Connecting with customers digitally is taking on greater importance as more shoppers look to interact with retailers before they arrive. Today’s customers are reading online reviews, looking at crowdsourced photos or even downloading an app before they ever enter a bricks and mortar location, and retailers have to take control of their brand to help shape the overall shopping experience.
“Ultimately engaging with your customers offline will bring them back in. You’re being reviewed and talked about whether you know it or not,” said Sarah Prorok, director of marketing program management at Thorntons. Prorok, along with Herb Hargraves, vice president at Clark Oil, and Mike Lawshe, president of Paragon Solutions, participated in a panel discussion on the customer experience during NATSO Connect.
Prorok told attendees that Thortons generates most its interaction with guests via Facebook and Instagram. Social media also has shifted customer service. “On nights and weekends, I get guest complaints that way because it is the way they can interact with someone immediately,” she said.
Hargraves cautioned fellow operators to focus their engagement and not over extend themselves on too many social media accounts if they can’t remain dedicated to them. He added that operators can leverage partnerships with their vendors to help extend their reach. Hargraves, for example, said he promotes locations through the Exxon and Shell apps.
Lawshe said operators need to keep their brand front and center. “Everything you do should point to your brand and who you are,” he said. “Take a step back. Look at it holisticly. Put the right assets together.”
For those looking to start or grow their social media influence, Prorok recommends they be consistent and don’t stop. “It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes the silliest thing will get you the best reaction,” she said. “Your customers already love you, let them help you.”
Photo credit: Lisa Burwell/NATSO
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