Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 | 6 min read
In the age of on-demand streaming and one-click purchasing, it seems that many consumers have traded Black Friday in for Cyber Monday. In reality, however, more than 90% of retail sales still take place in stores.
In a survey conducted by TimeTrade, 85% of consumers said that they prefer to shop in stores because they like to touch and feel products before making a decision. Over a third of respondents said that they don’t like waiting for items to ship, and 30% said that they genuinely like to receive advice from salespeople about which products they should choose.
Consumers may have traditional values when it comes to making a final decision, but they also have new ways of engaging with brands. A combination of social listening and digital personalization will keep in-store sales climbing over the next year. But it begins with meeting consumers where they are today: on social media. Here are three ways to do exactly that.
Studies have shown that experiences are more likely to make people happy than material possessions. Retailers can channel this dynamic by spending more time on in-store events, curating pop-up shops, and offering in-store exclusives. Promoting these events on social media can make them feel exclusive (because customers have to be there to experience it) all while being more shareable than ever.
Some retailers provide incentives for tagging their brand in tweets and photos, or for “checking in” at their stores online while shopping. Marc Jacobs once gave out freebies in exchange for tweets and photos at their pop-up shop in New York City—a refreshingly populist approach for a high-end retailer.
Nintendo NY provides another great example of in-store exclusivity in the realm of social media. While the new NES Classic Edition may be sold out online, Nintendo NY uses Twitter to entice people to visit their store for a chance to get one. The company advertises specific shopping time slots, gives out a limited number of wristbands, and posts regular updates. This type of advertising generates consumer FOMO and drives in-person buzz. Want an NES Classic Edition? You’ll have to (literally) get in line.
Twitter and Facebook aren’t the exclusive destination for customer complaints, though they’ve become the new norm for people who want customer support without the hold music. That’s partly why it’s important to use your social media presence to spark conversations—to engage with customers proactively.
Sometimes it’s as simple as showing people what they’re missing. Target recently tweeted a photo of their in-store “Valen-finds”—eye-catching Valentine’s Day housewares. In response, a customer tweeted a photo of their hedgehog in a Valentine’s Day pail from Target. Target responded to that customer, and the next, and so on. This isn’t the kind of shopping that happens online. This is browsing at its best, with a branded back-and-forth that lets customers know Target cares.
Social media giants like Snapchat, Instagram, and LINE offer their users new and different ways to engage with brands, like creative filters for their photos and customized sticker packs. Companies can showcase items before they’ve launched and provide glimpses into upcoming in-store events.
This is exciting for consumers because Instagram didn’t start out as a place you’d go to shop, and now countless brands have a presence on the platform. Its shopping suggestions, contests, and in-store events are now sandwiched between photos of a user’s friends, family, and famous pugs they follow. So when Instagram users come across something they’re interested in buying, they’re more likely to keep it top of mind.
According to Digital Signage Today, 75% of customers use their phones to research products while shopping in store. (Think: Can I get this book cheaper on Amazon? Do these boots come in other colors?) Interactive kiosks have the potential to shrink that number by borrowing from the experience users have on social media — picking and choosing what’s most relevant to them. But this only works when the technology truly benefits shoppers; technology for technology’s sake is distracting and detracts from the products themselves.
While we may not have the retina scanning technology that Tom Cruise encountered in “Minority Report,” some retailers are making strides towards creating something similar. For instance, Rebecca Minkoff injects smart, personalized technology into the in-store experience at her Store of the Future in New York City.
From the dressing room, an interactive digital display can show product recommendations to complete the outfit based on what the customer is trying on. This is similar to the retail ads Facebook serves to users; these are things retailers know customers will like based on what they’ve been searching for or already own.
The ultimate goal for in-store retail is to marry the ease of online shopping with the psychological comfort of shopping in person. Personalizing the consumer experience on social media and channeling that curated experience into in-store technology is the future of brick-and-mortar customer experience.
Retailers that make it easy for consumers to have the sleek, streamlined experiences they’re used to having online in stores will win new customers and reinvigorate existing relationships — all while driving sales in the process.
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