It's easy for a business to get wrapped online with social media without connecting that activity to their brick and mortar retail locations, but that's a result of misunderstanding the way retailers should be integrating their online activity.
Social media is an extension of retail locations, not a separate entity.
That's not to say that you can't create additional revenue online, but unless you plan on closing down the physical locations your online activity should also be a bridge into your stores. There are a number of traditional retailers who have found creative and effective ways to build that bridge. Here are some things you can do to increase sales in your stores and build your online following at the same time.
Offer In-Store Coupons and Discounts
Although this tip seems like it comes from Captain Obvious, it's still a great idea and one of the simplest to do. We've been conditioned to give incentives out to potential customers in order to get them to like our pages and create more online engagement. That's still a good practice (even though Facebook is putting down the clamps on this), but why not turn it around? In addition to incentivizing a social following, give them a reason to get out of the house and trek to your actual location. You could do this in a number of ways, but the simplest way - and possibly the best - is to send discount codes to followers that are only good in-store. You could also do this via email or text, which would also allow you to build up a mailing list. Good social media management software will be able to integrate your sms and email campaigns as well so you can track the results.
Giveaways and Freebies
What's better than a discount? A freebie, of course. Fashion company Marc Jacobs took advantage of this fact when they opened a pop-up store in Manhattan during New York's Fashion Week to show off their new line of Daisy fragrances.
Customers who came in were encouraged to send a tweet or post an Instagram photo about the new line using a certain hashtag. Those who did so received gifts from the retailer, including perfumes, jewelry, and accessories. The result was over 13,500 mentions on Twitter and 4,300 Instagram mentions.
Nordstrom and Pinterest
Visit Nordstrom's profile on Pinterest. Nordstrom's use of Pinterest in their stores is now legendary among those of us who track such things. Pinterest is the fastest growing social site on the web, and the vast majority of the users are currently women, although there has been a big push in recent months to bring the guys along for the ride as well. Pinterest is also neck-and-neck with Facebook when it comes to driving sales, and beats them out in many categories. Nordstrom famously brought their Pinterest popularity into the store by creating a section of "most pinned" items, complete with labels bearing the Pinterest "P" logo. This is a great way to showcase what items are the most popular among other shoppers and fashionistas.
Another oldie-but-goodie that still has plenty of applications for those willing to embrace it is check-ins through social sites. Offering a discount to those who check in when in the store gives just as much advertising advantage as mentions and hashtags. Facebook might keep you from giving away goodies for liking your page, but they can't stop you from handing out discounts in real life if you can get them to check in.
These might cost a bit more out your budget than encouraging tweets and check-ins with signs, but it will get attention and create engagement. Nine West is using digital displays that collect shoppers' posts that contain certain hashtags and displaying them for everyone to see in-store. That means that when they take a selfie with the new Nine West outfit they just bought or tried on, they can become part of the advertisement on display. Playing to people's vanity is always a winner. If you can't afford to get such a display, you could still have an iPad mounted for selfies and posting to social during the shopping experience.
Bring Home the Bacon with a Beacon
Apple's iBeacon technology is the frontrunner in this emerging technology, and it will likely be a staple of real-world shopping in the years to come. The iBeacon searches for and connects with iPhones in reach via bluetooth, if the phone has the app on board. This tech was added beginning with iOS 7. There are also competing technologies for the same purpose, and iBeacon is even compatible with newer Android OS's - although Apple is trying to close that loophole.
These are a few examples of how forward-thinking businesses are bringing synergy to their online and real-world commerce, but the space is wide open to new ideas. There are likely hundreds of ideas waiting to happen once someone gets the lightbulb going off in their head. Do you have a unique way that you reverse the formula and bring social media into your retail locations? We'd love to hear about them in the comments.