As a part of my internship, I earned the HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification. This course was my first introduction to the realm of marketing and sales, and after taking it I soon realized how effective inbound marketing is, and how it’s been in front of me all this time. As a (far too) frequent online shopper, I have particularly noticed inbound methodology used in retail.

Note: while this post is about my experience of inbound marketing in retail, inbound marketing strategies are relevant to all types of industries, including yours. From banking to higher education to non-profits – all businesses and organizations have a need to attract, convert, and build customers through an inbound approach.

So, what is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is the approach that puts your customer’s need first. Its goal is providing your audience with relevant, targeted content that answers their wants and/or needs. Inbound methodology concentrates on attracting and nurturing prospects to convert into loyal customers.

Here are the 3 biggest takeaways I learned— and 3 retailers that got it right:


1. Create an inbound website

We’ve all heard the saying “never judge a book by its cover,” but when it comes to websites, first impressions matter. HubSpot’s Content Manager, Lindsay Thibeault, states that it takes around 10 seconds for a viewer to scan the content of a webpage before deciding whether to leave it or keep scrolling. This instantaneous decision-making process must be considered when designing your website and content. Inbound sites do just that.

Inbound websites are organized, informative, and have clear calls to actions (CTAs). The less overwhelming the better- so eliminate the clutter. Revamp your site to include just the essentials; swap out lengthy language for images and videos to help entice viewer engagement. Design your navigational menus to guide viewers through your site.

An inbound website is one click away! See how Zara’s website welcomes visitors:

Zara is a perfect example of a retailer that has an inbound website. Zara’s homepage is minimalistic. It includes large font and a simple navigation menu with a strong call to action at the bottom of the page to join their newsletter. Each page features a clothing item accompanied by stunning photography and moving visuals; reflecting the brand’s avant-garde and fashion-forward aesthetic.

2. Customize your site to any screen

In our digital society, there are a number of ways (and screens) your visitor can access and view your site. Check how your site looks on an iPhone, Android, tablet, and iPad. After all, people are increasingly grabbing their phones or tablets to look up information on the go.

While on the subject of mobile optimization, apps have also become increasingly popular and are often preferred over traditional internet browsers. In fact, 86% of smartphone activity is reported on apps versus time spent on the web according to Thibeault and HubSpot Academy. This may not come as a surprise since these applications are built to facilitate and enhance the consumer’s experience.

Thus, designing and reorganizing content to fit your audience’s viewing preference(s) whether on mobile, tablet, or desktop is key.

Don’t be afraid to ditch your computer! Urban Outfitters has you covered:         

Urban Outfitter’s mobile website and app is a prime example of inbound marketing. Their site also utilizes large font with high-resolution images and only takes a few clicks for customers to complete a transaction. They utilize social media visually and strategically, with their Instagram page linking each featured clothing item back to the website and allowing consumers to quickly proceed to checkout. In addition, Urban Outfitter’s mobile app offers discounts, exclusive rewards, and sends you notifications about the latest deals. All around providing an easy and focused user experience.

3. Delight your customers

Customers grow your business. Inbound methodology reinforces your customer’s needs and wants. HubSpot recommends keeping these three tips in mind – I like to call them “the three S’s”- customer support, customer service, and customer success.

  • Customer support involves listening and reacting to your customer’s needs
  • Customer service entails guiding visitors through the customer journey and offering help along the way
  • Customer success includes providing a buyer with something beyond what they originally wanted or needed

Collect your customer feedback and put yourself in their shoes to see what’s most engaging.  Then use the information to personalize the buyer-seller relationship while providing tools to optimize their experience. 

Want a 5-star customer experience? Sephora does a fantastic job of making their customers glow and grow:

Sephora engages customers by showcasing “bestsellers” by category; highlighting their most popular products and offering incentives like earning free gifts as a part of their beauty insider rewards program.

In addition, Sephora gives each customer a personalized experience. Having trouble picking out a product? Sephora’s online store has interactive quizzes to help you identify which makeup is right for you. Their online beauty community offers a place for customers to chat with beauty influencers, post their own looks, and more.

Inbound is all about the customer

Every customer wants to be treated like a person, not a potential sale. When I shop I frequent stores that understand my needs best and I go back to those that leave me fully satisfied. These three retailers are among my favorite stores and after completing my Inbound Marketing certification it’s clear why. They make online shopping fun rather than a daunting task by thinking of the visitor’s experience. You too can apply these three takeaways to your business and implement an inbound marketing approach.