As a former retailer, my heart goes out to those suffering from the rampant practice of showrooming. The phrase “the customer is always right” (coined by Marshall Field) used to give me a major case of agida. My favorite “customer is often wrong” or a pain in the buns example is the shopper who would spend an hour walking through the aisles of our bookstore and invariably ask for something he knew was not in the store. “Can you order it?” was the next question. And every retailer who knows the principles of “cost of goods” can tell you the margin on a single item rarely covers the cost of its shipping.
Although it’s been 24 years since we closed our last store, my blood pressure rises at the thought of a customer using a mobile device to compare the price of an in-stock book on how to play the guitar against the price of the same product on the virtual shelves of Amazon. Short of blocking Wi-Fi and cell service in your store for confiscating smartphones and tablets at the door, retailers will need to contend with this trend of look here, buy there. For those businesses with adequate capital budgets, solutions such as Nearbuy Systems allow you to turn your Wi-Fi network into a proprietary content delivery mechanism which offers customers a personalized in-store shopping experience (like Barnes and Noble offers for customers who bring their Nooks to the store) via their mobile devices. Even better is the ability to track a customer’s in-store behavior such as how long he spent in a particular aisle.
But what about for those retailers less IT-savvied or those who want to extend their brand in a more up-close and personal way? For those folks, I suggest content marketing in its most basic form–the human as information source form. Also, I suggest you try two inexpensive content marketing tactics which are easy to deploy and relatively inexpensive. The most basic one is people—hire people who are passionate about your product. As I roam the aisles of Central Market in Texas, I am likely to bump into an employee whose name badge includes the word “Foodie.” Where’s the arugula hiding? The Foodie knows. What are the best tasting apples? The Foodie knows and pulls out a pocket knife to cut a sample. If that specialty apple is 20 cents a pound more than the local Safeway, am I likely to leave and buy it elsewhere? Doubtful. Am I likely to open Foursquare and comment about the personal service from the supermarket Foodie?- Very likely.
And then there’s Powell’s Books in Portland. Aside from being nirvana for book lovers, as you wander its overstuffed shelves, you will find three-by-five cards with staff picks along with a two sentence synopsis as well as “if you like John Grisham, you will like…” I guess you could call that human collaborative filtering. Am I likely to take out my device and order that personally recommended book? Maybe, but if the recommendation is compelling enough, I want to pluck that book off the self and read it right away. Instant gratification is showrooming’s biggest enemy. Last time I was in Powell’s, I recall going slightly overboard with my social praise.
Content marketing scales in a big way, and our research will go into detail on this hot trend for digital marketers. But anything that scales to infinite enormity has its roots in simple tactics. There are plenty of content marketing tactics that connect brands with consumers by offering insight and information. Perhaps it’s time to unlock your imagination.