#HighStreet: How Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Are Using Social Media to Retain Customers
Generally, the internet has been seen as a bad thing for high street retailers. Blockbuster, Woolworths and Barnes & Noble are defunct or struggling franchises that are widely seen as victims of the rise of online shopping. Customers are opting to shop on Amazon or eBay for lower prices and higher convenience, and brick-and-mortar stores are suffering the consequences. A sweeping survey found that shoppers now make 51% of their purchases online when, of course, they made 100% of them offline before the internet was invented.
But perhaps the seeds of real-world retail’s resurgence could be in the very World Wide Web that caused its downfall. As social media becomes ever more important, high street retailers are finding ways to use it to attract and maintain new customers. Here’s how.
Grammable storefront designs
Storefront design has been a popular part of high street stores for the past hundred years or so. A shop window display can highlight popular items and deals, or just a sense of the style a certain store will bring you. OCS Retail Support’s history of the storefront says “the lines between merchandising and art [were] blurred” as soon as artists were invited to design storefronts. Now, professional storefront designers like Prop Studios treat their window displays primarily as works of art.
At the dawn of online shopping, this did very little to persuade customers to venture outdoors, but with the arrival of Instagram, shop window decoration has a new power. Firstly, stores can make their windows attractive and outstanding enough to be posted on the site by passersby, encouraging customers to come and see for themselves. Anthropologie is one such store that regularly achieves this, creating the popular ‘#anthrowindows’ hashtag.
Secondly, retail outlets can follow popular fashion gurus and models on Instagram and take inspiration from their outfits for their displays. Fashionista Camille Charriere told the Independent she has noticed mannequins wearing outfits she has worn previously on Instagram posts.
Snapping up new opportunities
Instagram is not the only social media platform high street retailers are using in the fight against e-commerce. 91% of retail brands use more than one social channel, and one of the fastest growing is Snapchat. Though some fashion brands have been slow to embrace Snapchat, many high street stores are getting to grips with the platform.
River Island recently launched its Snap & Share campaign, in which customers are encouraged to share snaps of themselves with one of the five exclusive River Island Geo Filters, available in 280 stores, for a chance to win a £1000 shopping spree. This promotion has resonated with River Island’s core millennial demographic.
Building long-lasting relationships
Brick-and-mortar retailers in days gone by have had ‘regulars’ who come in and, on many occasions, get to know the staff and proprietors. With up to 70% of transactions taking place through self-service checkouts, this personal touch has generally been eroded. In many instances, social media has taken its place.
Through interacting with customers on social media, retailers regain this personal touch. In other words, followers are the new regulars. Friendly and fun interactions like these ones create a sense of compassion between customers and brands and can help resolve issues in store and out. As Hootsuite says, the ‘path to purchase’ for retail stores has changed. It is not unusual for brands to nurture relationships with customers over social media in order to attract or keep their custom.
Though they may or may not be feeling the effects already, and it is hard to pin down exactly how much revenue social media is generating for these stores, there is no doubt that through these techniques, high street retailers are using the internet to their advantage. Once natural enemies, it just might be that the high street and the internet are working together to brands’ and customers’ benefit.