We are a nation of visual shoppers. That’s a problem for offline local retailers.
Information-only websites, Google place pages and online directories help visual shoppers get basic info about local shops, but without photos of what’s new, what’s hot and what’s on sale they don’t act as very enticing gateways to offline Main Street stores. What sells is photos–especially fresh photos of the latest things–and if you are an offline store and your static website or Google place page isn’t teeming with current photos, then even online shoppers who would prefer to support “local” will never be able to discover that you sell “that perfect little black dress” or that “double-decker backyard grille.”
But there’s a problem:
Online shopping may be a visual experience, but most shop owners lack the resources to either systematically post photos or the know-how to make it possible for the largest numbers of potential customers to discover them. The most ambitious independent shop owners may have blogs and Facebook pages and loads of Facebook fans, but there is still the problem of enticing new customers–not just the same loyal fans–to discover those pictures. It’s like being stranded on a desert island: you may be surviving, but you still have to catch the eye of a passing plane or ship to rescue you.
Main and Me is working on just this problem. We know you don’t have the time, money or degree in computer science to systematically post photos, optimize your web presence and manage the conversation that may or may not be going on around your brand. We also know you are actively looking for a a more seamless solution which “runs itself” without “requiring another password.” Our coming approach is to turn the problem around and allow your most passionate customers to kick start the process for you. Your customers use their smartphones to share photos of their favorite things on Main and Me, then they “like” those photos, comment on them and add them to all manner of lists so other Main and Me users can browse the network and discover the best in Main Street shopping…wherever they are. Think of it as “fan-generated” Etsy for offline stores, coming soon to a lonely island near you!
We’d love to hear your thoughts about the value of photos. What are the ways you currently showcase your products online and how do you make sense of the conversation that follows around them?