socially stephanie retail advice

Dear Socially Stephanie,

I own a boutique clothing store in New Orleans.  I have a great customer base that's very loyal, but since the economic crisis, I have had trouble getting new customers in the store. Are there any ways to entice people to come through the door using online offers and incentives? Should I try a daily deal site?

We're also starting to build an online store, and I'd appreciate any tips you have in that area as well!

Nervous in Nola

 social media advice column

Dear Nervous in Nola, 

You may, quite possibly, have one of the best jobs ever. Ever! I bet you're impeccably dressed and rocking all sorts of fashion-forward trends throughout Louisiana, right?  Now let's make sure your online profile's just as up to date.

When it comes to retail, it's critical to have a strong social media presence.  In fact, your consumers expect—*ahem*—DEMAND that you operate online and offline, giving them a wider range of purchasing options. So first let's talk about getting your ducks in a row. 

Sounds like your offline store has been successful due in large part to word of mouth marketing. Your customers tell their friends, who then come in, after which they tell their friends, and so on and so forth. See, it's like a continuous circle. 

Well, guess what! The same will be true for your online store. The only difference is that word of mouth marketing takes place via the internet. I guess we could call it "word of finger marketing," because the keys and buttons your customers press on their smart phones, tablets and computers will be the way they communicate news about your store to their friends. The first thing you want to do is make very sure your social buttons are in place on your site before you go live. You want to make it as simple as possible to share from your website. Allow your visitors to share your products via Twitter, Facebook, (a fashion sharing site), and Pinterest.

Polyvore Retail Shopping

Keep in mind that Pinterest is going to be a very strong, very electric driving force for you. Not only your presence, but your fans' engagement there as well. In fashion and retail, 18 percent of content engagement on Pinterest is driven by brands, 82 percent by community.

"Word of finger" marketing at its best? Oh, yeah. For sure.

Now that you have good grasp on your site, let's talk about the offline world. The beauty of using social media is that it bridges the gap between your online and offline worlds. But there's a few things you should know beforehand about what you shouldn't do. Let me be the one to provide a little insight.

Don't. Use. Groupon.

What? It's true! Groupon, which started out strong, has slumped miserably. There've been a few major issues with the Groupon sales model for small businesses, one of which being the devaluing of your brand. Another issue is that Groupon users don't become repeat customers, which is definitely the last thing you want in terms of scalability.

Despite what you may have heard, this "no risk" advertising deal Groupon offers actually comes with a lot of risk.  So, feel free to shout the BIG N.O. to them and let's focus on more scalable options.

Since word of mouth ("word of finger"—we'll put the phrase in motion!) marketing is so powerful, let's try to leverage that in the online world. 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know.  That number speaks for itself.  One easy way encourage word of finger marketing is to offer a special gift or discount for customers who write a Yelp review of your store and products. You could even offer a discount on their next purchase if they sign-in to Foursquare or Instagram from your location and post a photo.  Don't be shy when it comes to asking your customers to do something for you.  By requiring your customers to put in a little effort to get the deal, your online presence will increase, not to mention your online perception. It's a really stellar win-win.

So, good luck. And hey—if you'd like, I'll take some clothes. No problem! :) You can count on my reviews in return. 


Do you have a question for Socially Stephanie?

Please email and let Stephanie help you solve your social quandaries, queries, and boondoggles. (Questions may be edited for length and clarity.)

Illustration by Jesse Wells