Visual Merchandising: Creating a Community Online

visual merchBrick and mortar independent retailers capture the hearts of their communities and play an integral part in them. The bond created in-person through new connections and friendships born between businesses, customers, and neighbors can be recreated by small online businesses through visual merchandising. The classic word-of-mouth recommendations retailers receive from loyal shoppers should be employed virtually through social media and ecommerce websites.

Seeing consumer-generated content online is a big influencer when new shoppers are viewing your site and products. According to a survey of 3,000 online shoppers conducted by Bazaarvoice, 85 percent of online shoppers use visual consumer-generated content as the ultimate tiebreaker in making a decision between multiple brands. 51 percent of shoppers feel online pictures and videos created by real people are helpful for everyday purchases and 46 percent believe consumer-generated content helps with major purchases that require time and consideration. In addition, research done by Photoslurp concludes that 9 out of 10 consumers turn to social media for help with a buying decision and 75 percent of people buy something after seeing it on social media. Employing consumer-generated content on your website and integrating it seamlessly with social media is essential in order to boost sales and both attract and retain new customers.

There are a few ways you can begin to create an online community where loyal and new or potential customers alike can join together to share content of your products and commentary on your brand:

To get started, retailers should have their social media feeds on their website. Connect your Instagram so posts show up at the bottom of your page and include a title asking customers to share their pictures and tag you in them for a chance to get featured.

Retailers need to constantly be interacting with their customers online. If you’re sharing an image of a product, include a customer review as the caption to show that real people love it and encourage new shoppers to buy the item. Ask people for feedback as well. Get creative with social media posts and ask followers if they prefer one product over another and set up your website to feature the two products. Using visual merchandising techniques to find out more about your customers is a guaranteed way to sway more shoppers to your website.

You can do so much with customer-generated content. If customers share a picture of themselves wearing one of your items, add that to the product page (with their permission) to show new shoppers what the piece looks like in real life. Make sure to feature your customers in social media posts as well. If you are struggling to get customer-generated content, offer small coupons or specials to people who share images and reviews of your products. Incorporating your shoppers into your brand and building an online community will create loyal customers and build your following.

Most importantly, think of your social media and online persona as a shop window. Being an ecommerce seller means customers are seeing the home page of your website and social media feeds to get an idea of your brand. Shoppers are drawn in by your online appearance and including them in it makes them more inclined to buy from you.