The New Age of Retail: Using Social to Digitize the In-Store Experience
The romance of in-store shopping hasn’t fizzled out just yet, and thanks to social media, it has new meaning.
According to Forbes Insights, consumers today conduct shopping research online, but prefer to make their purchases in a physical storefront. Still, they’re not ditching their digital resources once they go inside. Data management platform SessionM found that 90 percent of buyers use their smartphones in brick-and-mortar locations to look up product information and read reviews before making a purchase.
As a result, in-store purchases aren’t standing alone like they once did. In fact, they can (and should) now be heavily influenced by a brand’s digital presence. In today’s digital-first world, brands have the opportunity to make in-store shopping more enjoyable through social engagement. Here’s how:
With the help of new software, brands can use social listening to hear real-time consumer feedback and understand the perception of their brand. Retailers can use this technology to fully grasp how their customers are interacting with their store, both online and in person.
By measuring sentiment among a brand’s audience, these insights provide a baseline for actionable customer satisfaction. For instance, if a retailer notices its brand sentiment dropping due to high price complaints, maybe it’s time to consider a sale to promote via social media.
Additionally, this approach allows customers to voice feedback directly, providing an opportunity for brands to enhance their customer experience. If handled correctly, a brand can identify feedback through social listening, address the customer personally, fix the issue and (hopefully) turn that customer into a repeat buyer. Building relationships both in-store and online can yield long-term success and loyalty.
Modern location services allow companies to analyze customer sentiment in particular geographic areas, which can help companies enhance the customer experience through convenience-based features and services.
For example, popular makeup brand Sephora launched its Sephora Assistant, a Facebook Messenger app. The app uses location intelligence to let customers reserve makeovers in a nearby Sephora store within seconds — without having to make a call, send an email or visit Sephora's website.
Whether they’re shopping in-store or online, the majority of today’s consumers are on their phones 24/7. Successful brands will be the ones that meet their customers where they are — and in today’s society, that’s on social.
Brands can also localize their online advertisements through social media. Facebook’s local awareness ads, for example, were built specifically to guide shoppers to nearby stores. Retailers simply choose a radius, define an audience, and select a call-to-action button. For instance, brands can pick “Get Directions” to help consumers find their store without leaving the Facebook app, and can include a map pin to their specific location for added convenience.
Just look at Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores. The retailer used local awareness ads to promote grand opening events at its new stores. This strategy reduced its cost per impression and increased reach across store-specific initiatives.
Every brand has a different approach to advertising, but targeted online ads are becoming a more accurate and powerful way to lead people from phones to doors.
Finding Success in a Social Age
Thanks to social media, brands can use these types of innovative strategies to digitize the in-store experience. Whether it’s inviting people to book a consultation, track down a trending product or locate their nearest store, social tools can enable businesses to help their customers in countless ways. Customers are already online all the time, now it’s up to brands to meet them there, close the gap and finish the sale.
Paul Herman is the vice president, product and solutions enablement group at Sprinklr, a social media management platform.