Social Signage is the Future
It has turned “friend” into a verb, has elevated taking photos of dinner to an art form, and has laid bare our country’s inability to use “their,” “they’re” and “there” correctly.
Social media has indeed changed the world.
Pinterest and Instagram usage has doubled since 2012. Seventy-two percent of adult American internet users are on Facebook (sixty-two percent of the entire population of the country). That translates into a staggering number of cat memes.
And staggering opportunity for marketers.
I believe that social media (and the internet) has had the greatest impact on the practice of marketing since the introduction of TV to the masses. Maybe greater, given the interactive, immediate nature of social media. No other communications development has required greater adaptation, study or vision from those of us who work to build brands and move product.
Without a doubt, social media tactics have an important place in the marketing plan for most business-to-consumer brands. However, the retail industry is best suited to benefit from social media marketing, and to evolve it. (The hospitality/travel space is a close second.)
No industry necessitates experience creation and real-time interaction between consumer and brand quite like retail. The path to purchase has grown long and winding, with the shopper turning to social media for navigation. A recent study by Epsilon Data Management found that “retailers’ social media posts and pages have a greater influence on the stores and brands consumers buy from than any other channel, including search engines and retail websites.”
The shopper wants information, gratification, access and satisfaction, whether she’s browsing online or in-store; the retail marketer must deliver in both the digital and real worlds. But more important, and more potent, is the successful combination of the two into one seamless, friction-free brand experience.
When social media marketing is thematically and executionally linked to a robust in-store experience, it creates meaningful moments for the shopper. And unlike most industries, retail allows for the creation of an almost endless engagement loop, with each interaction building upon the last. Three strategic touchstones should guide the retail marketer when developing integrated social media/in-store programs:
Immediacy. No industry can say “new” and “now” quite like retail. There are always fresh designs, trends, style makers and problem solvers for the marketer to use to pique the shopper’s interest. Be a resource – through linked social media and in-store visuals – for what’s hot right now, and she will remember where she heard it first.
Active online promotions and events must be supported by in-store signage and display. Use the mediums in tandem to educate the shopper and stimulate participation right now; tell your story on both platforms, each driving the other. Give her something for coming in, and reward her again for participating in social conversations. Make engaging with the brand easy and immediate.
Involvement. Involving the shopper – creating opportunities for interaction – is critical online and in-store. Retail marketers must provide brand entryways, using social media to seek responses, start conversations, provide service, unveil a product, solicit opinions and share the news. Surprise and delight the shopper by continuing that exchange after she gets into the store; that’s how to build brand advocates.
There are many ways to combine social media and in-store display to strengthen the shopper/brand relationship. Hashtags, codes, photo shares, timed deals, exclusives, selfie stations, check-ins, reviews and rewards can all be used to create satisfying, shareable moments for the shopper (and indeed, she will share on her social media, so make them good).
Intimacy. Perhaps an odd word for a marketer, but it speaks to the emotional bond a retail marketer must seek. As the shopper repeatedly enjoys outstanding interactions with a retailer, she becomes more comfortable, more forgiving and more willing to open up. It goes beyond personalization, feeding the shopper’s desire (need?) to be known and understood.
But tread carefully; don’t come on too strong. The marketer should not be a stalker. Seek information from her in a non-threatening way. Gently suggest ideas for products she might like. Cajole her into an experience you know she will love. Use social media to connect with her and build her trust, then follow-up with in-store marketing and events that confirm the shopper’s trust and make that connection real and meaningful.