Key learnings for Main Streets

I was privileged to present at the Mainstreet Conference a fortnight ago with presenters who made some great points.

My presentation began with some sobering statistics. Australia spends about 54% more online per person than the US, the highest in the world. The reason was the dissatisfaction with the physical shopping experiences in terms of service, price and visual merchandising. But, this also represents great opportunities.

Kevin Luten from Behaviour Design Works talked about change – changing attitudes and behaviours. It’s so relevant to retailers at the moment. There’s some negative sentiment around that, if it continues to grow, it won’t matter what innovative and new approaches retailers try, they will have lost people.

His approach is to allow people to see, feel, act. See what they need to do, connect with their emotions, which leads to action. Bricks and mortar retailers, and precincts, have a perfect opportunity to affect this – show consumers the advantages of shopping in store, provide a service that responds to emotions and make it easy to act. Simple! Sounds like it but of course it’s not. Need a fresh pair of eyes on your strategy? We are here to help.

The other point that Joe Manton from the Institute of Access Training Australia made was about access. Is your strip a great place for the elderly, the blind, parents, teenagers, basically any sort of demographic group (and anyone wanting to use a clean safe toilet!)? As a member of the audience pointed out to much nodding of heads – access issues should just be about helping those with a disability (which is of course an important and necessary aim), they should just be standard practice because they help everyone. Indeed.

There are a couple of points from my presentation I want to stress:

  1. Creating an emotional connection can be achieved through storytelling – how you, your products or your area came to be, continue to grow, support the local community or provide a valuable service and why. For those watching ‘The Voice’, have you noticed that the ones Australia is voting for have been telling the stories of who they are, hardships they’ve overcome etc. It connects with people, creating great TV in the process! How can you tell your story to your customers?
  2. To move people into changing their shopping habits, you need a story people can believe in. Talking about shopping locally and the impact that has on the whole community is a movement that people want to support. Here’s the video I showed that conveys that. And there’s more examples on our Facebook page if you want to like us.

It’s challenging times. But there are opportunities to make a real impact.

What are the major challenges in your area and how are you fixing them? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


Round up of interestingness

As we are recovering from a chocolate egg hand over this week, we thought instead of our usual post, we’d collate some of the interesting things we have posted about over the last 6 months of the local experience. You may have missed some, you may need a reminder. Here goes..

We talked about consumers and what they want in All about Generation C; and Are you providing a great fashion experience?

We talked about some techniques for attracting customers like maps; play and creating fun experiences and we asked Fed Square in Melbourne how they were doing it. We also looked at how ‘walking friendly‘ areas are more profitable to local businesses.

We covered some controversy and how to handle it when we talked about Castlemaine’s state festival, and when we examined if mainstreets should be closed.

And we looked at techniques you can use to build engagement with your customers, like storytelling and welcoming.

Phew, I think that’s enough. Some great content there. If there’s anything you’d like us to explore, please let us know. Thank you for your readership over these past months, it’s been a fabulous journey and we are excited about whats next.

NEWSFLASH: Have you booked a ticket to the Mainstreet Australia Conference in Melbourne in May? Early bird offers have been extended so now is the time. I will be speaking on the Tuesday about localism and how you can take advantage of it, so I’ll see you there!


Getting hooked on the story

Story telling is all the rage in business now. But I think there is good reason. We’ve always loved telling stories. We keep inventing new technologies to do more of it – from mobile technology, to television, to the printed word.

As Stephen Denning, champion of organisational story telling begins his book ‘The Springboard’:

Why storytelling? Nothing else worked. Charts left listeners bemused. Prose remained unread. Dialogue was just too labourious and slow…. I found that a certain sort of story enables chnge by providing direct access to the living part of the organisation.

Australian story experts Anecdote put it simply that:

  • Stories inspire us to take action
  • Stories stick in your mind much better than bullet points or clever arguements.

So, great, okay, but it begs the question – how exactly can I use a story in my business to create more engagement with my target audience?

There are so many ways. Here’s some great examples I’ve seen:

  • Fair trade clothing maker Eternal Creation adds a vignette of its workers on its facebook page. It works because you get a real sense of the people you are supporting with your purchase – feel good factor = repeat customers!
  • QR code technology is being used in Wales to give people more information on gravestones they come across. It works because it is instant – visitor finds something, is intrigued, wants to know more and can easily with their phone right there and then.
  • And then there are product stories, like those of Original Bean:

For each bar sold, Original Beans plants a tree in the rainforest where the bar’s ingredients originated. Each bar carries a certificate inside the wrapper with a lot number that designates the location of a new tree. By entering the tracking code on the company’s website, customers can not only trace where the cacao beans in their individual bar were grown, but also what their contribution is to the chocolatier’s rainforest replenishment efforts. Hence the company’s mantra: “One bar, one tree, go see.”

So how can you let your customers and visitors know how special you are, allow then to dig deeper and find out more about you?

And of course, we are here to help. Done well, stories could have a huge impact on your customer and staff engagement. It doesn’t have to be complex or expensive. Want to brainstorm some ideas? Great, shoot us an email