Is a great location a substitute for social media?

I recently had a chat with a well-known jewellery retailer who was quite emphatic when I asked the question “what do you do in the social media space to drive traffic?”. The response was “if I have to do this as well, why am I paying the big rents to be in a shopping centre, that’s their role.”

I remember many years ago during my time studying retail management at university, the lecturer stood in front of us and said you need to know one thing at the end of this course – “Location, Location, Location”. At the time I smiled because If my father was there he would have applauded and said to me “this man understands retail.” This was the holy grail back then.

The problem, as we all know, is that this was then and not now. Yes, no one will deny that a great location can drive new business, but no jewellery business ever survived or succeeded based only on new business. It was always our repeat business and the depth of the relationships we built that defined the success of the business.

I recently read an article on how Louis Vuitton is thriving in the social media space. One only needs to take note of the research to appreciate that 40% of all luxury purchases are influenced by the digital and social media confluence its customers have with the company itself. For those that have a limited social media strategy, starting with a 40% deficit seems way too confronting.

So as is always the case, the first argument someone fires back at me is “yeah Louis Vuitton has very deep pockets”. Agreed, but that’s not the point. They also have the best retail locations in the world, with rents to match. More and more we see them in shopping centres rather than the traditional standalone stores. So clearly, they see the benefit of high traffic positions, and don’t just see themselves as a destination brand.

For those who read my last article on omni-channel marketing, you only need to open the Louis Vuitton site and see a sumptuous space of colour that’s yet not over crowded. Clearly, Louis Vuitton has an incredible social media machine behind them, with content which would have to be the envy of any and all.

What is the age-old story? Look at those who do it really well and learn from them. Louis Vuitton has a great mix of photos and video. They are able to keep people engaged on their site for 4:15 minutes. I don’t need to remind you all that the average successful Youtube video struggles to keep our attention for 30 seconds. Tell me you aren’t like me who stabs at their phone when wanting to watch a video on Youtube and some unrelated ad pops up and says ‘video will start in 4 seconds’. I am embarrassed to admit I don’t have patience to let it run. Shocking, I know.

One of the cornerstones is the clarity that Louis Vuitton achieves by ensuring that their content is cohesive. There is, as one would expect, an unerring emphasis on branding and its associated rules. This comes across both visually and even down to every post having the #Louis Vuitton hashtag. Louis Vuitton launched an amazing campaign with Unicef called ‘make a promise’. It was designed in a way to allow participation by all. Louis Vuitton created a campaign to appeal to the next generation. They demonstrated that you can be luxurious and not necessarily exclusive. I find this brilliant and inspiring.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to go back to the drawing board and ask myself what can we do differently and better?

Nobody will ever deny that a great location is a powerful and expensive tool. However, it’s only one tool in the marketing box. Personally, I don’t think we can rely on any other entity to deliver our brand message in the social media space and I struggle to see how a great location is even a partial substitute to social media.