museums&MORE Summer 2014
A Retail Revolution

The changing pace and face of retail

The world of retail is constantly changing, which means your role as a merchant is to keep up. While you may have just gotten comfortable with Twitter, finally gotten into a rhythm of updating your Facebook page or only recently introduced a P.O.S. system into your routine, the reality is retail has grown beyond our four walls, beyond social media and beyond the limitations we once knew. Like it or not, retail is a much more complex business than it used to be and, as a result, it’s your job to keep up and stay competitive.

Of course, with change can come good, however; so while the pressure of feeling like you can never keep up may weigh you down, the excitement of gaining new customers, broader visibility and increased store visits should be enough to keep you motivated.

Repeat Business Beyond Annual Store Visits

Depending on the type of museum or specialty store you may have, your customers may not see you all that often — if ever again. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help your bottom line. But thanks to the introduction of social commerce, you can gain repeat sales from customers who may never walk through your doors again.

Social commerce, also known as s-commerce, is the introduction of selling directly from a social media site such as Facebook directly to customers. One company that offers this easy add on to your existing Facebook or Instragram account is Soldsie.

Massachusetts-based retailer Jenny Boston introduced Soldsie to their social media experience via Facebook and experienced a 2,000 percent increase in fan count and increased their sales to more than $10,000 a week selling via Facebook alone — all as a direct result of introducing Soldsie to their online marketing and selling strategy.

Not to be outdone, flash sale e-retailer Scowters was able to reduce the friction in the buying process of their one of a kind pieces by using Soldsie. Plus, the addition of Soldsie created a consistent experience for their Facebook fans to become familiar with shopping directly from Facebook, without having to visit their web page directly.

While you may not sell apparel or flash sale items, the concept of selling directly from Facebook remains the same. It allows for customers to react quickly to items you feature without having to wonder, worry about or dismiss the idea of when they will be in your store next.

Instead, customers can easily and efficiently make a purchase while browsing their Facebook feed; meanwhile you gain sales simply for making this possible. For merchants such as museum stores who can’t bet on physical repeat visits from every customer, this is a great way to extend sales while also staying in touch with customers.

Engage Customers Without Even Talking

Online or offline, customers are bombarded with brand images and advertising messages that cross their paths up to 3,000 times a day. That’s an insanely high number to compete with, yet you have to. So what’s a busy merchant to do?

To start, be where your customers are. The most obvious place this is, ironically, is physically in your store or partner institution. Yet having customers within your space or nearby space can’t help you unless they actually make a purchase, which remains the catch”. To help accomplish this, begin speaking to your customers beyond using actual words. Instead, engage customers through a combination of traditional customer conversations while also using store signage, digital interactive displays, accessible demo products and other hands on and visually educational opportunities.

“I love lingering within stores without realizing I am doing just that,” Chicago based customer and frequent museum visitor Laura Rahilly stated. “When I find myself in a store I didn’t expect to spend a lot of time in, I realize I’m there because I enjoy what is surrounding me. That typically leads me to buying something.”

Among the additions to your store that can help you create a dynamic shopping experience while also communicating more effectively to your customers include using framed media features that your store has received. For example, if you received press in a national publication about your store, frame this and incorporate it within your store selling space. Multiple press highlights that are visible to your customers will help tell your store story, while also leading customers to believe you are a great store that deserves attention.

Another way to speak to your customers without actually using words is to feature product knowledge information in highlighted frames, item hang tags or larger poster size displays that clearly allow customers to gain a better understanding of what that product is or how it stands out among the rest. This may include sharing tips on its earth friendly, locally made or interesting usage features. Possibly it shares insight on the value it can bring to one’s live should it be purchased.

Whatever the message is, the idea is to make sure you are sharing it. Sales support alone can’t always be trusted to deliver these key messages, which is why signage must step up a notch or two or three to help do this job better.

Encourage Customers to Check in Online

Nowadays, checking in online is a natural habit for many shoppers. Millennials in particular embrace this trend, although customers of all ages often check in on Facebook, Four Square or other social media sites to share where they are with their followers and fans.

“I use Facebook as a place to track my habits, so to speak. For example, I realized after a few months I went to a local café more than any other restaurant. I also realized I averaged about three store visits a week,” Minnesota-based customer Sarah Ryan said.

At 22 years old, this is a habit Ryan is accustomed to, and she recognizes her mom and older friends do not do this as routinely, although many still do it on occasion. As a merchant, this tells us that people are willing to check in online for whatever reason it may be, and the only reason we need to care about is the added exposure it can bring to your store. As a result? Offer your store customers a chance to save 10 percent or another promotional incentive if they check in on a social media site while in your store. Take it a step further and encourage them to “like” your page or become a fan to receive this same or similar promotional incentive.

A Consistent Reminder

A good reminder to keep top of mind when making any decision that impacts your store is to very simply ask yourself, “what would my customers think?” By doing this, you can more easily and more effectively answer questions they commonly ask before they have to ask them. You can share product details you know they will need further explanation on. You can deliver results in your customer care without them wondering if you will support them with their purchasing decisions. Basically, you will create a store, an environment and an extended retail experience that reaches beyond your store walls and online to help maximize your customer experience and ultimately, your sales, as well.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the founder of Retail Minded, a quarterly publication and online destination to support independent retailers. Additionally, Reyhle is the co-founder of the national Independent Retailer Conference, held annually in New York.

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