How Social Media Amplifies the In-Store Experience

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How Social Media Amplifies the In-Store Experience

By Jen Forrest, Director of Social Media, DEG - 11/07/2016
Far too often, retail brands treat digital and in-store experiences like they are two completely separate worlds. Your customers are not cleanly segmented into one group that shops online and another that shops in the store, so it's unrealistic to treat your marketing strategies as if that were the case. The reality is your consumers are engaging online and in-store throughout their customer lifecycle when each of those channels is most convenient for them.

Brands should instead be thinking of digital and in-store as different pieces of the same puzzle. The truth is technology is never going to fully replace brick and mortar stores, as both are critical to engaging customers and creating a lasting connection at every step of the customer journey.

Social media in particular can be a wildly successful tool for bridging the digital and in-store worlds in which customers interact with brands. The key is the ability to tell a seamless brand story across multiple platforms. Three strategies in particular can help brands use social media to enhance their customers' in-store experience, providing the best of both worlds.

A simple way to begin connecting your digital and in-store experiences is through a brand hashtag. The best way to think of a brand hashtag is as a unique signature for your brand. Not only is it extremely flexible — brands can use hashtags to increase engagement in Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram — but it is an easy way to transition and continue the conversation from in-store to online.

Consider integrating your brand hashtag into a customer's in-store shopping experience through several touchpoints:
  • Highlight social through in-store signage, featuring a call-to-action to share their experience using your hashtag.
  • Integrate social sharing icons and your hashtag on store receipts – even better if a receipt is being emailed and is included as part of their post-purchase digital experience.
  • Feature tips on Facebook Location pages to appear when customers check-in on their Facebook app.
  • Bring in-store, user-generated content back into the digital e-commerce experience by integrating a visual commerce tool – like Olapic or Curalate – which allows you to tag products and feature them on your website product detail pages.
  • Feature stylized “top-pinned” sections inside your store that rotate based on social engagement, seasonal moments and highly-engaged content.
  • Prepare for real-time customer care moments. If a customer asks a question in-store or complains, use social listening to address concerns immediately, or apply social-selling techniques to recommend specific products while they're still in the store.
These opportunities not only connect the in-store experience to digital, but also provide moments for customers to share their store experience with their social communities, creating awareness of your brand to new audiences.

Influencing consumers to stop by
Your branded content can only get you so far. When customers need help making up their mind, they turn to social influencers. Having consumers see people they follow interact with a brand can quickly influence a customer's sentiment, and the likelihood they, too, will purchase a product. More than 90 percent of consumers trust product recommendations they receive from others, even if it is from someone they don't know directly.

Having celebrities, bloggers and social influencers endorse your brand on social media is a great addition to any social strategy on its own. But to see the greatest impact — and really build a seamless and authentic brand story — invite influencers you're working with to take part in the in-store experience as part of the campaign. Having influencers contribute to your story will not only drive more traffic in stores, but  also will attract the portion of your audience that might just be engaging online, giving them a new way to see your brand.

Host exclusive in-store events for VIP media or social media influencers, giving them sneak peeks to share with their communities before the general public.
Ask a social influencer to collaborate on a product line or curate a section of the store, and reveal it during a special in-store event.

When working with a social influencer on sponsored content, provide a specific in-store (or online) promotional code just for the influencer's audience, and then drive them back into the store.

Show off your store on Snapchat
One of the newest trends for brands on social media is launching a presence on Snapchat – the fastest-growing social channel in 2016. Snapchat is especially critical if your brand is trying to reach a younger, Millennial audience. Another simple strategy, with potentially big results, is creating a Snapchat geofilter. Geofilters are text or an image overlays, which users can incorporate into their photo to show where and when they are snapping. Geofilters can be created for individual store locations and placed for any duration of time.

Creating a geofilter that customers can use while inside the walls of your store not only encourages consumers to engage in person, and extends the reach of your brand online, but is also fun. A Snapchat geofilter is something your fans will enjoy using, and suddenly you have ambassadors for your brand promoting your in-store experience all on their own. This is an especially useful strategy if your brand identifies itself as young and trendy. Even if your brand doesn't directly fit that criteria, Snapchat is a great way to attract that audience and get them to view you in a new light.
  • Try testing specific product launches or releases exclusively on Snapchat, leveraging the excitement of 24-hour vanishing content.
  • Allow first looks or sneak peeks of product arriving in-store, and give a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your store environment to entice followers to check out new arrivals.
  • Encourage users to send snaps to you when they're in the store for a chance to win special prizes for big announcements or product roll-outs.
Don't underestimate social media's role in enhancing your consumers' in-store experience and ensuring that whether walking through your doors or flipping through Instagram, they are receiving relevant content that builds a lasting connection with your brand. 

Jen Forrest is director of social media, DEG, which specializes in digital marketing, commerce, and collaboration strategies.