The Retail Bakers of America invites bakeries across the nation to celebrate the delicious success of your independent bakery with a sweet new “holiday” that you can easily bring to life through live events, fresh treats and the signature tastes that make your local bakery a vital part of your community. Plan your marketing and promotional strategies now for National Bakery Day on Friday, Sept. 27.

For bakeries looking to stir up new business by leveraging this unique promotional opportunity, limited-time offers (LTOs) and engaging social media campaigns are a couple of sure tickets to success.

Lizzy Freier, managing editor, menu analysis, at Technomic, says that through five-year analysis of new product trends in the foodservice industry, limited-time offers are far and away the shining star, tallying a whopping 63.9% growth on average. “People are looking for new innovative products,” she says.

So how does an LTO work?

A limited-time offer is any kind of discount, deal, special gift or reward that a customer will receive when they make a purchase from your bakery during a certain time period.

One of the simplest ways to make National Bakery Day a huge success is to create a limited-edition product — like a gourmet donut or cupcake, or novelty dessert — and feature it in the week leading up to Sept. 27. Make a big splash, post photos on Instagram and Facebook, and engage your customers in your store and digitally to make sure they know all about it. Invite local media (especially radio) to help spread the word.

Create eye-catching desserts that are worthy of posting on Instagram.

Retailers use limited-time offer ads all the time, and they are highly effective. Here is an example:

On Friday, June 7, Duck Donuts celebrated National Donut Day and kicked off summer with a sweet National Donut Day Beach Bash. For one day only, every guest received one free bare, cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar donut at any Duck Donuts location.

Another unique method of promoting your bakery brand and celebrating National Bakery Day is to partner with another brand on a special limited-time campaign. Think beyond your bakery products. Think merchandise.

A number of retailers such as Varsity Donuts in Manhattan, Kansas, report that sales of novelty T-shirts, caps and mugs that don your bakery’s brand are hot sellers nowadays and will do wonders for positive brand exposure. This is exactly the type of strategy that can elevate your brand into the stratosphere.

For instance, Dominique Ansel of Dominique Ansel Bakery, based in New York City, has teamed up with sneaker brand Koio for the Koio x Dominique Ansel Avalanche sneaker. This limited-edition pair of the Koio Avalanche is inspired by the core ingredients in a classic French croissant: flour, sugar, eggs, and butter.

The shoe features a blend of eggshell vitello calf leather, flour white suede, and butter patent leather. There is crystallized “sugar” detailing on the toe and heel. Laces come in a butter yellow color and are adorned with a tiny rose-gold croissant. Each pair of sneakers comes with an exclusive Dominique Ansel Pancake Mix.

“I wear sneakers every day, and wearing comfortable shoes is essential when I’m spending most of the day on my feet in the kitchen or traveling to my locations around the world,” says Ansel, who continues to run his bakeries in New York, Tokyo, London and Los Angeles. “I really wanted the design of this sneaker to not just speak to my style and need for comfort but also to tell the story of my craft, mirroring the colors and textures of the four ingredients that are essential in every pastry creation.”

Make digital connections

The research firm eMarketer estimates that 25% of purchases started online are completed in-store, and 25% of purchases started in-store are completed online.

Nearly half of all small and medium-size businesses, including bakeries, in the United States sell their products and services online, and among those that do, 15% of their sales now come from the online channels.

Flavorful cakes and cheesecakes are sure to win over customers.

Thus, social media is the gateway to building tremendous brand recognition for retail bakeries looking to stand out. Kirk Michaelis, owner of El Bolillo Bakery, with three locations in Houston, did not recognize the power of social media until one of his daughters helped show him the way.

“Social media is a must,” Michaelis says today. “It’s a tool that can change your business’ life. It’s all about keeping your brand name out in the conversation.”

Brian Best, vice president of digital marketing for Tropical Smoothie Café, points out that engaging your guests digitally leads directly to increased transactions. He’s a big believer in the power of paid social media display ads.

