Our event was on January 16 and you can read Annette’s reportage on her blog (and see my pictures from that trip on Instagram in my Highlights). I thought that a time of lockdown it would be useful to revise the content of our talk.
Ten simple tips for brick and mortar shops, to stay relevant online in 2020
The tips below are grounded in Annette’s experience working with brands and stores, in our common editorial background, as well as in my marketing expertise. Finally, we were lucky enough to have our friend Kelli Lamb, editor in chief of online magazine Rue, to moderate the lively conversation with the audience in Atlanta.
We structured our talk to address mostly owners and buyers of independent stores specializing in interior, decoration, and gifts, so you will not relate to this content if you own an e-commerce or if your shop is part of a chain.
I must preface by saying that looking back over my notes now, I am very proud of the advice we came up with, that it is still valid and useful. I hope that this could help your store weather the Covid-19 storm over the next months. More down the line, I will publish another article focused on the customer experience in-store, with more practical advice for a pandemic season.
1. Make peace with constant change
No matter the business model, you have to contend with accelerated change in any market, nowadays. There is no point in coming up with a model that you plan to keep unchanged for years. The sooner you make peace with this, the better you will be prepared to face change rather than surrender to it.
2. Find your niche
You must have heard this a milion times, but it’s always worth repeating if there are still businesses and stores trying to please everyone. Customers want to feel like they walk into a space concieved for them.
Furthermore, once you define your niche you will be able to get to work on authentic communication suitable for that public. Your voice is precisely the combination of the tone, register, and content that speak of your customer, far before they speak at her.
3. Apply your style to your brand
Your business idea will influence your store style, and it is imperative it shows on your brand. That is the fastest way to be found and recognized by the right audience.
Clearly a brand is more than just your logo. Your store signage, the color you picked for its walls, the way you styled your merchandise, your packaging, must all tell the same story, in order to be effective.
4. Think like a concept store
In the world of lifestyle, a store selling just one category of merchandise is missing opportunities.
It’s a complex topic, and it would need pages and hours to fully be explored, but to cut it very short, the experience is a decisive factor in a world where most products can be bought online at a cheaper price. But experiencing is about all our senses, and it plays on different neurological connections, thus it cannot be bound to just one product category.
5. Curate your space to create a memorable experience
It is vital that your customer has a memorable experience in store, if you want her to come back and not to buy online next what she bought from you. The first element of this that you can shape is your store space.
Design your store with your customer’s experience in mind, trying to make it as seamless, pleasant, and satisfactory as possible. Focus points might vary according to the merchandise you sell, but reception, hang our, payment, and packaging/delivery are always crucial.
6. Style your merchandise with Instagram in mind
Even before thinking of a digital marketing budget, you should design a store that your customer wants to photograph and display on their Instagram feed.
Arrange products in appealing vignettes and make sure stock storage is nice to look at as well as well organized. Next, let your customer know they are welcome to take pictures and share them; make it easy for them by displaying signs granting permission and providing your tag. Then thank them, they are advertising you to your target audience.
7. Use Instagram as an e-commerce
Since your customers are already advertising you on Instagram, make it super simple for their followers to buy the products they fall in love with!
Use the Catalogue feature provided by Facebook/Instagram to create a ‘Shop Window’ feature with product sheets displaying neat pictures. Then animate your own feed with inspirational images of your products seen in action, and tag them!
8. Craft a seamless experience
The easier it is for your customers to shop with you, the better. So stop forcing them to come to you when they need to restock their favorite candle! Instead, invite them to visit when you have something new to see, just for them.
To do this, you need to create an omni-channel experience beginning in store, but continuing online and with delivery.
9. New shopping experiences
The bottom line is, you need to create new shopping experiences that fulfill your customers’ needs. Membership and loyalty programs should provide you useful data to better serve your customers, reminding them only of new arrivals they will absolutely adore, and allowing them to better spend their money.
Coming up with subscription programs to your customer’s favorite products (candles, skincare, stationery), better even if they’re scheduled to be delivered to them around the time they might run out of them, will make them loyal to you.
10. Welcome your customers back
Finally, as soon as it’s possible, open up your store to unique and truly engaging events. Give your customer a reason to come back to visit you, beyond seeing what new products you have.
What do you think of this advice? Do you own a store? Have you tried doing any of this already? If you feel like it, DM me on Instagram to tell me about it.