Unlike a typical ecommerce website, there’s no social sharing buttons floating around brick and mortar stores to let people share experiences as easily as they can online. Still, that doesn’t stop thousands of people from spreading the word to friends and family each day anyway.
For retailers, the word-of-mouth opportunities places like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms offer is huge in terms of creating the strong personal referrals that get friends, family and followers beyond brand awareness and into actual stores.
But as the constantly shifting world of social media continues to shape our buying decisions in more elusive ways, retailers have struggled to uncover what exactly makes someone take to Twitter to spread the word about a great in-store experience to other potential customers.
Giving people what they can’t get online
The early days of ecommerce was a scary time for retailers, but the doom-and-gloom predictions of a retail world completely dominated by the internet has since evolved into a more nuanced vision of the future––one where online and offline channels both play a vital role in giving customers what they’re looking for.
For online shopping, it’s satisfying shoppers’ insatiable appetite for information and options. For brick-and-mortar, it’s creating an immersive retail experience with products, service, and brand storytelling that simply can’t be achieved through a screen. While we’ve come to love the ease and accessibility the internet provides, research suggests we’re still drawn to unique in-person experiences that get us off our phones and laptops and back into the real world.
Creating great brick-and-mortar experiences is critical for getting people to leave with bags in their hands, but the larger task for retailers is clear:
How do you get people to share those great in-store experiences with others looking for the same thing?
Focusing first on the small details of a great brick and mortar experience
There are tons of articles covering all the great examples of retailers pushing the limits and thinking outside the box to tell product stories and give customers something entirely new to draw them into the store.
While these are great examples of retail innovation, you don’t have to spend millions on futuristic displays and virtual reality to get people talking. Instead, retailers are getting smart by starting small.
To help you join the ranks of retailers taking the first steps toward optimizing the in-store experience for the social shopper of today, we’ve put together a short list of three smaller details that can set you apart with shopping experiences people want to talk about.
1. Friendly human-to-human service
If the internet has done anything for us in the real world, it’s shown us that we rarely have only one option about anything. Today, people that walk into a store filled with cold, passive, uncaring employees feel just as unwelcome as they do on a website filled with obstructive banner ads and popups.
Dull customer service doesn’t exactly compel people to preach the good word to others about their experience, but strangely enough, this simple truth is still ignored by many retailers today. While this means a boring store experience for most of us, it’s a huge opportunity for retailers to smash expectations and stand out to customers who desperately want something fresh.
If you haven’t already, start training your store associates to be the friendly resources today’s shoppers value. People want to connect with other people––it’s been that way forever. Don’t underestimate the power a simple smile and genuine friendliness can achieve.
— Jude (@a1jude) April 30, 2015
— Beverley (@BeverleyEarle) March 3, 2015
— robin goldberg (@xoxorobin) February 10, 2013
2. A more complete sensory experience
There’s an abundance of research looking at how smells, sounds and other senses affect our buying decisions, and as you might guess, good smells and sounds make us want to stay in stores longer.
As it turns out, this is another detail of a shopping experience that has yet to be fully realized by brands on a grand scale. While you might think great smells should stay in coffeehouses and restaurants, studies have found that retail shoppers––women in particular––often respond strongly to a more sensory experience.
You don’t have to be trendy or sell “sensory” products to make it work, either. Mariano’s is a grocery chain that’s currently experimenting with music by putting live pianists directly in their otherwise traditional grocery locations. It’s a simple way to stand out to customers who are increasingly responding to the weird and different ways brands are standing out in the noisy world of today and it’s paying off big when it comes to customer evangelism:
— Mark Anthony Lee (@MARKinthemaking) June 11, 2014
— Charlie Brown (@Fatal_Romantic) June 7, 2013
— Dre (@AndreaPavone) March 30, 2013
My grocery store is awesome. Why? Because dude is sitting at a piano playing “We Are The Champions” while we shop. #Marianos
— Josh Katzker (@UncleKatzker) March 2, 2013
3. Going above and beyond with bathrooms and other basics
Most of us don’t expect much in terms of cleanliness when we step into a public bathroom, so when we find businesses that put extra care into making sure shoppers are comfortable even when they’re not perusing aisles, we take note.
While a clean bathroom is a little detail appreciated by all, there are tons of opportunities to exceed expectations in spots around the store that shoppers find interesting enough to share.
Could be the best retail bathroom I have ever seen in Soho. Clean, simple and great product. Nice goods also! http://t.co/H4IrKXZ— CalvinSYee (@CalvinSYee) September 18, 2011
— Dustin Chappell (@dustinRchappell) November 2, 2012