How Going Shopping Can Improve Your Blogging

Today we’re going shopping!!!

Yep – you heard me, we’re going to the mall!

If nothing else this challenge is going to get you away from your blog for a bit – but there’s more to it than that.

Today we’re doing some observation exercises that could bring a lot of life to your blog.

In This Episode

You can listen to todays episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment).

  • Why are we doing this exercise?
  • A quick outline of what the challenge is and a series of questions to ask while doing this exercise
  • Some suggestions for those of you not living near a mall/shops
  • Some examples of some of the things I’ve learned from doing this exercise

Mentioned in this Episode

How did you go with todays challenge?

I know todays challenge is a little on the abstract side but I hope you got some value from it.

Where did you go? What did you observe? Did it impact the way you’ll blog in any way?

Let us know in comments below!

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  • I failed. Having once been a chronic shopper, this exercise was akin to placing a bottle of whiskey in front of a recovering alcoholic!! LOL! I spent so much time observing and restraining my own behavior, that I forgot what I was suppose to do for the assignment. I did manage to spend less than $25.00 (a Starbuck coffee, a warm cheese danish & a couple of kitchen items I REALLY needed).

    But maybe this wasn’t a total waste of my time. From my own point of view, it occurred to me how do you reach budget conscious & former shopaholics? These shoppers, and buyers who know exactly what they want, may be the best buyers. When they make a purchase, they have given much consideration to it and are less likely to want to return it. Impulse buyers are more likely to be remorseful later, become unhappy with their purchase and/or return it. Their reviews often focus on something negative about the purchase.

    How does this relate to a blog? If you’re selling a product or a service, you want an attractive “front end” and good keywords that attract buyers who are looking for what you have to offer. Mall shoppers, especially during summer months when they’re looking for air-conditioned entertainment, may often be “window shopping,” looking for a place to take the children and/or another place to eat fast food. May be they’ll return, may be not.

    I’m having mixed feelings about this challenge. Guess I should have written the suggestions on what to look for. Bought a coffee, sat down and just watched! But that’s so boring. Chuckle, chuckle.

    • sorry if it was a tough one for you. Hoping just by doing it though that perhaps it’ll trigger you to keep observing in those kinds of places for future outings.

    • haha. I enjoyed reading this comment! I also think it will be hard for me to just go observe and not buy anything! But I think you actually stumbled upon an important point when you were talking about how impulse buyers may have remorse – I think the key here is to make sure that you have a product (blog, ebook, whatever) that is worth buying! So yes, we want to “sell” to people and upsell products, but if we have a product that is worth their while, hopefully they will not be remorseful even if it was an impulse buy.

      • “…if we have a product that is worth their while, hopefully they will not be remorseful even if it was an impulse buy.”

        Good point. I agree.

    • I am debt free today because I stay out of the mall. I was not planning on doing this exercise. I loved that someone else felt the pain of the exercise. Congratulations on turning a challenge into a triumph.

  • Sam Walker

    Okay, i don’t want to admit failure before doing this because I could be surprised. But here in Cambodia, shopping is haphazard to say the least.
    Selling tactics of “buy somesing madam, $1, buy somesing” probably aren’t going to change my blog. There are a few very small shopping centres but upselling and even customer service are not high on the agenda. The most successful stall owners seem to be those with the best English and those who are pushy or who have learnt to banter and get a laugh out of the tourists. The local markets are a whole different kettle of fish. Still, some things to think about.

    • I learnt a lot from your description. I don`t think it was a failure at all. What you leant (but may not realise) is that successful communication is clear communication in language your target market feels relieved to be understood. You might have to get in your reader`s face (hello pop ups or controversial post) and you have to find a way to connect and engage with your reader (witty banter, authentic stories). It all sounds relatable 🙂

      • BTW I have a broken toe on my right (driving) so i was unable to hit the shops today I’ll just have to live vicariously through your Cambodian shopping adventures.

