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4 Ways to Encourage Social Engagement Through Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Brick-and-mortar stores are in an excellent position to tap into the power of social imagery. From beautiful window displays and thoughtful merchandising, to mouth-watering food presentations and special moments with customers, physical retailers have many opportunities to promote social engagement and encourage user-generated content.

And yet, it seems that plenty of merchants still aren’t on board with the notion of promoting social engagement through their brick-and-mortar retail locations. According to the Retail TouchPoints Social Commerce Survey, while 79% and 77% of retailers promote their social presence via email and their website respectively, only 24% do it at the POS, and even fewer (22%) do it through in-store digital signage.

It’s high time that this changed. If you have a physical location, then you likely have a lot of Pinterest- and Instagram-worthy content just waiting to be shared. If you haven’t done so yet, start exploring ways in which you can leverage your store to increase social engagement.

Need inspiration on how to accomplish this? Below are some tips and examples to get you started.

1. Remind in-store guests to pin, post and share (but be creative)!

People love sharing photos via social media, but sometimes, your customers need a little push in the right direction. Encourage them to snap photos of your products by setting up creative reminders around your store.

Check out what stores like New York & Company and Team Manila are doing.

These apparel retailers are using hashtag stickers in their fitting rooms to promote social shares, allowing them to increase engagement and exposure at the same time.

Another great example of creative social sharing reminders comes from Snowflakes, a restaurant in Southern California that sells specialty desserts.

Snowflakes created custom placemats designed to encourage customers to take photos of their food and post them on Instagram.

2. Use social engagement as currency.

If you have the budget for it (and if it makes sense for your business) why not offer discounts or freebies in exchange for social shares? After all, if you’re planning to run a promotion or are marking down items anyway, this tactic could help you get some social shares out of your offers.

A retailer that pulled this off well is OnePiece, a Norwegian clothing brand. OnePiece created an ambassador club called “The Piecekeepers,” and used it to entice influencers to talk about the brand on social media. According to PSFK, OnePiece “handed out discounts to social influencers who connected their social media accounts to its PieceKeepers ambassador system. Once synced, the PieceKeepers platform calculated the person’s following across all their channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Vine, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn) to determine their total reach.” Members were offered one dollar off for every 500 followers they had, and they were given an additional $20 off their purchases by sharing a hashtagged image of the store.

3. Hold an in-store event and promote it using a special hashtag.

Improve the results of your in-store events by creating event-specific hashtags that encourage people to create and post content. Doing so will not only help increase word-of-mouth, social buzz and traffic, but it’ll also enable you to keep track of mentions and conversations around the event.

What’s more, these hashtags can help you find and compile photos of the event, which you can then use for recaps or promotional purposes.

Consider what Mercedes-Benz is doing for their MBFW (Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) events. The automaker created the #MBFW hashtag and encouraged attendees and partners to include it whenever they share photos related to the event. In addition to helping Mercedes-Benz drive engagement, it also gives them plenty of user-generated content to favorite, retweet and re-post.

4. Leverage your window displays.

A good window display showcases your products and entices people to walk into your store. A great window display on the hand, does all that and helps make a splash in the social realm.

The next time you’re designing a new window display for your shop, why not inject a social component into it? Don’t just use your display to showcase products. Make sure that it also connects with your audience and encourages social shares.

Have a look at Anthropologie’s window display strategy. Its corporate headquarters selects certain themes for their displays, but leaves it up to each local store to come up with their own interpretations.

This enables every Anthropologie store to inject local art and flavor in their window displays, and it has resulted in some really creative windows. Even better, Anthropologie encourages customers to take photos of their local windows and share them on Instagram with the hashtag #AnthroWindows.

J. Crew is another example of a retailer whose window display efforts paid off in a big way on social media.

Over the holidays, J.Crew decided to incorporate some “damn you autocorrect” humor into its window displays by showing a text exchange between a snowman and his friend, where the snowman inadvertently said that he would “melting” his family. He originally meant that he would be “meeting” them. (Stupid autocorrect.)

People loved it and shared photos via Instagram, Twitter and other networks.

Your turn.

We’ve shared some creative social engagement pointers in this post, and we hope that the examples above gave you a few ideas to put to action in your own store.

Now, it’s your turn. How will you encourage your customers to snap photos of your products and store? Have you tried any of the tactics above?

Author Bio: Francesca Nicasio is a retail expert from Vend, a point-of-sale, inventory, and customer loyalty software that helps over 15,000 retailers manage and grow their businesses. She’s also the author of “Retail Survival of the Fittest: 7 Ways to Future-Proof Your Retail Store,” a practical guide to modern-day retail success.

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The Author

Stacy Goodman

Stacy Goodman, Content Manager

Prior to joining Curalate, Stacy wrote copy on the agency side for brands like TUMS, Sleep Number, Coca-Cola and Visa Small Business. Now, she writes about them as a Content Strategist at Curalate, focusing on visual trends, customer stories and best practices across social, mobile and digital.


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