For years now, we have been hearing about how ecommerce is killing the high street, as consumers flock online instead of stepping foot in brick and mortar stores. This theme has been further perpetuated by the rise in popularity of events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday where online retail giants such as Amazon dominate headlines.
Now obviously there is no doubting that online sales are having a significant impact on shops across the UK (and beyond). You only have to walk down once thriving high streets outside of any major city centre to see the devastating consequences of consumers spending their pounds online rather than in-store.
That being said, innovation within digital marketing could prove to be the saviour of high street shopping. Not only can it be used to encourage more customers to set foot in store, but the troves of data now available to businesses through platforms like Facebook and Google mean they can get much smarter about how they run their brick and mortar stores.
So what can offline business do?
For those who don’t know, Google Places allows businesses to provide their customers with information about their physical shops within Google’s search results. Within the listing it is possible to provide information such as location, opening times, reviews and photographs. Features like this are becoming increasingly vital, especially with the wide ranging role out of 4G spiking a rise in mobile browsing on the go.
Even more interesting however is the latest feature rolled out by Google which provides information about peak times for footfall within a store. The example below is for a local Manchester Starbucks and shows live data as to how busy a store is, and predictive data as to how busy it is likely to be at various times throughout the week using information garnered from live tracking users mobile devices.
This update ensures that not only do customers know the best time to visit a shop or restaurant, but that stores are able to use the data provided by Google in order to properly plan staffing levels for the week ahead, ensuring customers aren’t left in long queues waiting to be served when a shift manager has failed to rota enough staff.
For anyone who has been living under a rock this week, you may not have noticed Amazon’s HUGE Amazon Go announcement. In essence, the “high street killer” is putting feet back in brick and mortar stores by taking the online shopping experience and taking it offline. Have a quick watch of the explainer video below for a proper overview.
Amazon Go is set to open its first store in Seattle early next year where shoppers simply scan their phones when they enter, pick up the various items they want and walk out of the store. There are no queues, no checkouts, Amazon simply keeps track of the products you pick up and automatically charges your account when you leave the shop, thereby helping to reduce the friction often associated with shopping.
Imagine how much less hassle your last minute Sunday dash will be when you no longer have to queue up at the checkouts surrounded by screaming kids and angry parents. Although it is initially only a limited roll out, hopefully what Amazon Go will do is give the retail giants the kick up the arse they needed to up their game and make the shopping experience much simpler for all of those involved.
Similar to Google Places, but with an even bigger trove of user data, Facebook Local is a great way for businesses to better understand their customers who are stepping foot in shops. Not only does Facebook Local provide you with data about the busiest times and days at your specified location, but also offers up insight into data such as age, gender and home location.
Taking a look at the Run2 Facebook page, it appears that we are overrun with 25-34 year old, local men between 8-9 AM on Tuesdays. Whilst this data in itself is useful for businesses when determining opening times, staffing levels and in store offers, it becomes even more powerful when you start looking at combining it with Facebook’s powerful advertising features.
Imagine you run a local restaurant and you know that your quietest day based on bookings is a Tuesday. One look at Facebook Local may show that in fact it is one of the busiest days in terms of footfall in the local area. At this point you could run a promotion across Facebook offering a discount for diners that evening. You can push the promotion to anyone currently within a one kilometre radius of your restaurant in the hours before dinner service is due to commence.
If you wanted to get really clever about it, you could even target those who have an above level of spend on eating and drinking out, or maybe office managers in the local area who might be able to get a group together for a larger table. Frankly, the possibilities are pretty endless on how you can use clever Facebook advertising to use digital marketing strategies to drive customers to your brick and mortar locations.
There is a great deal of scepticism that still surrounds Snapchat, however those businesses embracing Snapchat are seeing some incredible reach and engagement. The platforms on demand geofilter option represents the best paid opportunity for businesses with physical locations to market via.
Essentially it allows users to add your filter to their photos before they share them with their friends, and frankly what better endorsement is there for a business than someone choosing to add their artwork to their personal photo. Although there are certain restrictions on what can be included in a geofilter, it is still possible to promote yourself in a subtle and unobtrusive manner.
With a geofilter, you simply select a location and date range for it to run, and once approved, users of the platform will be able to add your filter to their snaps whenever they are within the set perimeters you select. This is ideal when there is an event on as you can expect plenty of visitors will be using Snapchat to share their experiences.
Equally, many businesses are using geofilters on an everyday basis, for example cinemas might upload a filter with the latest blockbuster release being the focus, or shops might use it to promote their latest lines. By putting this kind of content in front of users when they are in the middle of an experience, it is a great way of encouraging them to share your content, which may result in it attracting their friends out to your store in order to share the moment.
There are obviously hundreds if not thousands of other ways in which to utilise digital marketing to help boost high street sales, but this should give you plenty to get going with for the time being at least.