How Social Media Changes Retail Storefronts

This is a guest blog post by Matthew Cool.

There is a trend among small business marketing in stores.

My background is important

I live in the traditional North End neighborhood of Boston.

In the past when I walked into a restaurant, bar, or grocery store, there were certain things the merchant wanted me to see — or, more specifically, what their vendors wanted me to see. For years I’ve been exposed to branded product door decals telling me to “Push” or “Pull” an alcohol-branded sign at the checkout counter, or a poster in the window promoting a special.

I worked for a beer and wine distributor in my first job out of college. I was taught that the area closest to door handles was more valuable then retail space on 5th Avenue. I fought with competing distributors over the signage in the front window and the decals on the door. I spoke to restaurant owners when competing Budweiser decals faded.

Your experience is changing

I see merchants show off what social networks they are on and what mobile technologies you can use inside the store. Small businesses have increased their social media and digital presence online and are now taking it to the brick and motar level in some very traditional ways.

Small business owners are not telling customers about the featured beer or the cost of eggs. They are sharing customer reviews, social networking sites to find them online, and smartphone applications to improve the user experience.

This is an old business door.

The old business door consisted of products they carried (right), store sales (bottom left), or multiple brands fighting a turf war for space (top left).

As I write this blog post, I’m at a local coffee shop and the social signage is noticeable. In the front window next to the door there are four social decals — Google Favorite Places, CitySearch, Foursquare, and LevelUp. The only other product that is advertised is for Boar’s Head meat.

Digital Media 4 – Tangible Products 1

LevelUp, the new mobile payment technology that allows you to pay for your stuff without cash or a credit card, is using print marketing to let consumers know the merchant accepts mobile payments.

Small businesses are putting up signage in their store windows as well as inside at the register.

Why is this effective? I started going to My Cousins Place because they accept LevelUp (and have great sandwiches).

Before that sign, I walked by dozens of times without entering. Now, it’s my go to spot. I feel way cooler every time I use LevelUp, so the experience appeals to me — and I save money when I make purchases. Some old school North End shops might have a better Prosciutto and Mozzarella sandwich, but they use antiquated credit card systems or only accept cash.

This is a new business door.

The new business door boasts TripAdvisor reviews (bottom middle). My gym has Twitter and Facebook decals on the front door (bottom right). At my coffee shop, they have Google QR code decals so you can join the Favorite Places on Google discussion (top). And, LevelUp signs notify people that they buy goods with a phone if the wallet was left at home (bottom left).

Businesses are evolving

Gennaro’s Five North Square is a great restaurant with an impeccable wine list; very old school. Eat here and receive a superb Italian dining experience. To my surprise, I saw TripAdvisor signage positioned in the front window boasting a “Very Good” rating (4/5 circles). Having met the owner in the past, I bet that he would not have warmed up to social reviews.

As old school as Mr. Riccio is, Gennaro’s wants to show their customers they are aware of what customers think and are proud of it.

My neighborhood gym, Beacon Hill Athletic Clubs, asks you to “Like” and “Follow” them with strategically-placed Facebook and Twitter decals with QR codes, rather then some piece of Muscle Milk marketing.

I would never stop and scan a QR code to “like” a Facebook page nor would I make a decision on what gym to join based on a tweet, but this shows me that the BHAC wants it’s members to know they’re ultra-modern by being more social, which helps their brand.

What this evolution means

I think it’s more hip and progressive for a small business to tell me about the social networks they are on or to promote their excellent Yelp review, then tell me they sell Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, or Miller Lite.

I’m thankful that I am no longer in the beer industry. How would I break the news to my sales manager that I lost valuable window space to Biz Stone, Mark Zuckerberg, or Jeremy Stoppelman?

Please continue reading How Social Media Changes Retail Storefronts and leave a comment if inspired.

When he’s not blogging, Ari helps brands improve their digital media marketing. Got a question? Need help? Contact Ari today!


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