A Vision for Social Retailing: Infuse Brick-and-Mortar Stores With the Vitality of Social Media

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Retailers have historically viewed their online and brick-and-mortar operations as two separate divisions. A key failure of this business model is that it results in competition—rather than cooperation—between the two entities for internal resources and customer revenue.

As ecommerce continues its rapid growth trajectory it begs the question: does online signal the death knell for brick-and-mortar retailers? I first wrote about this topic in a post for ITWorld, where I examined how technology is impacting the traditional in-store experience.

A key conclusion I drew was that shopping is a familiar, often socially driven experience that transcends pure economic value for many people. Recent technical innovations give brick-and-mortar retailers new opportunities to capitalize on this desire for experience and make in-store visits more human and personalized to the individual customer.

To accomplish this, I suggested retailers consider the following:

  • Social Networking
    Tap new UX forms of mobile interactions to encourage shoppers to involve their friends in the in-store decision making process. This opens a three-way conversation between the customer, her peers, and the sales associate with any number of outcomes—including upselling the customer and increasing brand awareness among her peer group.
  • Keep Connected
    Smartphones and tablets give brick-and-mortar retailers the ability to make all associates into personal shoppers who can remain socially connected to the customer even after the sale. Armed with real-time information on individual purchase history, for example, associates can provide content and unique offers on the store floor and increase the value of every interaction. Two good examples of this phenomenon are Apple, which markets its associates as “geniuses” able to offer expert guidance, and Whole Foods, which also boasts its reputation as having a knowledgeable employee force.
  • Gamification
    Finally, why not gamify the in-store experience? This is next frontier that offers the most opportunities for making physical shopping fun and thus brings consumers back to brick-and-mortar. To be effective, this approach must be more complex than the simplistic “like” buttons and vanity badges currently utilized by many ecommerce entities and provide more value to the customer.

My original blog provides additional thoughts on how these three areas can help brick-and-mortar retailers enhance the in-store experience. Do you have a perspective—either as a brand or a consumer—on additional areas in which the in-store experience should evolve? Leave a comment below if so and let’s keep the conversation going!

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