Beyond the Borders of Brick-and-Mortar: 4 Tips to Leverage Social Media as the New Storefront
It’s been a tough few years for brick-and-mortar retailers. Thousands of store locations have closed, and the troubles of Sears, Toys"R"Us, RadioShack and many others have been well publicized. The fact is that consumers have continuously moved toward a digital-first buying journey, and as a result, retailers with brick-and-mortar locations as the primary element in their brand identities have struggled to engage audiences in person. Even retailers that have supplemented their physical-first strategies with top-notch e-commerce experiences have had issues.
Two trends are working together to make the legacy approach employed by retailers outdated:
- consumers increasingly expect more convenient, connected and personalized purchasing capabilities; and
- consumers now prefer more compelling experiences rather than specific product brands.
So how should retailers react to these changes in consumer preferences? One way is to reconsider the definition of the storefront.
Social Media and the Brand Experience
Retail brands, especially those with a long history of brick-and-mortar success, often struggle to adjust their understanding of how consumers interact with the brands from whom they make purchases. To them, the physical location is the anchor and other elements serve as complementary marketing vehicles, all meant to drive repeat foot traffic to the locations. But in today’s digital world, a location is but one touchpoint where a consumer can interact with a brand. Consumers can experience brands through e-commerce sites, advertising, mobile apps, email marketing and, perhaps most importantly, social media.
Why should social media be placed on the same level of importance (if not higher) than a brick-and-mortar store? Social media allows brands to reach consumers at scale, on platforms they’re accessing and interacting with dozens of times per day, with messages that can be personalized and targeted based on an almost unlimited number of audiences and demographics. A retail strategy centered around physical store locations simply cannot achieve that same level of convenience, connectivity, personalization or quality of experience. In fact, according to PwC’s Total Retail report, which surveyed nearly 23,000 online shoppers globally, respondents cited social media as the “great influencer” in the future of brand experiences.
Social Media and the Purchasing Experience
Even more important than brand engagement through social media is the fact that social platforms are increasingly incorporating e-commerce capabilities, making it easier than ever before for people to make purchases with a few presses of their thumbs on their phones’ screens.
And this isn’t limited only to millennial or Gen Z shoppers. Consumers across age demographics are using social platforms more, both personally and professionally. So if consumers are engaging with their favorite brands through social media more than other channels (especially brick-and-mortar locations), and they have the ability to make purchases through those social platforms, there’s no reason that brands shouldn’t see their social presence as the new storefront.
However, it’s not as easy as slapping a “Buy Now” button on every social post and watching sales grow. Here are some tips for brands considering this strategy:
- Be selective about where and how you make posts shoppable. Just like in popular store locations of the past and present, sometimes people want to browse, either to dip their toe in the water or learn about new products. Sometimes you need to simply educate and engage the potential customer, rather than lead with the hard sell.
- Ensure that the social presence is consistent with your brand’s identity. It must align with all the things your brand stands for, as well as be visually consistent with your other brand elements. Having this alignment creates authenticity and helps customers feel more comfortable making purchases.
- Show real people using your products, when possible. User-generated content has proven to be more trustworthy to customers than traditional product shots or video clips. Plus it shows how customers are using your offering.
- Don’t forget to engage. Turning your social presence into an e-commerce channel doesn’t mean you should stop interacting with your customers. They are on your Instagram page because they like your brand and want to engage with it, just like they would do when visiting a physical location. Engaging with them now might be the precursor to a sale tomorrow. Engagement should be the priority for any social channel.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be on the right path for leveraging your social channels for selling and turning them into your new storefront.
Pau Sabria is co-founder of Olapic, the world’s first earned content platform to help brands curate, activate and analyze consumer photos and videos across all marketing and e-commerce channels.
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Pau Sabria and his co-founders created the world’s first earned content platform to help brands curate, activate and analyze consumer photos and videos across all marketing and ecommerce channels. At Olapic, Sabria oversees the company’s strategy and direction in the marketplace. He is a graduate of Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Barcelona where he earned a degree in telecommunications engineering, and later conducted his thesis in distributed video coding at Purdue University in Indiana.