Squares 85th Anniversary. The plan included a spring promotion trivia contest using Facebook and email blast. The six week contest garnered a 40% increase in web and Facebook traffic and brought significant attention to Merchants Squares history. Additionally, the plan includes other celebrations and promotions to bring people to shop and dine in the Square
- Established new events in the Square to keep it top-of-mind for the targeted local and regional markets. Events have ranged from a special Constitution Day concert with the USAF Heritage of America Band, to the commissioning of a unique Charles Dickens street theater throughout the holidays, to sidewalk sales, street festivals, concerts and wine tastings. In 2009, the American Planning Association named Merchants Square’s Duke of Gloucester Street one of America’s Top 10 Great Streets. The beautiful ambiance and unique events in the Square were primary determining factors.
- Started and managed a Merchants Square Ambassadors program in 2013, to place friendly faces in the Square to assist visitors during peak vacation times.
- Placed increasing importance on the marketing of Merchants Square as the “dining hotspot” in Williamsburg and the region. Several of Merchants Square restaurants have garnered the locally prestigious “Platinum Plate” awards from Hampton Roads Magazine, and strong ratings from AAA, Urbanspoon, Frommer’s and more. Aroma’s, the resident coffee shop, just received recognition as one of the nation’s “Top 50 College Coffeehouses.”