Indie Retailers and Social Media: Perfect Together?

Retail Trend Watchers Say Social Is Under-Utilized Despite Its Potential
July is Independent Retailer Month, a time to salute those merchants across the country who account for half of the annual total retail sales in the US. If our economy is to stay robust, independent retailers of all sizes need to thrive. For the smaller players in this sector of our industry, social media seems like the magic bullet. It’s pervasive, influential, and inexpensive. In addition, platforms like Facebook, offer pinpoint targeting, that matches messages to prospects.

So why aren’t more indies – especially the “Mom and Pops” – stepping up to social? Roughly one-quarter of independents have no social presence at all, and half of those who do have accounts use them inconsistently or post rarely. As regional leaders in commercial retail real estate, this is a trend we’re watching.

(Read more: https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/03/companies-that-do-not-use-social-media.html)

Why Social Media Matters to Small Businesses
As more consumers flock to social – 81 percent of the US population are on it – they expect to find local retailers there. And they expect those retailers to have websites, as well as social presence. Half the respondents to Time Warner Cable’s Small Business Technology Impact Study said they avoided businesses without websites, believing they are not credible. Thirty percent said they may not buy from a company without a social media presence, with females and millennials rejecting businesses without social at an even higher rate. Fifty percent of millennials stated they preferred businesses with active Facebook pages.

Ninety percent of the small retailers who do use social media are on Facebook. In fact, many substitute their Facebook pages for websites, a solution that, in spite of the platform’s popularity and influence, fails to impress potential customers for whom a web presence signals credibility. Bottom line? Small retailers need to think bigger and go with both a site and social for maximum success.

What’s Keeping Indie Retailers Off Social Media
With so much to gain (or lose) and so much competition, why are some indies ignoring or under-utilizing social? Respondents to the recent Clutch 2017 Small Business Social Media Survey say the primary barriers are the time social requires and doubts about ROI. And a recently released study from Infusionsoft says that half of the small businesses they surveyed had no idea what their ROI was and 14 percent believed their investment in social was not delivering a quantifiable payoff. Still, half said they plan to push forward with their online efforts.

From Special Offers to Personal Stories: Social Is Empowering the Indies
While some are missing out on the benefits of social media, many indie retailers are enjoying brand exposure and growth in traffic – both in-store and on the web. Their tactics include:

Storytelling: Millennials especially respond to the personal stories of entrepreneurs, told on social platforms like Facebook or on a website.

Special Offers: Those old reliable – coupons and special offers – are finding a new life on social.

Seasonal Events: In store-events, promoted on Facebook and sometimes livestreamed, are proving to have strong millennial appeal.

How To’s: Recipes, demonstrations, useful information of all kinds are social gold –

especially in video format on Facebook or YouTube.

Charity Tie-Ins: Socially conscious millennials tend to be responsive to social media-based tie-ins to local charities and community fundraisers.

Dialogue: Website visitors and social media followers alike expect responses to their comments and/or questions. Savvy retailers also monitor the major review platforms like Yelp for mentions of their business. Whether positive or negative, they leave a response.

Mobilization: Mobile technology is shaping the nature of shopping. Responsive design that makes websites mobile friendly is essential. And merchants who offer mobile payment options are cashing in with – you guessed it – the millennials.

Social media is no passing fad. Generation Z, the demographic wave behind the millennials, are true digital natives who live the online life. That includes not just online browsing but discovering and connecting with physical stores in their neighborhoods –

often the indies. And the place where this next generation is most likely to connect is in the palm of their hands – on their phone or tablet. Smart indies will make sure they’re there to meet them.

 

Fasten Your Seatbelts: Generation Z is Ready to Shop

Retail Trend Sees History’s Most Demanding Consumers on the Horizon There’s no rest for the retailer. Just when you thought you’d mastered Millennial marketing, along comes a new wave of consumers you’ve got to figure out. Dubbed Generation Z and 70 million strong, this rising demographic will represent 25 percent of the US population by 2020. It’s time to get ready for what retail trend watchers say will be the most demanding consumers of all time.

Raised Online and Digitally Addicted: Meet Generation Z
Gen Z members are still very young (13 to 18), so it may be difficult to draw too many solid conclusions about their eventual buying habits. But a number of factors are likely to define their future behavior. Consider the following about them:
-First generation born in the 21st century
-Grew up in challenging economic times
-Never knew a world without the Internet
-Citizens of an on-demand culture
-Tethered to technology since their earliest days

That said, a picture emerges of a consumer who expects instant access to everything and who relies on digital resources for discovering what they want and for getting it when they want it. Forty-percent of Gen Z claim they are “addicted” to their digital devices.

