At the beginning of 2020 we were about to celebrate the third anniversary of moving our storefront from Seattle to Whidbey Island and were considering opening a second location. Then the pandemic hit and all our plans changed. It was spring and our lease was up, just as everything was going into lockdown. With the uncertainty of retail at the time, we made the difficult decision to close our store and focus on website sales.
Summer 2020 was a suprise echo of our 2008 roots as a homebased Etsy shop. Online sales were better than we’d hoped and by fall, we started looking for an office space to safely meet with clients asking for appointments and local order pick-ups. Serendipitously, we discovered a tiny, 200 sq ft. ground floor unit with big display windows. The space was perfect for appointments but so small that six customers at once would feel crowded. Those big display windows got us thinking about how window shopping might be updated to actually include shopping.
Creative visual merchandising has always been a key component in our business. From booth displays that pulled shoppers in at craft fairs, to our store’s window displays which regularly caught the attention of after-hours browsers and lured them back during open hours. Flattering as that was, who knows how many other potential customers forgot or never made it in? Short of adding a swing shift to our schedule, the best we could do was make nice displays, put out business cards, and cross our fingers that the after-hours crowd would come back. That, or hope they go to our website and take the time to find the thing in the window they wanted to buy.
We knew the selling potential of a well crafted window display when it comes to impulse buying. If only there was a way to capture that impulse buy when you have a piece of glass in the way. Which led to the thought — what if we could make our window display like a classy vending machine? This gave way to The Scan to Shop Solution, a new shopping method that makes it possible for customers to easily buy with contactless payments anytime, day or night. By including QR codes with items for sale, our new window displays now had scannable hyperlinks to “add to cart”. We’ve bridged the gap between a customer seeing the piece IRL and being able to readily purchase online. The largest pain point in online shopping is poor searchability but by enhancing our window display with QR codes, the customer is guided directly to the exact item they’re looking for on our website.
This method creates both a streamlined buying process and a safer outdoor alternative for patrons reluctant to return to indoor retail. The added benefit of 24/7 access means you can capture sales anytime (and we all like making money in our sleep). For our small town that starts shutting down at 5pm, this option is especially convenient for after hours visitors looking for something to do — perfect for the post-dinner crowd.
Do people use it?
To test it out, we added QR codes to our windows without telling anyone. Within a week, we had our first sale — on a Tuesday in early November, at our brand new location in a courtyard with no street visibility, in a small town on an island, during a worldwide pandemic. This method was already paying off without advertising.
HOW do people use it?
Up until recently, you needed a special app to scan a QR code. In fact, the big corporations are still developing apps for shopping (and more) that use QR codes. What many people don’t know is a special app isn’t actually necessary; all you need is a smartphone camera. If that QR code is a link to a product on your website, your email list sign-up, scheduling app, or any other thing people already use their smartphones for, then no new software is required. With this in mind, we made some eye-catching signs to point out this new way to shop and help teach our customers exactly how #literalwindowshopping works. Thanks to that extra nudge of guidance in our signage, Scan to Shop window shopping has grown our business and gotten our customers raving.
After personally helping a few of our wholesale partners implement it and seeing the greater potential that Scan to Shop window shopping holds for retailers and customers alike, we set to work creating this guide to help small businesses like ours make more money. Early adopters have had positive responses from their audiences as well.
“It’s such a fun concept and people walking by often talk about it and scan things just to see how it works. We’ll keep this going after the pandemic is over so people walking by can shop 24/7. Truly a great way to capitalize on impulse shopping!” — Scan to Shop early adopter, Rosalie Gale, Co-Owner, Ugly Baby and Monster
Our vision is to finally put the shopping in “window shopping” — to guide all the small, independent, Main Street, mom-and-pop shops to incorporate #literalwindowshopping. The jargony terms are “brick & click” or “omnisales channel”, but to put it plainly: If your business has both a retail storefront window display & an E-commerce website, then you’re ready to add our method in as little as one day.
We created this guide and toolkit to help independent retailers thrive by pivoting their businesses to “meet customers where they are” and serve them in a new way with a safer method for shopping local. This quick guide covers the whole process, including tips, recommended resources, and lessons learned while creating it, providing clear instructions every step of the way; from preparing window displays and creating a QR code, to modernizing delivery options and informing customers about this new way to shop. We also offer a collection of ready-to-print signage that explains this new method of #literalwindowshopping to customers — all to expedite the process and get your shoppers scanning!
We’re excited to have brought this resource to life and into the hands of small businesses after seeing for ourselves the immeasurable value of this new sales driver. We officially released the guide on March 16th, 2021 — the one year anniversary of shuttering our previous location. No small feat, since besides already running a business and raising a preschooler, we (perhaps inadvisably) have taken our handmade, small business ethos to heart and decided to produce and sell this guide ourselves. Visit ScantoShopSolution.com to pick up your copy of the guide today. If you’d like to connect, we can be found and followed on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, and YouTube. Also, look forward to more posts here as we continue to rethink retail in this weird transitional time and beyond. Here’s to pivoting into surprise success!