Trend report: Why Personalized Retail Is the Future of Brick-and-Mortar Stores

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These days, consumers aren’t coming to brick-and-mortar stores for the prices or the selection – they can usually find better alternatives to both online. They’re coming for the experience. Libraries, museums and other public buildings are seeing this shift, too. These industries are feeling increased pressure to provide something that can’t be reproduced online, something that’s worthy of a trip. That something is personalization.

Today’s “personalized retail” trend is the practice of providing an in-store experience that is tailored to each visitor – and it might be all some brick-and-mortar stores have left. Personalizing the shopping experience for your customers can increase profit margins, strengthen customer loyalty and level the playing field with mobile and e-commerce.

Here’s why this trend will gain ground:

1. Today’s consumers are part of the “experience economy.”

As discussed in a recent blog, changes in culture have resulted in a shift in consumer expectations. For retail stores and other public places, they want an experience, rather than an explanation. Think of it this way. Consumers don’t NEED to make the trip to a retail store. They can find just about anything they need online. Retailers have to make them WANT to.

Speculation about this shift has been circulating for some time now. In fact, in 1998, two consultants coined the term “the experience economy” and suggested that businesses offer customers a memorable time, rather than a product or service. Like any trend, it took a few years before retailers were able to directly translate it to their store. That time has now come.

2. Brick-and-mortar retailers can’t afford bad experiences.

Although retail has always been a tough industry, the competition has gotten even tougher over the course of the last decade. Traditional retail business models are dissolving, traditional outbound methods are now outdated and with the rise of the internet came the rise in online shopping. Survival depends on a satisfying customer service. Not to mention, as if wasn’t already hard to compete with, customers expect the same level of service that they receive from the leading shopping site… and they’ll go elsewhere if they don’t get it.

3. Consumers expect personalization.

Consumers not only want, but expect a personalized experience. They expect retailers to know their preferences and interests. A recent Infosys survey reported that 78 percent of consumers are more likely to be a repeat customer if a retailer provides them with targeted, personalized offers. Failing to provide this personalization will have the opposite result: the CMO Council reported that more than half of U.S. and Canadian consumers consider ending their loyalties to retailers who do not give tailored, relevant offers.

And they’re willing to pay for it, too. According to a RightNow Customer Impact Report, 86 percent of consumers will pay up to 25 percent more for a better customer experience.

The bottom line is – whether it’s greeting customers as they enter your store, sending personalized emails, tailoring deals based on previous purchase behavior or a “recommended products” section – personalization promotes customer loyalty. And loyalty is just as valuable (if not more) as attracting new customers. The retail industry requires that store employees keep their existing customer base satisfied, or else their foundation will crumble.

4. There is a wealth of customer-related knowledge to be had.

Business analytics have made it so that consumers can expect retailers to know what they want without even telling them. Consumers now know that modern retailers have that capability. To meet their growing expectations, it’s up to you to take advantage of recent online and in-store transactions and other interactions. Consumers aren’t creeped out by your ability to collect this information – they encourage it so that you are able to offer them the things they are interested in.

And with more customer-related data becomes available every day, it would be silly to miss out on such an opportunity. Solutions like predictive analytics and people counting allow retailers to launch personalized marketing campaigns. Failing to see the value that this information could provide to your marketing efforts would be extremely short-sighted.

To learn more about transforming your store, check out 3 Steps to Designing a Successful Shopping Experience.

Enhancing the Experience: A Modern Library’s Guide to Makerspaces

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As a culture, our expectations for public places like libraries, museums and shopping malls are shifting from a destination to an experience. The increased importance on “the experience” is a trend has been going on for decades. In fact, in 1998, two consultants coined the term “the experience economy” and suggested that businesses offer customers a memorable time, rather than a product or service.

Recap: Last week we wrote about library design, explaining that a change in scenery could spark interest in today’s library visitor – one who expects more than just a classic novel in a quiet corner. As we discussed, they are doing so by creating spaces that cater to creativity. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is through an organized makerspace.

What is a makerspace?

A makerspace is a collaborative learning environment that allows library visitors to explore their interests, share materials and skills and create their own projects. So much can be done with these creative workshops. They can be used for educational purposes or simply to allow people to explore their artistic side.

Examples of makerspaces:

  • Matching games and math problems for younger children
  • Mother-daughter crafts, like creating a community quilt
  • Painting and drawing workshops
  • Halloween mask-making workshops

Why should I organize one?