Where to Reach The Z’s: Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube
Characterized by their short-attention spans and love of novelty, it’s no surprise that Z’s prefer quick visual communication. Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube are their platforms of choice. In fact, 72 percent say they visit YouTube daily. Streaming movies and music is a way of life for the group – over half do so daily – obviously a result of their on-demand orientation. And gaming is a major focus with a high degree of interest in virtual reality.

Z’s Are Different from Millennials in Surprising Ways
While both these age cohorts are intense social media users, Millennials (age 19-34) are more influenced by it than Z’s. Over half of the older group (58 percent) credit social as a top purchasing driver. Only 53 percent of the younger demo names it as their major influencer.

Millennials, as we know by now, are active reviewers of brands and experiences, sharing their opinions across the social media spectrum. Z’s much less so. Millennials are 40 percent more likely than Z’s to get their viewpoints out. Will the younger group grow into word-of-mouth as they mature? That’s something worth watching.

Gen Z’s were shaped by the uncertain economic environment of the last decade. Despite this experience, they are much less likely to be bargain hunters than the Millennials. The older group is 29 percent more inclined to check and compare prices before and during shopping trips. The Z’s milder interest in pricing may be due to the fact that the majority are not yet living independently. Will they acquire the Millennials’ cost consciousness as they move out on their own? Another retail trend to watch.

Don’t Miss Out on Marketing to Generation Z
Z’s are still in their formative years, but here’s what Deborah Weinswig, managing director of Fung Global Retail & Technology foresees. “Exposure to near-infinite choice and near-endless information makes this generation more demanding than any of its predecessors. As Gen Z matures, it will become more discerning, but its demanding nature is unlikely to be diluted. We think brands and retailers will be the ones that need to change, because Gen Z is unlikely to compromise on its high expectations.” Read more about Gen Z’s consumer demand here.

Yes, today’s tweens and teens will soon be full-fledged consumers with new and unique habits and demands. Savvy retailers should be ready to accommodate them. Sharpen your visual messaging now. Get active on Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Stay up to the minute with mobile marketing. Be ready to deliver at warp speed. Develop incentives for the Z’s to follow you on their platforms of choice. A new breed of shopper is heading your way!

For more information on Generation Z:
https://iei.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/GenZConsumers.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deep-patel/6-trends-for-generation-z_b_11227446.html

Can Pokémon Go Keep Retail Sales Hot Through the Holidays?

Retail Trend Watchers Are Eyeing the Staying Power of Pikachu and Friends
This was the Summer of Pokémon. Within days of its debut last July, Pokémon GO, the augmented reality game was breaking records and setting new ones. In just five days, it became the most popular game in mobile history, with its free downloads eventually reaching 500 million. While the action was concentrated among Millennials (who grew up with Pokémon), teen users were spending more time hunting Pokémon characters than posting on Twitter and Instagram combined. Females, traditionally a smaller segment of gamers, stepped up to Pokémon GO, becoming 40 percent of the user population. Since the game forced players off the couch and into the outside world, there were unintended consequences. Some, engrossed in the hunt, were robbed. A number were arrested for trespassing. Many got traffic tickets, and a few even fell off cliffs.

Pokémon GO Fans Have a Hearty Appetite for Branded Merchandise
When fans weren’t catching and training the elusive pocket monsters, they were shopping for merchandise that reflected their passion. Online sales of Pokémon merchandise were nothing short of spectacular. According to the Adobe Digital Price Index, sales of Pokémon-branded items rose 105 percent in July, compared to the previous year, with the hottest items being video games, toys and t-shirts. But what’s next? Can the frenzy continue into the holiday season? Will bricks-and-mortar stores reap the same success as online purveyors of Pokémon merchandise? Retailers have their fingers crossed and retail trend watchers are optimistic.

The Summer’s Frenzy is Cooling, but the Holiday Season Still Looks Strong
Pokémon GO was too hot not to cool down, but even as usage ebbs, the franchise itself remains a powerhouse. Gina Collins, CMO at Build-A-Bear, one of the stores licensed to sell Pokémon merchandise, is bullish on the coming season. “Sales have continued to gain momentum,” she reported. The chain’s inventory of 20th Anniversary Pokémon Pikachu plush dolls has sold out and there are wait lists for the next shipment.

Anthony Morales, assistant manager at Build-A-Bear in Fairfax, VA, reported that more and more customers are hunting Pokémon-themed items. “It feels like the 90’s all over again. We just had a group of kids that got a lot of Pikachu dolls and they were playing and talking in little Pikachu voices,” he told Ad Age.

Pokémon Items are Headed for the Kids’ 2016 Holiday Wish List
Pokémon fans can choose from an abundance of branded merchandise in the coming season: plush toys, clothing, accessories, and action figures, along with the Pokémon card game. Late November will see the launch of two new video games, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, likely to be best-sellers in that category this holiday.

