Follow these five ways to make digital and social marketing personal again.
By: Ashley Alderson
Just as your grandfather and father agreed, business should be done on a handshake. While that might not work in a digital format, the same principle rings true today.
In a digital age, people still want to do business with people. No matter what kind of presence a brand has established, there still must be a human connection, a relationship, and a personal touch that people associate with it online.
Whether you sell in a brick-and-mortar store and use social media to drive traffic, or sell online, your personal connection matters. Here are five key ways successful retailers are making the online experience more personal today.
1. Facebook Live
Of all mediums to communicate through today, video is the most important. It quickly creates a personal connection with customers and brands alike, and helps cut through the clutter of social media and grab a viewer’s attention. A great way to use video is through Facebook Live.
Facebook Live allows Facebook users to share a live video broadcast (up to four hours long) with followers and friends. You can use it as a live sale, showing items for purchase and offering comment selling (using a software tool that enables people to buy via post comments). Or you might want to offer weekly live videos to highlight your favorite product picks of the week, or store promotions and events.
The most important part of using Facebook Live video is showing up consistently. Your customers are looking for a face for your company that they can relate to and trust. Consistently showing up in video helps them to not only build a relationship with you, but also with the community members who show up to watch you weekly.
All you need to hold a Facebook Live event is your smartphone to video, a phone tripod, a script for what you’re doing (a list of products with details, the nightly giveaway or game, etc.), good lighting, and a helper to track comments and questions that you can answer. After it’s over, get ready to send invoices to all of your commenters ready to buy, or use an automated software system to help do that.
This is your opportunity to better qualify fit and product quality, and to educate customers on trends and style to make them more comfortable with what they are getting. The added perk? Watching FOMO (fear of missing out) go to work as customers watch others quickly comment to purchase items—it helps them take the step forward to purchase, too.
2. Instagram “Try-On” Sessions
If you are active on Instagram, maximize the use of Instagram Stories; it’s just as important as using Facebook Live. An Instagram Story is a sequence of quick videos and/or photos strung together in a slideshow that tell a story. A story is temporary, lasting for 24 hours. You can use the feature to let customers go behind the scenes with your brand. Like reality TV watchers, your customers love tuning in to see the daily operations of your business, to get style tips and first looks at products, and to enjoy funny reality moments as they unfold.
“In a digital age, people still want to do business with people. No matter what kind of presence a brand has established, there still must be a human connection, a relationship, and a personal touch that people associate with it online.” – Ashley Alderson
Another idea is to host “try-on sessions”—where you or your staff style and model new items in your Instagram Story video talking about fit, quality and how to wear them. It helps customers see themselves in your products.
Like any social channel, it’s important to mix the type of content you post on Instagram. Whether it’s a try-on session selling a product or a funny behind-the-scenes look, customers want relationships, entertainment and education; not every post should be about selling. Soft selling goes a long way.
3. User-Generated Content
User-generated content, or user-created content, is anything your customers share with you, most often photos, posts or video. It is a key marketing cornerstone, qualifying your brand as trustworthy and reputable.
Start training your customers with ongoing calls to action to use your hashtag and tag you with photos on Instagram, to post in your Facebook group or to share in their own Instagram Story. Then, repost and share your collection of customer photos on your own social media channels or in a gallery on your website.
Trust is one of the most important factors in marketing online today, in a world where faceless brands from overseas have often eroded customer confidence. Showing your customers the faces of other real customers is as important as giving them a face they can recognize from inside your company. It builds community and trust.
4. Better Contact Methods
No one wants to fill out a generic customer contact form on your website or through social media to have someone help them. Even if you do not have a store phone, there are a number of services today (like free Google Voice phone numbers) to help create a contact number for your business.
Make sure that you have multiple contact points—including phone number, personal email or live chat—installed on your website. It ensures that your customers aren’t being left to figure out how to contact you on their own. Making these contact methods clear and easy to find increases trust and ensures them that someone is ready to help them at all times.
5. Content that Serves (not JUST Sells)
It’s important to think about creating digital content that serves online customers just as you would personally help them if they were standing next to you in a busy store. Treating your social channels and digital content—such as emails, videos and blog posts—like a version of your in-store associates serving your fans or followers will help increase their conversion to becoming buying customers. Think about what kinds of questions they might ask you, and answer them in your online content:
• What are they looking for this time of year?
• How is your store merchandised in collections?
• What fit questions do they commonly have?
• What are your best add-on sales?
• Do you have loyalty programs?
• What new arrivals look best styled together?
• What questions would you likely ask them as they shop to better serve them?
Other ideas include sharing your products in mini-collections on your website (changed every two weeks), in albums on Facebook, in Instagram posts or grouped in a weekly text message. Think about what they are most needing at that particular time, and serve them with the right products and solutions. Then, just have fun. Your personal stories, funny quotes, memes and giveaways should help your customers not only further build relationships, but make you and your company memorable in the process.
ASHLEY ALDERSON is the founder of The Boutique Hub, an online platform connecting boutique owners and the boutique industry, around the world. The Boutique Hub provides boutique conferences, education, expert business strategies, a wholesale marketplace and discounts, vetted service providers, member insurance and benefits, and daily community support. Learn more at theboutiquehub.com, and follow Ashley and her podcast, #BoutiqueChat, on Instagram at @ajalderson.
(Originally published in Western Lifestyle Retailer Spring 2019 issue.)