A physical space is an opportunity to connect with your audience through touch, sight and sound. But with government regulations calling for all non-essential stores to close, the focus has, inevitably, shifted to the online. However, even in a time of self-isolation, human connection is key; so make sure you find new ways to make your brand feel just as meaningful online as it does in real life.
Here’s how you can bring the best of IRL experiences online:
Get creative with your photography.
The most obvious (but probably the most crucial) way to evoke the experience of a store online is through a well-thought-out website. But without the staffing or design, how can you bring your brand to life in the same way? Firstly, you can evoke the layout and mood of your IRL store through beautifully presented lifestyle imagery to show your products in context. Someone doing this really well is A New Tribe. For the East London interiors brand, their USP is handwoven products in their beautifully crafted environment, so they’re using their in-store imagery on their website to recreate the mood of their physical space. Similarly, brands like Alighieri use their website as a mood board of inspiring imagery and their artistic creations. This kind of beautiful curation doesn’t just have to be on a website - bring your brand to life on your socials in this way too.
Make your staffing virtual.
Consider all the ways you usually keep in touch with your friends: FaceTime, Instagram, even direct messaging. In the same way, these are all methods that your staff can continue to nurture relationships with your customers, especially if you run a luxury or personalised service. Perhaps you could introduce one-to-one virtual sessions with your staff, a strategy being used across different industries in times of self-isolation. For example, fitness company Barry’s are hosting IGTV boot camp workouts with their personal trainers. Even fashion giant John Lewis has introduced a similar initiative, letting their followers book to receive personalised fashion advice from their stylists via Instagram. Even if it’s just adding an online chat to your store, continuing to place importance on customer service can give a personal touch to your online presence, just like in a real-life store.
Engage your community with online events.
Was the start of your quarantine marked by a long string of cancelled events? Although self-isolation has led to the postponing of multiple projects, many brands have taken the initiative to pivot their events and experiences online, effectively. Glossier’s recent debut into physical stores last year saw the whole beauty community come together for masterclasses and expert skincare advice, so the brand was determined to keep up the momentum when quarantine became compulsory. Instead, they’ve taken their events and in-house advice online with beauty quizzes, Instagram make-up tutorials and IGTV events. To run a successful online event, ask your followers what they want to see and consider how you can make your events personal to them. Perhaps they want to ask you questions in a live Q&A? Maybe they want to see a live panel, masterclass or a styling session? Listen to your community’s needs, they’re the ones who’ll be watching.
Start a journal.
Nothing brings people together like a mutual passion. It’s no wonder, then, that so many brands have made the decision to start online journals. It can be an effective way of communicating and creating in a time of crisis, but also an inventive way to show another side to your brand. In response to the current crisis’s impact on our mental health, fashion label Daily Paper have started the Daily Paper Unite, a newsletter bringing tips on wellness and positive psychology to help their customers feel a part of their virtual community. You can even put out an open call to content creators via your social – you may be surprised how many would be excited to contribute.
Make your store soundtrack travel.
A certain piece of music can evoke memories of a specific time and place within seconds. Similarly, immersing customers in a perfectly curated soundtrack is a key part of any physical store’s identity. This additional aspect of the in-store experience is just another way you can elevate your online presence, but how? Take luxury fashion label Réalisation Par, who have brought the aptly named Réal Radio to their online store; allowing visitors to experience the brand’s signature in-store soundtrack sounds wherever they are in the world. It’s an inspiring way to transport your community to your store straight from their living room. So, don’t press pause on your playlists, they’re simple to set up and can bring your store in anyone’s living room.