June 19, 2012
By Kevin Tate
R.H. Macy is credited with having developed the first shop window displays in his New York store in the 1870s. Since then, window displays have played a vital role for retailers and merchandisers.
By carefully selecting and arranging their latest products, retailers make a statement about their brand that draws passers-by into the store and drives new merchandise sales.
The growth of social media networks has brought changes to customer behavior, affinity and influence, leaving luxury brands to unearth new strategies for creating highly effective social retail experiences. The good news is that this challenge also provides many opportunities.
The ultimate window display – on any street in the world
The reshaping of the Web around social and mobile experiences has sparked the evolution of a new type of shop window display: The Social Product Showcase.
As with R. H. Macy’s original displays, the goals are to grab people’s attention as they ‘walk by,’ create an engaging experience around new products and generate sales.
Yet, unlike offline window displays, social product showcases are interactive and shareable. And brands can ‘place’ them next to any audience or event on the planet.
While the design and focus of a social product showcase can and should vary widely according to the brand and products, there are a number of best practices that lead to higher engagement and sales for today’s social customers. Here are some:
1. Put showcases where the people are: in social channels
The most important opportunity of social product showcases is that ‘passers-by’ can be literally anyone, anywhere in the world.
The key, of course, is to avoid placing social product showcases in the online equivalent of a back-alley street, which can easily happen if retailers promote products only on their Web site or online catalog.
Maximizing the visibility of a showcase requires careful placement in the social channels strategic to your audience. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr are all examples of places where ‘window-shopping’ happens today on a massive scale.
It is also important to note that the best social strategies mix paid media (social ads) and earned media (posting to fans and followers).
Brands that leverage this mix effectively can achieve far more reach and engagement in one afternoon than their flagship store window could in an entire season.
2. Design for small ‘windows’: Tablets and phones
Too often, retail experience designers start with a desktop experience for their showcase and then try to squeeze it into a phone display at the last minute.
If the goal is to have customers discover the showcase within their social network – for example, Facebook or Pinterest – or at a physical venue such as a concert or sporting event, research tells us the odds are high it will be on a mobile device.
Think small to start. The new iPad’s tablet canvas – a 1024x768 touch-focused display – offers a good starting point for responsive social product showcase designs that can flex up or down according to screen size.
3. Design a great display. Let customers participate
The quick rise of sites such as Pinterest and Polyvore has shown the incredible power of customers as collectors, curators and merchandisers of products – especially for luxury brands.
When designing a social product showcase, make it easy for customers to share and remix the collection. It should be easy to post, pin, share and “like” products and to leverage key product assets such as images, descriptions and links across social media.
Social customers will help spread the word for brands they enjoy, but only if it is easy.
4. Do not forget the “Buy” button
That may sound obvious, but brands sometimes let integration challenges with legacy ecommerce systems get in the way of a transaction.
Imagine a customer inquiring about that amazing dress in the window, just to find it is only available at the flagship store.
Not every customer who stops at the window will “buy”, but some will, especially if the brand has built anticipation or exclusivity around their showcase. Make sure there is a way for people to buy and share directly from the showcase experience.
Treat it like a real window display. Promote, listen and learn
Just as with bricks-and-mortar window displays, social product showcases are an opportunity for brands to put forward their most exciting products.
Today’s most innovative brands create social product showcases targeted at specific audiences. And they change weekly, sometimes daily, according to customer feedback and participation.
The window is open. It is up to brands how they fill it.