19 May 2024, 09:47
By Tom Bourne Jan 24, 2019

Why offline is no longer an option

Last time round [see this article] I made clear my apathy for bloggers – at least, the less reputable ones – and declared that the long-term considered purchases upon which our day-to-day business is built derives little benefit from the instantaneous gratification they deliver. 

However, that’s not to say that I dislike social media and digital communication as a means of contacting the consumer. Far from it – it’s a really important channel that deserves exploration, even for retailers firmly committed to the bricks-and-mortar sales model. 

In an ideal world, all retailers would have a website that presents their business beautifully, and that also gives customers a chance to browse collections (even if online purchases are a step too far). But, as we know, the world is far from ideal – so what’s the bare minimum a retailer can get away with?

The luddites among us will argue that a website or digital presence isn’t necessary at all, and that their business has been perfectly fine without one, thank you very much. 

They and their customers are a dying breed. Research proves that – even if they visit a store to make their purchase – a large majority of consumers now start their purchasing journey online, and this number will only grow. 

Yet those luddites’ philosophy might be better in the short term compared with some of the dross I’ve seen pretending to be a website (these should be burnt in the flames of virtual hell). In this day and age, there’s no excuse for a crap website. 

Even if you don’t have a friendly local website company, there are some really great drag-and-drop builders – check out Wix and Squarespace, for example – which make to getting yourself up and running a relatively simple process. They are loaded with some good templates that allow you to build an attractive website with little fuss and no knowledge of coding. 

You can create as many or as few pages as you like – but if you’re intending to use your shiny new site purely as a window to your store and you want to maintain it as little as possible, then the fewer pages the better, certainly if your ultimate aim is to direct local people to your high street shop. 

If the thought of changing your website (please don’t tell me you’re only just getting round to launching your first version!) fills you with binary code dread and brings you out in CSS sweats, then there is a different approach you can take – take it down and get a Facebook page. 

Yep, Facebook has its issues – namely with people’s data and dodgy news feeds – but it is certainly a very useful tool, with a massive spread of users across all age groups. There are cooler and younger platforms – consider Instagram (that’s why Facebook bought it) and Snapchat – but the audience these offer a local retailer is too refined. Facebook is a bigger beast, and a worthy entry point into having a digital presence for this very reason. 

The company is also determined to become an internet of things in its own right, meaning it is putting together a really powerful set of tools that you can use to your advantage to engage with your local community. 

If you advertise, even with a relatively small budget you can start to build a local audience for your page far easier than you could ever do with your own website. 

Most importantly of all, though, it’s used everyday by home starters, first-time mums, working mums, mums that lunch, grandmothers and great grandmothers. And whatever you think about the socio-political drivel posted or shared, the benefits of reaching that huge audience definitely makes it worth the effort.

Tom Bourne is the creative director at industry PR Select First.

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