      • Sam Walker

        Ha, thanks Sandra. Yes, wherever you are it is selling and different people do it differently, so you are right, still a lot to learn here. Thanks for putting it in that light.
        And I hope the broken toe mends soon. I am hoping to get to the market soon, now the weather is cooling oh, so slightly, so I will be doing a post and photo essay about that experience. That will really give you a feel for Cambodian shopping adventures 🙂

  • I didn’t have time to go shopping yesterday but I did used to be a retail buyer and people watching in shops and shopping areas was part of the job. The one thing I would say is look for retailers who match your brand or aspirations for your brand. They don’t have to be selling/talking about/marketing the same product as you but they’re likely to be marketing to the same customer/consumer as you. I was in home interiors and we had natural bedfellows in all kinds of places; foodies, fashion, music, book stores. There are some retailers to watch because they’re ground breaking, Apple being an obvious one but, in the UK shopping centre type place, M&S and JLP/Waitrose are very smart (and fast) with their trending and customer facing teams. Recently in the UK the big supermarket staff have started walking with you to find a product you can’t find/asked them for or sometimes on a weekend they give you the exact aisle number. This is a definite change to positive customer service, “no-one is too busy to help you” is the message and yet at the same time they no expect me to scan my own goods at the checkout!?
    I also like to note what turns customers off, makes them walk out or give up trying to buy something – no staff to help, no stock to buy, no price, no information and so on

    • Stephanie Boon

      I’m off to Truro in a minute, thanks for this advice! Truro doesn’t have much in the way of choice, it’s not big and bustly, but the nearest city is
      70 miles away in (Plymouth)!

  • Pete Reece

    When I listened to the podcast it instantly resonated with me because I do similar things already. I like going into a town centre and just making notes about different impressions. I’ve never done it with this much focus though and I wrote down loads of stuff. So much so, I was overwhelmed with thoughts and ideas so I called a halt after about an hour and a half and retired to Caffe Nero.
    So anyway, the main ways I can interpret what I saw for my blog are:
    1. Readers want to feel good about reading your blog e.g. are you ethical, do you present with integrity, are you trustworthy?
    2. Your “shop window” (I guess for most people this would be your home page, although it may be your listing on search engines) should be clean, uncluttered and with an enticing offer (at the moment, in blogging terms, I’m not sure what that offer should be).
    3. People like watching baristas and chefs perform so I think videos of us doing what we do are going to be enticing. They build trust, answer questions and create interest in the skills we have.
    4. Footfall is crucial. Just as shops will position themselves near an anchor store in a shopping centre so they can benefit from the throngs of people walking towards that store, how can we position ourselves on the internet near sites of good footfall?
    5. Visiting our blogs should be as easy and convenient as possible with an easy layout and all information just one click away.
    For me that means
    a. I’ll be looking at my site to tidy it up and make it more user-friendly. A picture of me (horror!) will build trust. A vlog may be an option in a few months so that people can see who they’re dealing with.
    b. I’ll try to work out how to build in an offer to something that’s free (I guess more free stuff!)
    c. Build relationships and links to busy blogs, websites and forums along the lines Darren has already suggested.

    That’s it!

    • Yes! To all of these! Thanks for sharing your insights. The layout of our blogs and positioning of our blogs is so important. I have definitely been learning this in the past couple weeks while doing this challenge. In the past year, I spent all of my time creating good content (which of course is important), but spent very little time publicizing my content or positioning it in ways that people could see it. I started spending more time publicizing my content (for example, I posted a link on TripAdvisor of my blog post about my trip to Havasupai), and my stats have jumped tremendously! I used to have 200 readers per month, and now I have over 300 readers in a week! Hopefully I can keep on this trajectory.

    • Very interesting points, and all very true. Even we do not have any products on our blog, we are all trying to “sell” our content in some way.

    • Pete Reece

      Thanks for the replies guys. Wow, Trynia, your readership is really growing. Well done. I forgot to add an important learning point/idea. In a book shop I saw a shelf of books which had been recommended by The Daily Telegraph Book Club. Made me think, who can we get to recommend our blogs? Getting someone like a famous chef to follow our cookery blog for example would send readership into the stratosphere I would imagine.

  • Stephanie Boon

    I’m still a bit behind (so what’s new), but I LOVED this challenge! I went to about 4 or 5 different stores, including one in my niche (ish). The biggest thing I came away with was feeling much clearer about the way high end/luxury stores create the feeling of luxury compared to other mid range stores. In East and The White Company (both clothing) for e.g., aside from what you’d expect in higher quality products, I noticed how much more spacious the stores are – you don’t bump into people trying to get past them in the isles, there are fewer garments crammed onto the rails, which I think makes them feel more exclusive (you’re going to see fewer people wearing the same clothes as you!). *Everything* feeds into the brand, from the ‘posh’ accents of the sales staff (not what you’d find on a market stall!), to the personal service, the feeling of calm assurance… I then came home and had a look at their websites to see how they carried this feeling through there – very interesting. And now for an overhaul of my site (which I’ill get done professionally one day, umm when I actually start selling something and have some cash to invest ha!).

