It's Time for Brick & Mortar to Get Engaged

This is Part 2 of a 2 Part Blog Series

This blog series is focused on the advantages Brick & Mortar has over the ecommerce world through creating deeper connections with their customers.  Last week’s blog Part 1, It’s Time for Brick and Mortar to Get a Life focused on Lifestyle Marketing.  This week is focused on Engagement marketing, and I’ll share a recent experience with you as we dive right in….

Everybody Needs Some Bougie Sometimes

A few weeks ago I received an Exclusive Rewards Member invitation to a “Tips & Sips” event held at a local Nordstrom.  The event is a workshop where customers get the latest insider “tips”, tricks and trends from Nordstrom’s Style Experts while enjoying “sips” of adult beverages.  I’ve attended other Nordstrom events in the past, but none were as interactive, or as bougie, as this one appeared to be – so obviously I went online immediately to RSVP. I discovered there were actually a few different events, with multiple date & time options, that I could pick from:

  • Office Hours to Happy Hours - Take your look from the office to happy-hour in an instant with a few simple must-haves.

  • Party Perfect - Learn the key pieces that'll have you ready for everything—from your office party to Thanksgiving with the fam.

  • Master the Photo - We'll show you new finishing touches for your hair, makeup, and accessories so you'll shine for your next big event, or that all-important selfie.

All three events appealed to me, but I only had time for one and chose Office Hours to Happy Hours.  I arrived at the event, confirmation email in-hand, and went to the Nordstrom restaurant, as my email directed.  I was warmly greeted by a sales associate who unexpectedly handed me a gift card for $12 to comp my "sips" at the bar, where she invited me relax until the rest of the attendees arrived.

A few minutes later the sales associate came over to round up the attendees.  She introduced herself as Rachel and shared more info about the event and what to expect.  Her goal was to inspire us with simple ways to update your look from day to night, while creating excitement around some of Nordstrom’s new fall fashion. With drinks in-hand, Rachel directed our group to the NARS counter to introduce us to their sales associate, Kyra. 

Kyra had a fun, down to earth personality and was immediately interacting with the group.  She encouraged us to make ourselves comfortable (in chairs positioned throughout the NARS beauty area), learn, observe, and ask questions about the new holiday NARS collection that was about to launch as she gave Rachel a makeover.  Starting with a day look, Kyra walked us through each NARS product and how to apply it showcasing the NARS product beautifully and sharing her own makeup tips.  (My favorite tip - use a translucent powder and soft brush to blend away any wondering eye shadow). Kyra continued, expertly transforming Rachel’s day look to a cool, sexy evening look – with the group “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” along the way - demonstrating how a few eye touchups with a dramatic lip color could easily transform any look. 

Afterward, Rachel kept the event moving forward by bringing out a few fabulous handbags filled with different accessory options. She focused on how you could easily update your look with a little preplanning and a few simple tweaks to your outfit. She made recommendations such as,

  • Replacing simple traditional jewelry with sexy rose gold layered chokers and chains
  • Adding a cardigan or wrap to stay warm during the cooler, fall evening

  • Keeping a small clutch inside your daytime tote that can be used for evening essentials

  • Transforming your daytime heel to an on-trend, fashion sneaker

As the event neared the end, and as I was wrapping up my mental list of must-buys, Rachel and Kyra encouraged us to take some time to shop the store - offering to help us find any products from the event, as well as our own day-to-night must-buys.  As I left the store, overloaded with shopping bags, all I could think about was how much I enjoyed the event – as well as how much I could not wait for the next one.

Engagement Marketing

Engagement marketing is all about directly engaging with your customer and encouraging them to interact with your store, brands, products, and lifestyle.  Nordstrom is an expert at this.  Their event not only got me in the door, it provided me with a fun and unique experience that I would definitely come back for.  Their talented and dynamic staff gave me some great tips, that as a consumer I found value in, and encouraged me to shop around.  I left with an appreciation for the event, as well as a stronger connection to their brand.  Nordstrom earned my money, but more importantly my loyalty that day. 

As you can see, engagement marketing can be a powerful tool for B&M stores to differentiate themselves from the competition in the eyes of the customer.  It is also very flexible, which allows you the freedom to develop a strategy that fits within your business model, product, and budget. 

