By Frank Beard
You should assume that every customer carries a smartphone and has the potential to share, tweet and amplify your brand across their networks. Eighty-eight percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 now use social media, along with 78% of those ages 30 to 49. According to Sprout Social, 48.6% of millennials and 48.8% of Gen Xers follow brands on a social network.
Shareability can help build loyalty in a way that price alone cannot. Kantar Retail found that although 49% of consumers tend to always go to a specific store they like, the number rises among customers of certain best-of-class brands—such as Wawa (72%), QuikTrip (60%) and Sheetz (58%). One reason is that their customer experience extends beyond their stores. These retailers encourage customers to share photos and other content, and they engage by replying and reposting.
Bruce Horovitz writes about shareability in the August 2018 issue of NACS Magazine. According to marketing guru Bonin Bough, who will speak in the opening General Session at this year’s NACS Show, virtually everything you do in your store needs to be focused around the question of how it will look in an Instagram post. This includes the merchandise and where you place it, and even the store itself.
But some retailers struggle with this, and it’s easy to see why. Twenty years ago, only 36% of Americans went online. If you assume yesterday’s playbook still works today, you might not think about shareability. Toys R Us sure didn’t. When I visited the closing of my local store, I found a big dirty box with interchangeable products and the same countertops upon which I once placed Nintendo 64 games as a teenager. Nobody wants to share that online. But among other issues, I suspect they suffered from a serious case of situational bias.
I attended a recent talk in which PayPal’s CEO, Daniel Schulman, described situational bias. Many companies do not anticipate or react to the trends around them. Instead, they steer “by the wake of the boat, sort of looking behind and continuing what [they’ve] been doing ever more efficiently; but instead of imagining what could be, [they] extrapolate what was.”
He’s right. When was the last time you rented a movie from Blockbuster, photographed moments using a Kodak camera or searched for websites using AltaVista?
At Farm 2 Counter Express—a health-focused convenience store in Springfield, Missouri—shareability is always top-of-mind for owner Paul Allen. “We installed a selfie mirror in the bathroom and painted murals on our back wall for photo ops,” he said. “You can get a pic of yourself tilling the garden, or even have a rooster on your shoulder. Everyone loves taking photos these days and posting on social media. It goes so far when customers tag themselves at your establishment.”
Consumer packaged goods brands should take note as well. From a consumer engagement standpoint, it’s not enough to drop a basic, branded display into a store and pat yourself on the back. That doesn’t engage anyone. In some situations, it can even clash with store décor.
Consider a creative approach that Cards Against Humanity implemented at Target. It created a hidden compartment in its displays, filled it with packs of limited-edition cards, and the message began spreading throughout social media. I think of it every time I see one of their displays.
Shareablity is part of the modern consumer experience. When something resonates, we want to share it with the people we care about—and if we’re being honest, maybe even a few of the ones we want to impress. Retailers would do well to get creative and keep this in mind.
Frank Beard is a regular NACS Daily contributor who has traveled to more than 1,000 convenience stores in 24 states. He raised awareness of the industry's healthful food options with his “30 Days of Gas Station Food” experiment, and he's an analyst/evangelist for convenience store and retail trends at GasBuddy. Follow Frank on Twitter here.