Katie Elzer-Peters, owner of The Garden of Words, a source for horticulture website building, writing, branding and publishing, said marketing and merchandising are now “extremely intertwined.”
“People are not buying stuff from you,” she said. “They are buying an experience.”
Part of that experience is on social media, since a large portion of IGCs’ target audience can be found there. To use social media properly, Ezler-Peters said it’s important to define your audience, communicate directly to them in the languages and visuals they understand, convey scarcity, hype your products up and provide an experience.
Defining your audience
“In order to define your audience, you have to know where they are,” she said. “You have to communicate with your intended audience on their preferred channels and see what resonates with who and where.”
While defining your audience, however, Elzer-Peters mentioned splitting your audience up in a “shop within a shop.” This means catering to an audience who come into your shop for different objectives, like outdoor gardening versus houseplant shopping.
Elzer-Peters described websites as “digital business cards” that should be loaded with communication regarding your IGC. Information such as current hours, updated inventory, COVID-19 procedures and that of the like, should be accessible here. Your website, social media channels and even voicemail recordings should also have the same information for continuity.
Brand voice and style
Elzer-Peters said brand voice and style should be consistent across every platform, which even includes in-store signage, social media and email.
“These are your colors, your, fonts, it’s the overall feel of your communication,” she said. “You want to have a consistent experience from before customers walk into the door, all the way through a purchase.”
F.O.M.O. (the fear of missing out)
Conveying scarcity is a great way to force a decision, Elzer-Peters said. By putting time limits and the fear of missing out on the customer, they are more likely to decide if they’re going to buy or not buy.
Creating the hype
Generating “fandom” is a way IGCs can hype up their businesses and add excitement. By interacting with social media posts, reposting stories and sharing good reviews, IGCs can create a “fandom” circle that makes others curious. "’People like us do things like this’” is a way to attract new shoppers to join the “fandom” circle, Elzie-Peters said.
Providing the experience
While giving your customers an experience is important year-round, Elzer-Peters said in this moment, it’s crucial. Because of the pandemic, people are bored, restless, anxious and nervous. Taking their minds off what’s happening is the leverage IGCs have right now.
“Give them something to do in their free time, make visiting your IGC an activity. Give them something pretty to look at when they get back home.”
Elzer-Peters provided a list of what she called a “tech stack” of applications that can be used to achieve the overall experiences she advised.
- For graphics, Canva is an easy-to-use application that can be paired with images, videos and copy for eye-catching social media posts.
- For scheduling, she advised Tailwind, Later and Hootsuite.
- For phone calls, Elzer-Peters said to record voicemails with options and dialable choices.
- Text messages can also be a form of customer service, receipts, marketing and confirmations.
- For email marketing, she advised MailChimp and Kiaviyo.
- For the top two social media channels, Elzer-Peters advised Facebook and Instagram.
- And of course, your website is pertinent, with or without e-commerce.
“It’s all about experience, giving the customer what they want and making it easier for them to buy with you,” Elzer-Peters said.