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Want To Push Social Media? Have You Considered Using Your Stores?

Written by Todd L. Michaud
January 10th, 2012

Todd Michaud spent years leading retail technology teams for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins and today serves as the VP of IT for a billion-dollar franchise restaurant company. He also runs Power Thinking Media, which helps restaurants and retailers with social and mobile challenges.

How’s this for ironic? Retailers complain about how difficult it is to get shoppers to explore their social media efforts. And yet these same retailers have the almost undivided attention of these shoppers, often for hours every month, in an environment where the retailer has complete control of the surroundings, the store layout and the staff.

Almost all retail marketing efforts are based on the not-so-simple premise of getting people to purchase from them, either online or in person. The problem is likely a mesh of old-mentality thinking with a heavy dose of channel conflict. What if those marketing resources were directed at building a deeper relationship with consumers, one with more engagement? Although that may work for a digital marketing team (it is actually the foundation of most successful digital marketing strategies), what about using in-store technology and even the sales associates to start or enhance those digital conversations?

In my mind I can see the CEO’s face as the marketing chief explains that he wants to grab some of the consumers attention while they are in the store to “build a deeper relationship with them online.” I have to imagine that is about as close to heresy as it gets in traditional retailing. “Wasting” precious time and attention of a shopper and “distracting” them with things that do not involve a sale in that very moment, at the point of purchase!

Then there is the small fact that the retail operator doesn’t feed his family based upon how well his customers are engaged online. He’s paid to sell products. I can also see his face as he’s told that he has to staff additional labor and purchase additional technology “just so the E-Commerce guys can get a sale.”


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5 Comments | Read Want To Push Social Media? Have You Considered Using Your Stores?

  1. Walt Conway Says:

    Great column, Todd. I can see applying your recommendations to a company (or franchisee) store, and it made me wonder about two other situations.

    One situation is where the retailer is in a shared space (e.g., a food court in a mall or college campus) where there may be limited space and possibly limited flexibility (e.g., power, comms, lease restrictions). The other situation is in airports, where I see more and more retailers. Would your recommendations hold for those locations, too?

    By coincidence, I was at a conference this week and sat next to the person charged with building brand awareness for a national food chain on college campuses — and therefore with the student demographic — nationwide. After reading your piece, I was wondering, would your recommendations would hold for them?

    As for airports, I could see one school of thought that says customers don’t live there, so get them in and out. But I also could see where the particulars of this demographic could be sufficiently compelling to want to reach out.

    Any thoughts?

  2. ed Says:

    Social media should be seamlessly integrated instead of pushed out there for the sake of pushing. We seen the results of pushing URLs, pushing QR codes with awkward results such as “scan this code!” or “check out our web site!” in previous iternations of pushing interactive media.

    Here are my thoughts on the suggestions above:

    LCD screens are both an overkill and too passive for social media engagement. I prefer LCD screens to be used as either digital signange or a flat panel kiosks that can respond to gestures or even code on a mobile phone.

    Email is not used widespread anymore – people are using social media and mobile texting from their mobile phone, not email to interact. The receipt can display the social media address and invite them to join or stay updated with a community instead of one-to-one email. Who wants to manage an email inbox anyway?

    Displaying Twitter activity in-store will require active monitoring and filters. I really don’t see value here using Twitter in this manner and there are other alternatives to engaging customers.

    Here are some of my suggestions:

    Introduce gamification similiar to Dave and Busters to give customers points to redeem for loss leads hoping it lead to more sales. Instead of the silly ego employee-of-the-month plaque, use gamification to reward badges for showing up on time, making a sales quota and promote to virtual levels with points rewarded.

    Make signing up to Facebook and Twitter seamless. There are scripts and developer API that allow customers to connect to facebook with their phone immediately. There should be no need to passively ask them to join.

    Third and I did not see this in the list, geo-location services that does “check-in” are more critical than mingling social apps to take advantage of time/space. For example, augmented reality that can float coupons and offers on the street level for people with a mobile phone to see.

  3. Todd Michaud Says:

    Ed and Walt,
    Thanks for the feedback!

    Ed, I agree that there are even deeper levels of engagement that you absolutely could drive in the store (I love the idea of floating coupons by the way). I think what is most important is using the store to start a conversation that could be then continued online (rather than always trying to start a conversation online that culminates with a sale in the store).

    I also think that it is a great point about using developers to make the signup process more seamless and easier. Do you know of any examples of people doing that well? (I’d love to research more).

    Walt,
    I agree that there are some venues that will not be able to take advantage of some of these tactics, like at Airports, but I think you’ve hit one of the bigger issues with larger chains is that “if it doesn’t work for all locations, let’s not do it”).

    I think that if chains make a concerted effort to use their stores as a starting point of engagement, then their overall relationship with that customer will be much better than it was otherwise.

    Thanks again for the comments!
    -=Todd

  4. ed Says:

    In tradegy of the commons retail locations such as airports and malls, the management company should be responsible for creating a unified social media interaction strategy.

    Todd, the current “clicks and bricks” practice for interacting with Facebook is having the QR code redirect to an URL that in trun run script from the Facebook API. This Facebook API will post to the customer Facebook wall a status update that can be shared among their friends. Or they can post to your Page Wall and the customer will share it among their friends.

    This is similiar to the Farmville updates on facebook and a retailer can include a coupon in the Facebook posting, creating a viral marketing campaign. Hope this helps.

  5. Holidayfor5 Says:

    I think the statement “Then there is the small fact that the retail operator doesn’t feed his family based upon how well his customers are engaged online” speaks loads.

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