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Secrets Specialty Retail Can Learn from Teen Romance

Posted by Tom Lombardo | Wed, Oct 14, 2015 @ 02:23 PM

Specialty retail owners and managers who want an outstanding fall season might focus on this simple but ruthless truth: you're romantically involved with your customers, and getting a sale is like getting a date.

Speciatly Retail Teen RomanceYou know your customers come to your store because they want your merchandise, not because they need it. It's a romance, and romance is all about how you make your partner feel. Your job, quite simply, is to ply their playful, tentative interest into the overwhelming irrationality of love.

And that, thankfully, can only happen in your brick-and-mortar store. According to a new study from Pew Research Center, more than three quarters of teens will only date someone they know IRL.

If you don't know what that acronym means, then go back to sorting doilies for your Traditionalist customers. If you do, then the study can tell you a lot about love In Real Life -- and perhaps coach you into a lucrative holiday season.

Flirt First

Long before your big date, you and your customer need to find each other. Fortunately, more than half of teens have started a friendship online, so it's safe to say that your online presence will help initiate your romance.

Many specialty retailers use social media like Instagram to present their wares to the public. Listen to one teenage girl explain how an Instagram friendship begins:

I've met a person over Instagram, actually. I DMed [him]. And we talked for about a week, and then I decided he actually seems kind of chill. I'm going to give him my number. And then I took it slow...

Notice that she has yet to give the boy her number. She's not ready to go that far, and her reason is straightforward: "...meeting someone over the Internet isn't always the best idea. So if you’re going to do it, like, do it very carefully.”

You can see why 70% of shoppers still prefer to buy their specialty merchandise in a physical store. Online goods -- human or otherwise -- are suspect until they're encountered in person.

Instagram is great because a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, as it turns out, emojis on Facebook are worth a lot more than words, too. Now that Facebook has begun to add whole range of emotions to their "Like" button -- specifically they're including "angry," "sad," "wow," "yay," "haha" and "love," in addition to the traditional "Like" -- high-impact interactions currently reserved to messaging will become part of every post.

Be sure you understand what you're getting into if you use one. In the dating world, you can show friend-level interest in someone by liking one of their photos. You can take that up a notch by liking more than one photo, but beware: at some unknowable number of Likes you will cross a threshold and become creepy.

Emoji Next

Your romantic interest expects you to intentionally step things up instead. That's what emojis are for. "If you’re really putting yourself out there," one girl explained, "you could comment on their picture with a heart emoji.”

So when someone comments with a heart on one of your merchandise photos, restrain yourself, even as your pulse quickens. True, love is in the air, but just like IRL, you need to act cool.

First consideration: do you know this customer? If you're acquaintances, then you have a lot more latitude in your response. Nearly two-thirds of teens with dating experience -- that is, customers who know you -- have sent suggestive messages to someone they found romantically enticing. So you're on much safer ground if you want to respond playfully.

If you don't know the customer, you're on a knife's edge. Of teens with no dating experience -- new customers -- only 14% say they've flirted online, and most of them are probably stretching the truth. So tone it down, definitely don't swoop in to ask for a date, and come up with something that will encourage a friendship.

The two best ideas: First, Like their emoji. This is basically invites them to be friends and poses no threat. A third of teens without dating experience have Friended people they found romantically interesting. But Liking is not much of a response, so what's better, although a lot more difficult, is to come up with something funny to share with them. A third of teens have actually Friended someone based upon this alone.

Every Day

Of course, if you don't respond quickly, you're not even in the game. Nine out of ten teens in a romantic relationship expect to hear from their partner at least once a day. One in ten begins wondering what's wrong if sixty minutes go by without a contact. And more than two thirds of them felt closer to their significant other because of interactions that took place in social media.

"You’ve got to expect a good morning text," one girl gushed. "You’ve got a whole paragraph in the morning text.”

Boys try to keep up. "You have to text her periodically," one explained, "to ask her what she’s doing, how is her day, stuff like that.”

IRL the big coming-out-as-a-couple event will be holding hands, and as anyone who's been to high school knows, the news will flash across campus faster than the speed of sound. Every clique will gather and discuss, and long before Study Hall an infinite number of comments and evaluations will have been cycled through.

Only Then May You Meet IRL

Online, this has the potential to turn your fledgling romance into an entire network of curious would-be customers. Two-thirds of teens post something on social media to show support for a friend's relationship. If you break it down by sex (no surprise here, either), 71% of girls have something to say while a still-healthy 57% of boys also come up with something.

Since your prospect won't buy until they're in your store, your relationship has to eventually lead to an actual date. Keep this in mind when you're evaluating all the flirting you've been doing online: the single most common way a girl will "ask" someone out is to simply wait until he asks her. 

The courtship can continue for only so long before you break the ice and invite them to your showroom. To increase your chances that they'll say yes, you might want something compelling and unique to entice your love interest -- and her network -- inside. We might be able to help you there; you could offer a payment plan that isn't financing and that doesn't require a credit check but which can let your customer pay off an item over time. Click the image below to find out how.

hold check, multiple check


Topics: Retail

Written by Tom Lombardo