Makerspaces serve a dual purpose. Not only allow libraries to attract more visitors, they also solidify their role as an educational asset to the community. With music and art programs constantly getting cut, these activities encourage education and creativity in a way that local schools might not. Also, parents might not have the resources to make crafts with their children on a regular basis or give them access to movies and new technologies.

What about the other visitors?

People might argue that these activities are disruptive to regular visitors who like things they way they are, but for libraries, times are tough and money is tight. Anything that will help them attract more visitors is a good thing. Otherwise, they risk reductions in budget, staff or hours.

If you are concerned about disturbing others, you could organize your makerspaces for a time that does not experience heavy traffic. When there are fewer people in the library, it will be easier for them to escape the sound. Determining your peak makerspace times is easy with the right resources.

Rather that reviewing transaction history, which only tells you how many people rented books, you can use a people counting system to run traffic reports that will tell you how many people entered and exited the building during a certain time period. Knowing how many people are in the building during certain hours will also help you determine how many staff members are needed and how well your makerspaces are working.

How much is it going to cost?
It’s no secret that libraries often struggle to operate on tight state budgets. The great thing about makerspaces is that these collaborative activities are as cost-effective as you need them to be. A great creative and collaborative experience is a product of your staff members, not your space. They can be as simple as a small table and chairs and some construction paper.

If your facility is able, it can also be part of a larger initiative that teaches the community how to use tablet technology, for example. Facilities with a more comfortable budget can devote an entire creative corner to their makerspaces and incorporate the latest technology, like a scavenger hunt using hidden QR codes or math games using Sifteo Cubes.

How do I get library visitors to participate?

Libraries across the nation have been implementing makerspaces to encourage creativity. History shows that people will collaborate naturally when the creative workshop centers on a fun topic. If participants are having trouble breaking the ice, you could encourage them to communicate by creating activities that involve collaboration or being close to one another. For example, participants are bound to communicate while working on a community mural – an activity that will keep them engaged and keep them coming back.

In the case of libraries, a community member no longer needs to visit the library in order to conduct research because they most likely have Google at home. So in response, modern libraries are working to make their visit a memorable one. They are creating stories instead of giving them.

How to Leverage Library Design to Encourage Creativity

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The main obstacles for today’s libraries are Amazon, Wikipedia and Google. Whether or not these are the best sources, people want a quick and easy solution to their queries. In a world where we are provided with instant and constant gratification, we don’t want to have to travel to the library and scan several shelves before finding the right resource. Visitors no longer need to come to the library to read or research, therefore these facilities must make visitors want to come. To do so, they must create spaces that leverage the latest technology and cater to creativity.

Take elements from other facilities

Having trouble thinking of ways to redesign or reconfigure current resources? To establish their facility as a community anchor, library staffs should take the most useful elements of schools and museums and then merge and implement them into their existing space. This means incorporating art galleries, exhibits and artifacts, a room for book readings and movie screenings, a research commons for college students and other interactive installments.

Start with simple changes

If your facility doesn’t have the budget for extensive renovations or a complete redesign, don’t worry. Few libraries do. A simple change of scenery will excite and inspire your visitors. Rearrange your shelves to create more space. Paint the walls with brighter colors to make it more inviting. A bright, open space may make all the difference in choosing between the library and the coffee shop for a study session. These changes are both cost-effective and are a great way to kick start a creative initiative.

Encourage creativity and enhance the experience

The possibilities are endless, ranging from cost-effective to highly expensive. For libraries that do not have the budget to leverage the latest technology like tablets, they can use their existing resources to provide a creative space for both children and adults. For example, when showing movies or doing book readings for children or adults, libraries can include displays in that designated area that have similar books and movies relating to the reading of the day or the movie of the day. This could encourage them to take what they’ve learned to the next level, giving them another reason to visit the library. They could also create an art gallery for crafts that children have made while at the library. This would give children a creative outlet that they might not have at school or at home.

For libraries that do have the funds to incorporate tablets, they can place them in strategic places throughout the facility. They mount tablets on shelf end caps, giving access to the card catalogue, book reviews, as well as give them the ability to check out a book and find other materials and information related to it. It is important for visitors to learn how to use these devices because they may become a part of our everyday lives – more so than the Dewey Decimal system. By implementing tablets, libraries can show that they are not falling victim to technology; they are embracing it and using it to enhance the visitor’s experience.