Be Our Guest

An in-store event is probably one of the most obvious ways to engage with your customers. With a little pre-planning and creativity, you can create an amazing interactive event for your customers and that will pay dividends for your business including,

  1. Customer Traffic - This can be half the battle in itself.  With a planned event you know they will show up ready to engage with you and your store, as well as spend money.
  2. Free Advertising - You are in a position to offer a premium personalized customer experience that leaves a lasting impression.  An experience they’ll check into on Facebook, or share with their friends. 
  3. ResearchThis presents a rare opportunity to learn more about your customers.  What do they like about your store?  What do they wish you had more of? Less of?  Use your event engage your customer, as well as start a dialogue. 
  4. Build Your BrandUse your store to host an event and build your brand.  Create an environment that will resonate with your customers but also creates that fun/sexy/smart/healthy/artistic, whatever your store's vibe is that your customers will relate too.

Live and Well

An in-store event is great but if it sounds like a little too much for you right now, consider hosting a “Live” event using social media. Facebook Live is a wonderful, inexpensive platform for brands to casually reach out to your customers from within your store environment.  

Birchbox frequently hosts Facebook Live events, and maximizes it for a variety of purposes.  Their team previews new beauty products as a sneak peek into what they can expect in the upcoming monthly beauty boxes.  Sometimes they’ll share some fun facts about the brand or product application, providing the viewer with a little insider information. Other times the focus may be on sharing beauty tips and how-to tutorials, providing value to the customer and building the credibility of their brand as experts.  The Birchbox team also utilizes the live chat feature to answer viewer questions in real-time, directly engaging with their customers.    

Birchbox Facebook Live video

#Campaign

Many retailers create a marketing campaign that encourages customers to engage directly through their custom hashtag. Hashtag campaigns encourage your customer to share their experiences with the hashtag you select.  The campaign may focus on your brand or a product in your store - it may be integrated with a lifestyle interest that your customers share, as well.  After much success with 2016’s #OptOutside campaign, REI came back in 2017 with the #ForceOfNature campaign.  The goal of #ForceOfNature is to “ensure that women are just as inspired and equipped as men to embrace life outside”. This hashtag doesn’t just achieve engagement, it also reaches out a customer that REI is actively pursuing – women – by serving as a tool for women’s empowerment.  Themes like this deeply resonate with your customer by creating a powerful association between positive self-image and your product. 

#OptOutside Campaign providing awesome awareness and brand advocacy for REI

Your custom hashtag campaign can strengthen the relationship with your customer, but more importantly it creates vested interest in your brand through participation – instilling brand loyalty.  You also gain brand awareness, or free advertising, with each participating customer.  Lastly, you are building a sense of community through the engagement of your customer network and developing the emotional connection of how your customer relates to your brand and store. 

These are just a few examples of engagement marketing and the power it can hold.  The key to engagement marketing is focusing on creating an open dialogue with your customer that stimulates engagement and provides them with an amazing experience. 

How To Make It Work For You

In keeping with last week’s example, let’s imagine that you are the owner of a boutique featuring athleisure apparel and accessories.  Here are a few examples of some engagement marketing opportunities that you could create to provide a unique experience for your customers. 

  • Host an in store “Om in kOMbucha” event, a relaxing yoga class led by a local yogi followed up with kombucha and time to shop your store and all your amazing products.
  • Host a Facebook live event sharing a sneak peek at new products in your store, sharing why you love them and all the new, cool technology they feature.  Don’t forget to watch their live questions and answer them as you go.
  • Create a hashtag marketing campaign #SweatySesh that encourages your customers to hashtag their sweatiest, but hard earned moments after their workouts. 

These ideas are simple ways to engage your customers and make it easy to get started with an engagement strategy.  If you keep your dialogue open with your customers and provide them with the greatest valued experience - you’ll soon find that they keep coming back for more.  

Insights

Lifestyle marketing and engagement marketing are both incredibly powerful tools that can be implemented simply and inexpensively.  With a little preplanning, both of these can go a long way to building and maintaining strong relationships with your customers.  However, creating a strategy that blends both lifestyle and engagement marketing is when the real magic happens.  You are then creating a relationship with your customer that focuses on their likes, interests, and opinions as you form your dialogue with them.  This customer-centric approach demonstrates thoughtfulness and appreciation for them as your own store or brand’s humanness. Leveraging an integrated lifestyle and engagement marketing strategy isn’t just an advantage for B&M but is a critical strategy to compete against today’s ecommerce giants.

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