We asked brick-and-mortar marketing all-stars about how they get the word out about their businesses — and resoundingly, they told us that social media offers them unparalleled access to customers, both current and future. Even better: They shared their very best practices for making social pay off. Scroll for the best advice, straight from the retailers putting it in practice.
Apart from letting your customers know when you’re having sales, hosting a trunk show, or changing your opening hours (all valid social media messages), your social channels give you a chance to let the world know who you are, as a store and a brand. (Instagram, in particular, is a great place for this.)
“Building an experience is the essential part of a brand: You can do logos and ads and contents, but if you haven’t built an authentic experience for people to engage with, none of that matters,” Chris Lampen-Crowell, owner of the five Gazelle Sports stores in Michigan says.
What does that look like? Not only does it mean that your posts have a voice that reflects your store and employees (Friendly? Fashion-Obsessed? Gear Geeks?), but it can also be a way to talk about what you’re passionate about. Scott Heidrich, director of strategic advertising and marketing for Maine’s six Lamey-Wellehan stores, lists the store’s sustainability efforts and the Maine Difference scholarships they fund with it, kids’ growth spurt guarantee program, and local outreach to families in need, as stories they can bring to life on social media. “On Instagram, people don’t want to see the items on sale this weekend,” he said. “They want to see something meaningful and impactful.”
Lampen-Crowell agrees. “We need to make sure people know who we are. Value alignment is more important to all customers now, but for millennials, it’s critical.”
Posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are free: That’s one of the great attractions of the medium. But maximizing your message is going to take some investment, retailers say.
Christi Beth Adams, owner of the three Fleet Feet Nashville stores, used to spend $500 a month on promoting Facebook posts before she contracted with Drive, a social media engagement firm based in St. Louis and Nashville. The firm helps test messages, manage posts and measures response to ads (not only with engagement online but — in conjunction with the point-of-sale system and the phone company — to see what messages result in calls or visits to the store.) “It’s an expense that is hard to get over,” Adams said. “But organic posts are no longer a thing — it’s pay to play.”
Hiring a firm isn’t for everyone, but making sure there’s a budget for creating and promoting the key posts online should be on the table. And that investment means more than dollars — make sure you’re putting the man-hours against it, too. That means dedicated time for brainstorming messages, writing posts, shooting videos, setting up product, even doing interviews with staff or consumers. Which leads us to...
Tasking your managers or yourself with throwing something up on Facebook after they come off the floor (but before they close up, go over the orders, clean the bathroom) or whatever else is on the docket is a recipe for boring — and completely ineffective — content. Lampen-Crowell recently hired a social media manager to oversee and grow their stores’ efforts; other stores have made planning and scheduling posts a group effort at store meetings, or a crucial part of the time they log at the store. Fleet Feet Nashville’s Adams has taken on some of the social media job herself, taking her phone into the dressing room with her to film Instagram Stories showing herself trying on new arrivals and best-sellers, showing how they fit and look in real life. “I feel very awkward but my apparel buyer say its working,” she said, with a laugh. “And I know a customer who came in and picked up a navy Nike long sleeve and asked, ‘Is this the top you did in your Instagram Stories? I’ve wanted it ever since!’” (And yes, she bought it.)
For more tips from retailers on digital marketing, read the Crowdsource article in the March/April issue of Footwear Insight magazine