Those of you who have been to Hong Kong know there is a shortage of space here. For a lot of small and medium-sized businesses, this means they have to locate on upper floors of buildings to be able to afford the space. As a result, their locations are out of sight of “curbside” traffic. A consumer really has to know the business is up there to go there. That is why a lot of small businesses struggle in Hong Kong. Rent is extremely high, and businesses have to be very creative to attract customers to their store. After all, it is risky to go to new places.
An effective solution for ecommerce businesses to attract consumers has been influencer marketing. However, influencer marketing has not been the panacea for brick-and-mortar businesses. How then can physical businesses attract consumers to go to their place?
In its most innocent form, influencer marketing is simply a friend telling us about a product he or she finds good and is relevant for us. Yet, that is arguably the most effective form of marketing. When a trusted friend tells me about a product, I tend to look it up online, discuss it with him or her, and see what it is and why it is so great. I might or might not buy it – depends on a number of factors – but at least I checked it out, got familiar with the brand, and would probably talk to my friends about it later. How awesome is that for the marketer? When it works, it results in a very efficient, seamless customer journey as shown in the flow diagram below.
Notice how the flow diagram above does not show the consumer Googling for competitive comparisons and social proofing, and price comparisons? These are steps we often take when we are left to our own devices without a trusted influencer or friend to recommend something. This is because, when our friends make a recommendation, they take on some reputational risk. If what they recommend is not good – they look somewhat foolish. So we feel our friend must be quite convinced of the product or service before recommending it. For the same reason, we also expect their recommendation would be relevant to us since they know us, know what we like and our lifestyle. In other words, we no longer feel the need to read reviews on the product or comparison shop.
So, for brick-and-mortar businesses, how effective is influencer marketing? A recent survey from TouchBistro shows 91% of restaurant customers have gone to a new restaurant solely due to a friend’s recommendation. So being able to get friend’s recommendations on where to go is valued, but why have not brick-and-mortar businesses benefitted as effectively from influencer marketing as compared to ecommerce? While I have not been able to find specific statistics on influencer marketing’s effectiveness on helping users discover brick-and-mortar businesses and resulting in their arrival to the location afterwards, practically all of the “Ultimate Guide to Marketing Your Brick and Mortar Business” publications that are available online suggest businesses should implement their marketing strategy through optimizing local search followed by brand building and local content marketing. Recommendations for brick-and-mortar businesses to use social media are mainly for social-proofing, and not for helping consumers discover their business.
Brick-and-mortar businesses in different industries would get different value from influencers, but common to them all is one glaring issue: brick-and-mortar businesses require the consumer to go to their location. This poses a barrier to action. While recommendations to go to new places by a trusted individual still confers reputational assurance and relevance, when we are at home browsing social platforms, being inspired to go to a location or a store is not immediately actionable; we would need to transport ourselves from our homes to the location somehow. That is a large effort to overcome – it is a barrier to action – unless we could teleport there and back easily! As opposed to having a seamless integration between the recommendation and the location, we would have to store the recommendation in memory and recall it at the time when we need it. This of course does not usually happen. We tend to forget.
We as consumers typically look for services or businesses when we need them or when it is convenient for us. The need motivates us to invest the effort to find the place, and it is usually not triggered by advertising but at our own timing . At that time, we usually use a search app to find a list of relevant places (as we would have likely forgotten any prior recommendations), but search apps do not provide curated recommendations for us. We have to spend time and effort sifting through the result list to find something that might be okay for us. It is risky.
Another time when we could do with recommendations is when we are outside where it would be much more convenient to visit the recommended businesses. At that time, the barrier to action is effectively lowered, and we would be much more inclined to pay the business a visit if only we recalled the recommendation while we were there, but again this doesn’t usually happen.
As a result, many brick-and-mortar businesses to attract consumers to their location focus their marketing efforts on SEO, SEM and Review apps, because, well, we use them. But, as mentioned earlier, these apps require effort and still leave us feeling at risk every time we venture to a new destination. Brick-and-mortar businesses do use influencer marketing and social marketing, but more so for customers to get social-proofing after they have arrived at the store, and not for attracting consumers to venture out to go to new places.
Ok… Another solution would be to have a Jeeves, a know-it-all butler who is always in tune with the rhythm of the city, knows our preferences, and is always by our side giving recommendations when we need them, and informing us of things we would be interested in without our asking. When Jeeves recommends something, we would feel confident that it is not only relevant to us but also the best option out there as he is informed of all the options available for all topics.
If we had a Jeeves, I believe he would solve the barrier to action as we could get curated recommendations when we needed them and be notified of interesting things when relevant. In other words, we overcome the barrier to action by getting relevant recommendations at the right time.
Now, needless to say (but I am saying it anyways), we could not all afford a Jeeves (even if he exists) so the next best thing would be to simulate a Jeeves. A simulated “Jeeves” would have the following characteristics for providing recommendations:
Ok. Sounds great… So the big question is how do we provide our simulated Jeeves with trustworthy sources of recommendations that are psychographically aligned with each of us and with sufficient coverage across most if not all industries?
At Bumping App, we believe communities are the answer. Instead of looking for an incredibly connected and knowledgeable Jeeves who knows each of our values, interests and lifestyle, we connect ourselves with a community of like-minded individuals who would provide us with recommendations that are relevant to us and the community. Since there are many individuals in communities, we can feel more assured that there is sufficient coverage of businesses. We then store and organize recommendations as they come enabling users to search for relevant recommendations when they need them. We can also deliver relevant recommendations to the user when the user is nearby the recommended location, or when the recommendation is relevant timing-wise.
Until teleportation is a reality, the Bumping App providing trustworthy and relevant recommendations at the right time might be the solution we are looking for to get us to go to new places.