Today, a picture is worth a thousand likes

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“What is that delicious smell?” I thought to myself, as I strode into a local Anthropologie store. The scent was a little bit floral, a little bit woody and it seemed to be saying to me, “Stay awhile, what’s your hurry? We have so much here for you to enjoy.”

So I luxuriated in the store’s signature mash-up of textures and colors, pondering items like silky smooth fabrics positioned next to birch logs and ceramics for longer than was strictly appropriate on a school day.

At their most basic, stores are four walls, a floor and a ceiling. Yet in the right hands, stores become worlds unto themselves, delivering experiences that we’re eager to participate in, again and again. Tapping into our senses is a powerful driver of emotional engagement, and brick-and-mortar businesses are in a unique position to tap into all five. This is a major competitive advantage, considering there are only two senses that can be engaged in e-commerce: sight and sound. And yet, traditional retailers often under-leverage this opportunity. If I asked you to recall the last time your senses were highly engaged in a store, you’d probably have to think. Hard.

Women consumers are highly attuned to sensory details and ambiance at retail. There are many ways to do that. Here’s one: Create an irresistible photo opportunity.

Life has become one big photo opportunity waiting to happen. We are now a world of visual storytellers. Our tool is the smartphone; our medium is the social network. Many people walk around with a mental “shot list” in their heads, constantly framing scenes in their minds that would make a great photo. (This kind of thinking applies to captions, too.)

When we buy a product that we view as particularly exciting or important, taking a picture of it, and then posting it, is becoming part of the process. When I bought a new bike recently, I had someone take a picture of me on my new wheels before I’d even left the store. I posted it immediately, and by the time I rode home and parked it in the garage, I had already received “likes” and comments on my new purchase. Leveraging this desire to post what we buy is an opportunity for retailers of every kind.

I work down the street from the new Under Armour UA +1.51% store in Chicago, which features an irresistible photo opportunity at its entrance: a giant, muscled male torso that stands over 10 feet tall wearing an Under Armour-branded athletic shirt in a size 20XL. Every day I see all kinds of people waiting to get their photo taken in front of this hulking visage – women, men, kids, teens, locals and tourists.

It’s a brilliant strategy for getting people to not only stop on the street and take notice of the store, but also to actively promote it through photos on their social networks. Once you step inside, every part of the store is visually arresting, including the women’s section, which features mannequins in positions like the yoga Warrior pose, merchandised down to the last detail.

What can you do in your own business to create a shareable photo opportunity for your customers? From products to backdrops, the opportunities are endless. Just a few weeks ago I visited a hotel in Los Angeles that had a red carpet and large banner (a so-called “step-and-repeat” banner with the hotel’s logo on it) at the entrance.

I assumed there was a special occasion happening there that night, and asked the valet what it was. The answer was that there was no special occasion. The banner and red carpet were there to make every guest feel like a celebrity — and of course, provide an irresistible backdrop for pictures to post on social media.

They used to say a picture is worth 1,000 words. Now it’s worth 1,000 likes. In our world of visual storytellers, how can you place your brand in the lens of the world’s most powerful consumers?

Blog Author Bio

Bridget Brennan is CEO of consulting firm Female Factor and author of Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers. She is a blogger for Forbes, where this blog first appeared.

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