In the mobile age, there’s nothing customers crave more than visually stunning, creative, and engaging content. And, a picture is worth a thousand words (or likes).
With over 500 million active daily users, Instagram’s success as a social platform is undeniable. The app’s popularity and focus on appealing visuals has meant that users who can create engaging and aesthetically pleasing content can easily amass hundreds if not thousands of followers through carefully curated images and videos. Visual content continues to come out on top, with people remembering 80% of what they see, compared to 20% of what they read and 10% of what they hear.
What does this mean for the brands serving the consumer of today (and tomorrow)? Retailers such as NYX and Glossier originally built loyalty with customers via their social media channels, capitalising on the opportunity to digitally influence our lives on an hourly basis. Interacting with their audience allows growing brands to establish a customer base that is invested in their values, even prior to opening physical stores.
This means, a visit to a retail destination is no longer simply an opportunity ‘to shop’ or even socialise, eat and be entertained, but also to showcase an inspirational lifestyle and further connect with brands. Retailers, restaurants, and owners are rising to the challenge to meet this consumer appetite.
Recognising the power of social, retailers and retail destinations have begun to leverage social media platforms to their advantage, curating ‘insta-worthy’ destinations that excite and resonate with visitors. We have seen a growing collaboration with influencers to strengthen the relationship and bridge the gap between consumers and brands. Influencers can bring a brand to life – create a sell-out item and also enhance that ever important connection – which means you are front of mind ahead of others, which can translate into footfall and sales.
Insta-worthy destinations which gain notoriety on social media can quickly build up a strong following. This is seen throughout consumer spaces, and notably in the food and beverage market. Like it or loathe it, the trend for photographing your plate ‘for the gram’ before even taking a bite is commonplace in restaurants and bars across the world with brands capitalising through aesthetically pleasing food, visual displays and fashionable décor. According to research by Zizzi, 18-35-year-olds spend five days a year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30 per cent would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak, demonstrating that it’s not just what you do but where you do it.
Recent advances in technology and social platforms have changed the game; gone are the days when mainstream media set the agenda and dictated trends. Everyone with a smartphone now has the opportunity to break news, share views and inform their peers. No longer a captive audience, consumers have a voice and those brands who listen and respond have a lot to gain.
At Hammerson, our key focus has always been to create differentiated destinations – where more happens. In turn, our centres are regarded as more than just shopping venues, a one stop shop where consumers can have all their needs met and at the same time share an experience and immediately communicate to their own audiences – what’s hot and what’s not. The ‘always on’ shopper is a live recommendation service opening a dialogue between retailers, consumers and us as managers of retail space.
The undeniable strength of fantastic imagery on Instagram has seen us reach out directly to local instagram communities and offer ‘after dark’ photo shoots at our centres. The result has been astonishingly creative images of our destinations. Enthusiastic shoppers and amateur photographers have had access to some amazing spaces – which extends their connection to us and to retail brands.
The future of retail for both retailers and destinations will fall short if it disregards the appetite for social sharing and insta-worthy content within its business. Building insta-worthy spaces and in-store experiences needs to be part of the thought process from the outset for experiential opportunity that creates desirability yet also builds long lasting relationships where people can create memories and not just purchases.
The Bullring Estate in Birmingham for example, which celebrates its fifteenth year of trading this year, has done just that. The iconic Selfridges building has become not only synonymous with retail but also a symbol for the city and the 6.5 tonne Bull, a nod to the area’s trading heritage, is a constant selfie opportunity and the third most photographed landmark in the UK. The team work hard to ensure there is always something new for consumers when visit the Bullring and you frequently see the Bull adorned in a new outfit, such as the top hat he donned for the Royal Wedding and a rainbow wig created especially to celebrate Birmingham’s Pride weekend.
20 years ago social media did not exist, but now – for better or worse – it is entrenched in our daily lives, creating a continuous conversation between friends, strangers, organisations and businesses. Each person and institution can have their own “digital shop window”, and in this way, we have all become brands in our own right, seeking to engage and excite anyone who should scroll past.