Has Social Media Killed the Mall? Part 2

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In part one of this series on the rumored "death of the mall," I wrote about the potential for e-commerce and social media to keep consumers online and out of the once-crowded malls. However, as anyone who has gone shopping on Black Friday can attest, the modern mall is anything but deserted. In fact, social media can play a significant role in getting consumers engaged online, and your company's savvy data mining and social monitoring can help it better understand its target customer.

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Now that we've proven social media can be an asset to brick-and-mortar businesses, I'd like to show how you can continue to leverage the power of online interaction once consumers are in-store. A recent study by Shopatron indicated that 86 percent of shoppers consult their smartphones while shopping, and half of them are comparing prices. With shoppers spending more time on their phones than browsing the aisles, how can retailers get them to focus on the real goal: getting them to open their wallets at checkout? Here are four tips for turning foot traffic into new sales:

1. Speak their language. If your customers’ favorite accessory is their smartphone, then they're likely to gravitate toward in-store technology that's new and interactive. Noticing this trend, Rebecca Minkoff's new Manhattan store has mastered in-store shopping for the new tech age. Equipped with interactive touchscreen walls that allow consumers to browse selections and request items, the store offers a "personal shopper" experience with the help of technology.

For example, shoppers can receive text message notifications that let them know when a dressing room is ready. Once inside, they can use touchscreen mirrors to select more items or request assistance. Merchandise tags are also equipped with RFID technology so store managers know what items have been tried on or purchased, giving them a real-time look at their inventory and what's trending with customers. Take note: Interactive technology can help keep your customers engaged while also supplying you with valuable data and customer insights.

2. Create a welcoming environment. A recent study conducted by the Wi-Fi Alliance showed that offering in-store Wi-Fi can have a big impact on sales. The study's respondents stated that if in-store Wi-Fi were offered, they would be more likely to stay longer (28 percent), return to the store more often (29 percent) and choose the store over one that doesn't provide Wi-Fi (27 percent). Consider offering free Wi-Fi to shoppers. Users may check their Facebook, and social sharing can increase exposure for you — and more time in your store means more time to catch their eye.

3. Get personal. Macy's and J.C. Penney were some of the first retailers to test in-store beacons that can push out offers to shoppers via the retailers’ apps. It's time to take that technology to the next level. The next generation of beacon technology will enable targeted in-store offers based on proximity to certain items, as well as the consumer's specific buyer profile. With the right data mining, you can push personalized discounts to shoppers’ phones that take into account what you know about their spending habits.  

4. Always be closing (the loop). You've now used social media monitoring and data to get consumers into your store, and similar technology to send them targeted offers to help them pick the perfect purchase. Now it's time to close the loop and keep your data working for you. Be sure to put data on purchases back into your CRM and email marketing systems so you can continue to offer customers even more personalized offers and build relationships through loyalty programs.

Social media and the online shopping experience can help you learn new things about your customers and their preferences every day. However, no matter how tech savvy your store walls or how deep your text message discounts are, it's all about making sure you have the right product for the right customer. With savvy data mining and analytics, you can make online interaction work for your brick-and-mortar business and ensure you know what your customers want months before they head to the mall.


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