“We have really focused on paid social. We are always trying to talk to existing customers,” he says. Consider that email open rates are at best 15-20%, while paid social gets you 100% reach. In one display ad campaign on social media, Tropical Smoothie Café achieved a 74% increase in foot traffic, by targeting both its current customer base and “lookalike” audiences (those with similar interests and favorites).

Loyalty programs are essential to social media marketing, and Best recommends that every business have an e-club. This opens the door to gain customer email addresses which can be collected through online registration, online and app transactions, and sweepstakes and promotions.

“A loyalty program. That’s really the marriage,” he says. “This provides you with the ability to do guest tracking, behavior tracking, guest insights and analytics. Make sure you are on Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze, so customers can find you.”

Starting on May 7, Dominique Ansel Bakery customers visit the new Amazon Go store in Brookfield Place in downtown New York to get a taste of some bakery signatures. Customers simply scan their Amazon Go app, grab a DKA and a few cookies (including signature Chocolate Chunk and Double Chocolate Pecan, and new exclusive Snickerdoodle and Blueberry Oatmeal cookies), and they are on their way. This is a perfect example of effective digital engagement in action.

Track the trends and lead ‘em

Nancy Kruse, who joined Freier on stage during the National Restaurant Association Show 2019 for the Menu Forecast 2020 & Beyond educational session, points out the macro trends facing America’s food retailers, including bakeries, are “all about health.” Today’s consumers are “eating more for specific nutritional benefits,” and two-thirds are voicing some commitment to the big three diets: Paleo, Keto and Whole 30.

With these trends in mind, Flour Bakery + Café opened its eighth location in Boston in October 2018, featuring its famous sticky buns, assorted pastries, sandwiches and its new WHOLEflour line. This inventive line includes such signature products as double chocolate cookies made with 100% rye flour, vegan carrot ginger muffins made with 100% khorasan flour, and breakfast cookies made with whole wheat flour, pepitas, sunflower seeds, millet, flax seeds, coconut flakes, oats, bananas and maple syrup.

Customers are looking for unique experiences, so make sure to deliver on this demand.

Generation Z now makes up the largest segment of the US population, at 26%. Retailers that focus on this generation’s values in the coming years likely will gain a greater share of earning their dollars. “Seemingly perpetually in motion, ubiquitously surrounded by limitless smartphone entertainment options, and frequently willing to work multiple jobs or side gigs, many Gen Z young adults are attracted to easy-to-prepare meals as well as snacking,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

Promote the convenience, uniqueness and premium quality of your products. Southern California retailer Porto’s Bakery & Cafe serves more than 6 million customers a year at its four locations in Burbank, Glendale, Downey, and Buena Park That number grows to five with the debut of the bakery’s fifth location in West Covina, California, which opened April 30.

The bakery’s modern-style building offers a welcoming environment for customers, featuring a butterfly roof design and skylights. Inside, Italian showcase cabinets highlight the bakery’s exquisite pastries. Three new offerings exclusive to the West Covina location are the new mango tres leches, chocolate croissant twist and fresh blueberry croissant.

“It’s just something new and unique to start West Covina with,” says Jennifer Wells, Porto’s corporate marketing manager. “When we opened Buena Park, we started with unique items like ojo de tigre, double chocolate muffin, and quesadilla individual, and now they’re permanent menu items and doing very well.”

The newly opened Tartine Manufactory in Los Angeles features artisan bread baking, on-site grain milling, on-site coffee roastery, freshly made pastas, unique restaurants including pizza, and a marketplace. The nearly 40,000-square-foot complex features restaurants and retail spaces, including a 7,000-square-foot bakery. The ambitious project from Tartine co-owner’s Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, along with Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco, debuted the evening of Tuesday, January 29.

Robertson’s goal is featuring bread with everything. “If you have a bread-eating culture like in Germany, you have bread with every meal,” Robertson said. “They’ve figured it out.”

The first-ever Tartine Manufactory opened in 2016 in San Francisco, offering breads, pastries, breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Open to the public, the 5,000-square-foot location serves everything from savory breakfast pastries to flatbread sandwiches and gourmet dinners.