Toy Insider predicts that “the Pokémon GO craze will command a lot of space on kids’ wish lists.” Their own Hot 20 List for 2016 includes two Pokémon-themed products. At the number nine position is Pokémon My Friend Pikachu (from Tomy) a plush toy that speaks, lights up and wiggles its ears. At position 20 are the soon-to-be-released Nintendo video games Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon.

If predictors of retail trends are right, 2016 holiday sales are in for a big boost, thanks to Nintendo’s crew of irresistible pocket monsters.

Levin Mid-Year Survey Yields Strongest YTD Sales Report in Poll’s History

Influential Retail Real Estate Trends Include Technology and E-Commerce
The results of our mid-year Retail Sentiment Survey are in and the news is good, with our tenants reporting strong year-to-date performance. They’re optimistic about the months ahead and are continuing to leverage technology to stay competitive in the e-commerce-influenced retail landscape.

Retail Real Estate Tenants Cite Numerous Causes for Optimism
Our latest poll of store managers in our 95-property, 13 million-square-foot shopping center portfolio yielded the strongest percentage (65.8 percent) of participants in the survey’s five-year history reporting mid-year sales at the same or a higher volume year over year. This represents a jump from 51.9 percent reporting same-or-higher sales at mid-year 2015 and 42.9 percent at mid-year 2014. Similarly, 61.3 percent of participants reported the same or a higher volume of shopper traffic to date in 2016 compared to 2015.

“Retail is experiencing solid momentum following the stock market volatility and bankruptcy announcements that kicked off the year,” said our president Matthew K. Harding. “The latest retail sales data from the U.S. Commerce Department, which shows a 2.4 percent year-over-year increase for March to May, reinforces what our tenants are saying. At this year’s International Council of Shopping Centers’ well-attended RECon in Las Vegas, expansion was an overarching theme among national retailers – another confirmation of a positive trajectory.”

So, it’s no surprise that a full 67.0 percent of our survey participants expect sales to continue at the same pace or improve through the remainder of 2016.

The Digital Revolution is Here to Stay
Like most savvy retailers, tenants at our leased and managed properties are employing digital technology – such as online ads, mobile apps, social media, email and texting – to attract customers to their stores. And our survey found that technology’s importance is growing. Of respondents active in tech-centered marketing, 42.4 percent have upped its usage year over year; while 52.7 percent said their usage levels had remained at the same level.

Retail Real Estate Trends: Digital is Reaching Customers Everywhere
When it comes to engaging customers in-store, mobile device apps (such as those for coupons, discounts, loyalty points and/or rapid payment) are the most popular tools – employed by 69.9 percent of respondents active in tech-centered marketing. Levin tenants appear to be on the right track; a recent ICSC customer engagement survey found that two thirds of consumers in the U.S. use their mobile devices while shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores. Other popular tools among survey participants include free in-store Wi-Fi (49.3 percent), post-sale online surveys (41.9 percent) and electronic receipts (28.7 percent).

Levin tenants are going with tech to reach customers outside their stores. “For the second year, social media and email ranked as most popular among survey respondents active in tech-centered marketing, used by 79.4 and 78.1 percent, respectively,” said Melissa Sievwright, vice president of marketing. “The power of these tools is clear, and social should be on everyone’s radar. In fact, a Deloitte study found that ‘shoppers are 29 percent more likely to make a purchase the same day when they use social media to help shop.’ ”

Facebook Leads the Social Media Marketing Pack
Among Levin survey participants with social media in their marketing mix, Facebook dominates, with 91.3 percent of respondents using it. Other popular platforms include Twitter (36.9 percent), Instagram (34.2 percent) and Google+ (32.2 percent).

Business Models are Evolving as Tech Expands
As bricks-and-mortar stores seek success online, many retailers are finding new ways to serve and engage customers. Our retail real estate tenants are no exception. In our mid-year 2016 poll, 38.2 percent of participants indicated they have adapted their business model in response to e-commerce growth.

Those respondents are adding in-store services and incentives (62.7 percent), offering in-store pickup and returns options for online purchases (57.6 percent); and/or increasing collaboration with their online counterparts (44.1 percent). Some are altering store inventory (35.6 percent); introducing “experience” draws (30.5 percent); and/or changing their store prototypes (13.6 percent).

“We expect the experiential retail trend, especially, to gain momentum,” Sievwright said. “The re-invention of this industry is well underway, driven both by tech advances and new shopper preferences. Millennials and Baby Boomers alike are opting to invest in experiences over things. Smart companies are melding lifestyle with shopping and giving consumers a reason to step into the store.”