How Hashtags and Selfies Help Your Bottom Line
Retail is undergoing a digital transformation. As millennials go on to dominate the consumer market (with Gen Zers at their heels), social media has staked its claim as the glue that connects consumers, brands and retailers together, with social media platforms like Instagram moving to the forefront of retailers’ marketing strategies. Dubbed “Insta-Ready” retail, brick-and-mortar stores are hoping to draw the platform’s billions of active users into their stores and build awareness by creating visually appealing, shareable content.
Understanding the Trend
Sixty-eight percent of millennials demand an integrated, seamless shopping experience regardless of the channel. This means a unified transition from online to offline. A great example of this is NYX’s interactive retail stores. Originally an online cult favorite, the beauty brand found a way to bring its ever-popular Instagram feed to shoppers in-store. Not only is NYX's branding consistent with what you see both on its e-commerce site and social media feeds, but the retailer has also managed to integrate another popular retail trend, influencer marketing, into its stores using tablets. On tablets, consumers watch tutorials from their favorite beauty gurus using the products they're shopping for in-store.
Although 45 percent of millennials spend more than an hour a day looking at retail-oriented websites, they’ve demonstrated that they still crave the in-store experience, with only 16 percent of millennials making the majority of their purchases online via mobile. This is where Insta-Ready retail — an extension of experiential marketing — comes into play.
How Instagram Can Help Your Business Grow
Understanding what drives Insta-Ready retail is one thing, but how does one incorporate this strategy into their business? I asked a couple of experts in the field — interior designers known for their work helping brick-and-mortar retailers do just that.
“I tell all my clients to create an in-store experience that will allow consumers to hashtag while they're in-store," explains Trystin Kier, founder of the Kier Company. "Have a feature wall that shoppers can photograph in front of that's ultimately going to build more [foot] traffic, and help increase conversions. The digital space is so important for Instagram users. If you have a digital component, yes hashtags are important, yes a feature wall is important, but you also need to make sure that the things that are being shown on Instagram should be available for the customer to touch, smell, taste, whatever your business may be.”
“We're in a sharing culture — people enjoy posting what they experience,” adds Rhonda Burgess, founder of Powerhouse Interior Design, LLC. “Retailers need to create a brand experience that includes an interior to feast the eyes (and camera) upon."
Help Your Brick-and-Mortar’s Bottom Line
So how can business owners take advantage of this "sharing culture" and use Instagram to grow their business?
1. Have a "feature wall." As mentioned above, this will serve as the perfect backdrop for customer selfies. “[A feature wall] is a great way for shoppers to see something that's part of a new collection, or something that's very popular for the season,” adds Kier.
2. Bring the in-store experience online. Creating a seamless transition between online and offline is a two-way street. “Your marketing strategy should be to use Instagram to show what the in-store experience is like,” advises Kier. “Reel customers in by creating a sense of FOMO [fear of missing out].”
3. Think about lighting and space allocation. Think carefully about the lighting in your store and how it shows off the product both in person and through a phone screen. Burgess recommends testing the lighting yourself throughout the day if need be, and making any necessary changes. She also reminds store owners that a store layout is important. “Consider space for shoppers to share safely, without bumping into others or knocking merchandise off displays. This can be achieved with wider aisles or a lounge/photo booth-type of area that fits the brand and space.”
4. Get creative when merchandising products. If you’re a retailer, when choosing brands to stock your shelves, think about how they will be displayed. As a brand, your packaging should serve a dual purpose, both functional and visual. This is the new era of retail. Consumers spend so much time online that the lines between online and offline have become blurred. Just because you maintain a brick-and-mortar store (or any physical presence at all, even if it’s a temporary pop-up shop), doesn’t mean you’re destined to stay out-of-the-loop. By allowing consumers to use your store as a backdrop for shared experiences online, Instagram becomes more than just a social media platform; it becomes an important gateway to omnichannel millennial consumers.
Phil Chang is resident retail expert for Hubba, a B-to-B platform that connects brands with retailers.