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How to Use Social Media to Boost In-Store Sales

Consumers are researching online before buying in-store, which means brick-and-mortar retailers need to be making the most of their online experience. Here are four strategies.
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So much for the internet killing off in-store purchasing. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are driving even more in-store purchases than online sales. According to surveys by research firm Vision Critical, 41 percent of consumers research products online before purchasing them in stores, while only 26 percent of customers browse in stores and then buy online.

1. In-store pinning can drive sales.
We’re used to hearing how Pinterest is driving e-commerce, but what is equally interesting is that Pinterest popularity can be used to drive sales in physical stores as well. GigaOM recently reported that department store Nordstrom has been tagging items that have been re-pinned on Pinterest with the site’s logos, in order to demonstrate their appeal among users. Clearly, Pinterest sharing is seen as a marker of good taste by Nordstrom, who will be hoping to appeal to their social media-savvy customers’ sense of fashion trends.

Photo courtesy of Nordstrom.

2. QR codes can enhance the in-store experience.
Many brands have not quitefigured out QR code technology, but it offers a slick way to link to expanded product information, your Facebook page, or even a media experience, such as an audio track for a record or a film trailer for a DVD.

For example, buying a new bike can be an expensive business, so you want to have the necessary information in front of you before you purchase. Evans Cycles feature QR codes on all of their product information tags that link through to a mobile optimized site with all the information you might need to know about the bike, plus a section to read and write product reviews, making for a wholly interactive service. As 72 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, encouraging an online conversation really can lead to more sales.

Photo courtesy of

Diesel Jeans recently showed the potential of QR codes to cross over into an online presence and promote customer advocacy with a campaign to link their real-world stores to their Facebook page. Customers could scan in-store QR codes to Like a certain product on Facebook, highlighting their retail habits to their friends and building a relationship between fans, products and brand discussion both on and offline.

Photo courtesy of

3. Convert customers into Facebook fans.
Target has been trying to turn the tide of customers looking online to find a cheaper alternative by offering discounts to their Facebook fans. The catch is that they are only available in store. Customers can get online deal prices by bringing a barcode into a store on their phone or printed out on paper to redeem when they checkout. Shoppers can see what offers their Facebook friends have chosen and earn more offers by asking their Facebook friends to sign up too. The scheme is called Cartwheel, an app that keeps your discounts neatly organized and is far neater than clipping coupons. It also helps build Target’s Facebook fanbase and potentially reach more customers with targeted marketing information.

Photo courtesy of

4. Use smartphones to self-checkout.
These examples all demonstrate the importance of the rise of smartphone ownership for connecting our online and offline worlds. The Pew Internet 2013 Smartphone Ownership Report states that 56 percent of all American adults are now smartphone adopters. Some stores, far from trying to block in-store smartphone use, fearing it will lead customers to internet purchases, have instead embraced the technology. Department store John Lewis, for example, has offered customers free in-store Wi-Fi access since the end of 2011 and has seen its online sales increase by 44 percent as it has integrated its in-store and online presence.

There has been a general movement towards assimilating smartphone use into the everyday physical retail experience, such as Wal-Mart 's Scan & Go self-checkout pilot program, which allows smartphone users to scan barcodes as they shop and pay for the items at a self-checkout station once they’re done. The original pilot has been successful enough to expand into 130 more stores and from an iPhone-only feature to Android too. This sort of technology opens up the potential for the online experience in physical stores.

Photo courtesy of Wal-mart

The important thing is the smart integration between the online and offline world. Your marketing strategy should incorporate your social media strategy as a way to enhance your more traditional techniques, including the physical retail experience, and to build an engaged online fanbase that translates into real-world sales.