Even in this digital age, today’s consumers want shopping experiences or shopper-tainment. Retailers who are focused only on what they have to sell are missing a large part of what retailing today is all about. Creative retailing looks for opportunities to educate, inspire, excite, and intrigue customers through experiences that lead to sales. As retailers observe customer responses to these experiences, innovative ideas emerge to keep customers returning to the store.
Customers need to know two things: who you are and what you have to sell. Social media is a both a relational and educational tool. As a relational tool, social media shares insight about the mission and the people who make it happen. It’s also a listening tool to discover who customers are and what they’re interested in. As an educational tool, it can, supported by email, educate new and existing customers on how to use or enjoy a product and/or to share how to participate in store destination events.
In-store events serve the same purposes as social media. Hospitality is the bridge from education to a personal connection with the store. As products are demonstrated or discussed, a buzz builds around products or categories, and the store’s credibility as an informational venue goes up a notch. Think of in-store events as a way not only to educate but also to build relationships with customers.
A Christian store doesn’t operate long in a vacuum. Communities of people surround every store. Connect to local causes or charities as an inroad to one or more groups. Look for ways to be inspired by and to inspire others to connect, partner, and become part of these communities. Authentic interest in what’s happening in the community and participation in these causes can lead to sales.
Is there a local food bank? Be a drop off point. Is there a pet rescue? Offer a place for pets and people to connect. Is there a veteran’s group that needs a place to meet? Look within the heart and the mission of the store to find those natural connections to church and community endeavors. At the same time be intentional about marketing the store through those connections. Make it playful. Make it fun. Include one or two community events on the store’s event calendar per year.
Products are inanimate objects. How do they become exciting and connect with customers? Two ways come to mind. One is through the testimonials of staff or customers. The other is through effective story telling through social media and email. Look for ways to say, “Did you hear? Do you know?” about the products offered.
Social media is a venue to post product testimonials. A staff member who has read a new book can share a snippet of why a story was compelling. In talking with customers, staff should always be on the lookout for potential stories to post or share in an email blast.
Look for ways to have fun with product stories. Pretend to be the voice of a book or other item. The personification of a product is a lot more fun and exciting that a list of features and benefits.
A great storyline for a store email and social campaign would be to select five or six products from around the store and let the product be the voice for telling about a line or store category. Think about what the product would say to a customer: “If I could, I would jump off the shelf into your hands because….”
The Pokémon scavenger hunt craze is exciting and fun because it is intriguing. Today’s shoppers want something more than a ho-hum walk through a predictable environment. Merchandising is one way to intrigue through surprising props and vignettes.
Another idea is to create a scavenger hunt each month to feature product categories. One large retail chain used this concept to create a summer camp scavenger hunt to give kids (and their parents) a way to find out some fun facts and to collect tokens to turn in on a chance to win a prize.
Use social media and email to entice and intrigue. For example, “Today’s mystery product is one that will help you [fill in the blank]. Come into the store and ask a sales associate for your clue to find and receive your 20 percent off coupon.”
Prepare store staff and post signage with the giveaway clue that will lead the customer to something that intrigued him/her.
Observing customer responses to retailing activities can help retailers look for what works (or doesn’t), what needs tweaking, and what else to try. Be on the watch for what others are doing (not just in our industry) and be willing to step outside the box and try something new.
E-I-E-I-O … and Inspire
Be a part of something inspiring. Set a goal to raise a set number of cans for a local food bank. Post progress reports on Facebook or Twitter. When the goal is reached, use the cans to spell a word like “We Care” or something other appropriate word or phrase on a sidewalk in front of the store and post that picture, too.
Offer a coupon or promotional freebie for those who give and/or who like the activity on Facebook. Ask a local homeschool group or children’s ministry to do the spelling as a group project. The more community buy-in, the more successful the event.