The closer you look at media today, and how it is being used and consumed, the more you see that consumers are beginning to take complete control of it. Last month we wrote about how larger retailers are beginning to discover the joys (and advantages) of pretending to be small. Well, the other thing they are discovering is that many of today’s consumers crave involvement in everything they do. There is a generation of consumers out there that have no interest in anything considered remotely passive.
Not sure if you’ve heard of the concept of the Microsite – defined as a highly focused mini Web site within a larger one that encourages consumers to create content. Those in the know expect this concept will be growing in popularity over the next year or so. It’s an interesting idea and one we think plays quite nicely into imaging retail. With sites like MySpace all the rage today, it only stands to reason that offering some form of this on a photo retail site might be a hit with your customers. Yes, we know everyone is already offering online print services and the ability to upload images to the store for print fulfillment, and that’s great. However, what we’re talking about here is real involvement and interaction. While MySpace and the like are really social networking-centric, our retail model might be more about the sharing of tips, tricks and more digital photography-centric.
There’s a reason sites like YouTube and MySpace are selling for billions of dollars and it’s solely audience-driven. People have made these sites daily destinations, a place they visit everyday to socialize and interact with friends, both old and new. They hang around in here for a while too. While we’ve preached developing this concept within the walls of your brick-and-mortar store, adopting the same philosophy for your Web site is a winning play as well.
Posting the week’s best images, or getting your customers to share an interesting story about a recent a photographic experience they encountered is the type of thing that plays well online. You’re having these conversations in the store everyday anyway – and you’re handing back some dazzling images to your customers as well. Why not move this kind of energy and these “feel good” exchanges to the Web?
While Web surfers who create content currently represent a fairly small percentage of today’s total online crowd, that percentage is growing rapidly. Another point to consider is the fact that consumers trust other consumers, thus they’ll undoubtedly give great credibility to information coming from sites such as these. Tapping into that kind of power has been gold so far for savvy marketers. It can be an invaluable resource for retailers as well.
The crazy pace of change in this industry over the last decade has kept everyone scrambling for what to do next and when to do it. We think it may be time to rethink your Web strategy to include something beyond digital printing services and free shipping.
Take a closer look at the statistics. Television viewership and newspaper readership are way down. More and more consumers are looking to the Web for both their entertainment and information needs on a daily basis. Someday real soon an even larger crowd may be determining a good deal of that medium’s content.