  • This was a great idea. I went to Harris Farm and Aldi. Came up with a few idea’s for list posts both about health and lifestyle, just by snooping in peoples baskets. They are now on my ‘editorial’ schedule. This is the first structured program I have completed for my blog and I am loving it the whole thing and already am seeing that people are staying on my site for longer. I can’t wait for the conference!

  • I love people watching. I’m always fascinated to watch how different we all are and yet what we have in common. Now when I people watch I need to change what I’m looking for.

  • Today I ventured to the mall to try this new Brazilian place at the Food Court with boys as I did not want to cook. While there I analyzed a few things for sure. This new place had great branding but lacked a few things. When I arrived the cashier seemed not so enthusiastic which left me confused as to what to buy, they also messed up the order, and it took a while especially for a fast food type of place and I was only one on line. What I observed is if they had better messaging, a more excited staff and more samples out of the food as if you are not Brazilian you would not know what it is. One of the food items was Churros, YUMMY especially stuffed with Dulce de Leche as we do in Brazil, I feel if they had it on display it would sell a lot better. I also analyzed that shoppers go with the flow, when a food option does not have a lot of buyers, other buyers are turned off as if there is something wrong with it. Over all it made me think of my message, my customer service, my enthusiasm and how to make things easier, more appealing and less confusing to make the purchase.

  • I unintentionally went to the mall after this post aired. Despite being in the mall, there is little that I observed, instead, I learned more from the reason that took me to the mall. However, two things are whispering in my ear. First, the mall I went to had a lot of open spaces and light between the store fronts and the walk paths (until you reached the food court). The mall had a ton of cars outside, but the interior was not over crowded. I also loved the openness created by all of the natural light from the sky lights. I didn’t observe anyone shopping because my priority was eating, which brings me to my next observation.

    On the first day of the conference I attended, there was a food vendor outside of the typical food court. Avoiding the crowd was a plus, but I still would not return to this option if given the chance again. Why? The ‘healthy’ food vendor had delicious food and a fresh look, but the worker was BORED. As such, she was slow to make the orders for my companions and I. She also didn’t have any recommendations about the food and told us she didn’t eat ‘this stuff.’ She was of no use to help us decide between one choice and another. I would not come back to this place, regardless of how good the food was. The person promoting the product did a terrible job.

    The second day we ventured to the mall for lunch, we went to the crowded food court. As I attempted to go where I thought I wanted to make a purchase, several eager workers had samples in their hands and anxiously tried to drive me to their vendor. These samples were actually really good and I had a hard time making a choice. There were so many options to choose from but these power sellers diverted me from my original choice. I actually chose the better tasting choice but was really tempted to go to both places, one for the sandwich and one for a smoothie. I didn’t this time, but next time I will give heavy consideration. I would never had considered these places without the workers calling out to me, giving me a sample, and then directing me to their services. When I was redirected, each member of the food prep team was efficient and I was soon happily eating my sandwich and quickly back to the conference.

    Before I started writing my comment, I thought I hadn’t learned anything. In fact, I came hear to post about what I observed at the conference from the booths and the presenters. However, I now know that I learned something from the experience. The only question is what do I do with my discoveries. Perhaps the more I let this percolate in my mind the more I will see what I can do to improve my blog.

    As I listened to this podcast, I thought I couldn’t do it as I really dislike malls. However, it was a really good exercise. Thanks!

  • Great idea. Watching the world go by will certainly bring things to mind. Went to the shops & supermarket today. Even a visit to the park will work here. Anywhere you can take a look at society / the actions of others.

  • I didn’t go to the mall but I did put a lot of thought into Starbucks. What makes reasonable people spend $5+ on a coffee? You can get a meal for this or make the drink at home. If I could have all of the money back I’ve spent on coffee drinks, I feel like I’d be rich! I asked myself why I kept going back. It was the way it made me feel. I felt comfortable in a coffee shop. I love holding a warm cup of coffee and I can be in a place around people without being expected to be with someone. It helped me not feel lonely all those times I spent with my nose in my textbook or laptop studying in undergrad and my doctorate program to be a pharmacist. I loved seeing the familiar faces and being able to at least socialize for a few minutes. It gave me a place I felt like I belonged. A sense of belonging…that’s what I want to create with my blog and social media sites.