What does it mean to go viral?

By Robert Kowalczyk, Country Manager for Poland

Look it up, and you’ll see that “going viral” refers to an image, video, or link that “spreads rapidly through a population by being frequently shared among a number of individuals” - but while this may seem like a modern phenomenon, there are in fact references to the concept dating back to Roman times, when letters were shared and “went viral” throughout Pompei.

Think about something going viral and your mind probably goes to online. Thanks to the always-on nature of the digital world, and the power of social media, a jaw-dropping video or topical meme can be seen by thousands - or even millions - of people within a matter of seconds. But digital content isn’t the only vehicle for viral success.

Now, brands are becoming more aware of the impact their in-store experiences can have on consumers - and learning that word of a unique, eye-catching, or interactive in-store installation can spread like wildfire.


Take the Tiffany store in London’s Covent Garden, which opened last year. The brand wanted to make things a bit more ‘fun’ and modern, and put a focus on the customer experience in store. The result? A unique, contemporary space full of interactive experiences - including a vending machine full of Tiffany perfumes and a personalisation bar for getting jewellery engraved. Naturally, Instagram was soon full of photos of people going in-store to play with the vending machine - and Tiffany’s mission of engaging a social-savvy audience was a success.

After all, being in-store doesn’t mean that you have to step away from the digital world entirely. In fact, many brands that have created viral in-store experiences have curated a careful blend of the two. Sephora launched a series of digital mirrors in their make up stores, allowing consumers to virtually try on make-up or receive recommendations based on their age, look or gender. They also launched fragrance sampling studios which allow shoppers to smell different scents using InstaScent technology - something that’s proven to be hugely popular amongst consumers.


 “Consumers are looking for retail stores to be creative spaces. They are looking for experiences. Digital is a critical element in retail — however, it is not just for the sake of adding new, cool technology. Our intention is to help our clients,” explained Bridget Dolan, SVP Omni Experience & Innovation at Sephora. Now, customers are going into physical stores specifically to engage with these items - almost pushing the products themselves into second place when it comes to appeal.

Give your story a life of its own

Seeing your retail experience go viral is the ultimate success story when it comes to retail marketing. For brands looking to make a stir in stores, investing a little more time and effort into your point of sale (POS) installations and activations could be the key to seeing your POS grow a life outside of the confines of the shop.

Broaching both the online and offline worlds is essential when it comes to seeing viral success in-store; you want to make connections that people attach to emotionally, and then want to tell all of their friends about - whether that’s in person, or on Twitter. “The aim of capturing mindshare through experiential retail is to establish an emotional connection with a brand and a consumer, solidifying it as one of the best,” explained Melissa Gonzalez, Chief Pop-Up Architect™ at The Lionesque Group.

Encouraging sharing is another key to success. “People want to be inspired and share their discoveries, and experience is today's social currency, so be sure you incorporate purposeful Instagrammable moments that others want to share,” Gonzalez continued, highlighting the importance of considering the mutli-channel way in which people engage with brands and their products.

Take the Share a Coke campaign, which launched in 70 countries, resulting in a tour encompassing 65 experiential stops, and more than 150 million personalised bottles sold. According to Coca-Cola, 235,000 tweets were sent from 111,000 fans using the #ShareaCoke hashtag, with over 998 million impressions on Twitter - showing just how powerful it can be when your in-store experience prompts online action.



Understanding the value of the work done in-store, at that crucial touchpoint with consumers, can help you to make tweaks that take your retail marketing to the next level. Think about your customers, how they behave, and what they’re looking for - how can you make them happy next time they go in store?


Ready to invest in your retail marketing? We can help you to manage campaigns from idea through to execution, keeping the in-store shopper experience at the core of everything that we do. Understanding how a shopper behaves and their triggers, is the key to creating a brand experience that grows a life of its own - motivating people to engage, enjoy, and ultimately, buy. Get in touch to find out more.


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