by Mark Still
As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If we think about the growth in connectivity in the last decade, it can be thought of as many more chances to make a first impression - good or bad.
My dad taught me as a young man that a firm handshake and eye contact were two keys to making a positive and lasting first impression. While many of today’s first impressions happen outside the bounds of physical contact, similar principles still apply.
Some might yearn for the day when the shopping experience began at the front door of the retail store but it simply isn’t the case any longer. It is much more likely that the first impression a shopper forms of your retail business is electronic in nature. Does your electronic presence accurately represent your business? In other words, does your website look customers in the eye and tell them the truth about you, your store and how you operate? It should because it’s the best shot you have at converting online contact into sales in your store.
What about social media? I offer another old saying, this time from bike racing. Often in the early stages of grand tours, we hear “you can’t win the tour on today’s stage but you can certainly lose it”. So it is with social media and your business. As an opener, social media has shown its worth. As a mechanism to reinforce and remind consumers of your message, it clearly works. It does not stand alone but rather acts as a bridge to richer content that can tell a more complete story. Done well, social media provides you the opportunity to continue in the race but done poorly, you’ve lost the tour before prospective customers make it to your website all but ensuring you’ll never see them in your store.
Traditional advertising and marketing, event marketing, social media and even the way your staff communicates on the phone - all roads lead to your website. Your website is the life line to gain and retain customers today because it is your store. There is no line, blurry or distinct, between your website and your physical store today - it is the real front door to retail. When customers meet your website, shake its hand and look it in the eye, do they see you? Do they see your store? Will they come in and do business with you? First impression, good or bad, is made.