In today’s web-centric world, “user experience” generally refers to what it’s like to use your website or application. How easy is it to sign up or login? How logical is the content flow? What is the purchase process like? But what about actual experiences, the ones we are a part of every day in every aspect of our life? What’s it like walking around the grocery store? How do you feel after getting a new haircut? Many small business owners operate brick-and-mortar locations in addition to whatever they have going on online. All too often, these two experiences (online and offline) are totally disconnected. Your consumers are generating endless content for you every time they step inside your doors. Why not capitalize on that?!

mom and pop shop

Invite Them to Participate in Online Conversations

No matter what your store is about, there’s a story to be told via social media.

  • Are you selling shoes? Hang a sign in the mirror inviting people to tweet a photo of the pairs they’re trying on and ask their friends what they think.
  • Ice cream shop? Post a sign in the showcase asking patrons to vote on their favorite flavor.
  • Think creatively about the experience you’re providing your customers and the best way to leverage those sights and sounds in an online environment.
  • Blend the online and offline experiences in a way that makes it exciting and interesting for everyone to participate in.

Embrace the Outcome

Embracing the outcome in this case means a few different things.

  • Accept that social media is about having fun. Not everything that anyone posts is going to double as an advertisement for your store; doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable. Some posts might be riddled with inside jokes or funny faces, some may even have some not-so-nice things to say about their experience. Appreciate that your consumers are engaging with you and take that for what it’s worth.
  • Familiarize yourself with the idea that not every marketing effort leads directly to sales. Brand awareness has existed for decades and way before PPC advertising and cookies, businesses were stuck usual traditional advertising and betting on the value of ideas like “top-of-mind” and “share of voice”. Every post that mentions your brand or your hashtag helps expose your store to a brand new audience who may someday become your customers. Experts can argue about the way to quantify the value that this online brand awareness has, but there’s one thing that is not up for debate: it has value.  Social media campaigns like the examples I outlined above take 0 time or money so any residual benefits as a result are pure profit.

Take steps to integrate your consumers online and offline experiences and you’ll see a bump in both, because your consumers will be excited to get involved. The first rule of social engagement: No one will act if you don’t ask. So think about the experience in your store, find a way to make it exciting online, and ask your customers to join you in your new endeavor. Then just enjoy the results.

Are you the owner of a brick-and-mortar small business? In what ways do you create an online experience for your in-store customers?