Use analytics to determine placement and timing

People counting systems can provide information about the amount of visitors who enter and exit each area in the facility. Staff members can install people counters above each room, seating area or wing of the library to gain information about foot traffic in each area. So with door counters, library staffs can learn how often each area is used and by how many people. This knowledge would allow them to place cafes, kiosks, exhibits and galleries at a place where they will be the most noticed and the most used. They can also base the operating hours of these elements on the peak traffic hours provided by the people counting system.

It’s no secret that the focus of libraries is shifting from the resources to the overall experience. Incorporating technology and an interactive design is a way to offer an experience that Amazon, Google and Wikipedia cannot provide.

5 Ways for Your Nonprofit to Use Visual Content on Social Media

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By now, most nonprofits know that social media smarts are a must for marketing. What some of them don’t know is how to use social media to its fullest potential: visual content.

It’s a fact that visual content drives engagement. According to Zabisco, 40 percent of people will respond better to visual information than plain text. Likewise, one month after the introduction of Facebook timeline for brands, visual content saw a 65 percent increase in engagement, according to Simply Measured.

Promote merchandise and fundraisers

Merchandise is a great tool for brand awareness. You can dedicate a Facebook photo album, Instagram hash tag or Pinterest board to your t-shirts, wristbands and buttons, all with your branding. This works especially well for brands that make use of clever sayings, like Keep a Breast’s “I Heart Boobies.”

A great way to exercise this strategy is to post pictures of sponsors and volunteers wearing your merchandise. Pinterest is probably the best outlet for promoting merchandise. The site drives sales directly from its website. Twenty-one percent of people with Pinterest accounts purchased an item after seeing it on Pinterest, according to PriceGrabber.

You can also apply this social media marketing strategy to your fundraisers. Instead of posting photos of your merchandise, you can post Facebook and Twitter updates about incentives to raise money – silent auctions, Chinese auctions, raffles, drawings, etc. You can establish yourself as a leader in creativity, inspiring other nonprofits to find new ways to fundraise.

Highlight sponsors

Social media can be used to thank your sponsors – a great way to show your appreciation of the support they have given your organization. It’s a win-win for you and your sponsors – they can share it to their social media network and their audience will become aware of your organization and cause.

Larger-scale nonprofit organizations can dedicate Facebook and Twitter updates, Pinterest boards and Instagram hash tags to celebrities and well-known people who have supported their organization by donating, volunteering or attending an events. Smaller-scale organizations who many not have well-known ambassadors can do the same thing but simply with members of the community that have an interesting story or background.

A great way to do this would be to post a video of them speaking about your organization or participating in one of your events. For example, the Gates Foundation shares videos on its Pinterest account, including talks by Bill and Melinda Gates. While photos are a great resource, videos can take your content to the next level. And according to SEOmoz, posts with videos attract three times more inbound links than plain text posts.

Highlight trips and events

Highlighting trips and events by posting on-location is a wonderful way to show your supporters the impact they are making. This social media marketing tactic is perfect for nonprofits who organize clean-ups, mission trips, learning workshops, food drives and so on.

Imagine videos of members of your organization helping build a school in Nicaragua, and pictures and stories about the people they have met along the way. People can see first-hand the work that you are doing. It tells a story way better than a news update on your website would.

Also, these are the kinds of videos that people love to watch and share. An especially emotional one could go viral and inspire others to contribute to your cause. You could even highlight videos from your travels and events on a dedicated Pinterest board. Trust me on this one. Viewers spend 100 percent more time on pages with videos on them, according to MarketingSherpa.

Spread awareness

When it comes to spreading awareness, if the internet gives nonprofits a voice then it can be said that social media gives them a megaphone. Sharing tips and statistics is a simple task on any social media outlet. Your organization can author a series of updates that provide information relating to your cause, such as “breast cancer warning signs” or “how to help a loved one cope with cancer.” This will not only be a powerful resource for your supporters, but for anyone who might be affected by your cause.

A new and innovative way to share simple information is with an infographic – an informational graphic that can be easily shared on any social media. They’re not only engaging, but traffic-driving. Publishers who use infographics grow an average of 12 percent more traffic according to AnsonAlex.

Visual content is not only being increasingly used in online marketing, but is also especially important for nonprofits organizations. With each cause and mission comes thousands of stories to tell. Social media gives supporters, fundraisers, donors and volunteers a place to see and share these stories with engaging visuals.