Improve your Blog by Visiting the Mall [Day 13 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog from Problogger]

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Jonathan graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Ouachita Baptist University. He also holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington. While he works for a contractor buying specialized tools, his passion is personal finance, frugal living, blogging, and stewardship.

Here’s my notes on Darren Rowse’s Problogger Free Podcast on 31 Days to Building a Better Blog. You can listen to Darren Rowse’s free podcast here Day 13 Improve your blog by visiting the mall. The complete list can read here on Day 0 – Welcome and Introduction.

Become A Problogger with Darren Rowse

In order for us all to get the full benefit of this series, I’m going to go at a slower pace posting going forward in September on Tuesdays each week. I hope with this challenge we are all able to improve our blogs and websites. 

So lets do this together! Day 13 here we go! Subscribe and check back often! #31DBBB

Day 13: Today the challenge is to go to your local mall or shopping center and observe the world around you.

This will get you away from your computer, devices, and will encourage you to go out into the real world. First, if nothing else, you will feel better by getting out of your pajamas, getting dressed, and getting some walking in. Second, this will give you the opportunity to do some observational exercises that could help your blogging.

This could be particularly true if you are selling something on your blog. You could be selling a product, a service, affiliate products, selling yourself, changing the world, or selling an idea. Something we are all doing as bloggers on some level right?

Darren says some of his best blog ideas come to him when he is not blogging at all but doing something else. Often this happens when he is in a different environment. Darren says he has changed his products based observation of the world around him.

Grab a notebook and pen. Or something else that you actually use to write with and won’t distract you. Try to avoid an electronic device in order to reduce the temptation to surf the internet, check your email, or yes the ultimate time waster browsing Facebook. For those in rural areas keep reading there’s some advice for you as well. Once you are there at the mall or shopping center wander around with no agenda other than to watch and observe.

Before you do go jot down some of these questions on your notebook.

Questions To Ask Yourself at the Mall

  1. Who is here?
  2. Who are they with?
  3. What are they doing?
  4. Are they actually shopping or doing something else?
  5. If they are shopping what are they buying?
  6. What items seem to be particularly hot right now?
  7. How do people make their decisions?
  8. What are retailers doing to attract customers attention?
  9. What are retailers doing to stand out?
  10. What messages and calls to actions are they using?
  11. What colors and design techniques are particularly popular at the moment?
  12. What else is in fashion?
  13. What sales techniques are the staff using?
  14. What are retail outlets doing well or poorly?

You will be fascinated at the things that you see. Take notes and yet don’t try to interpret them quite yet. Rather walk around and observe. At the end of the 30 minutes sit down and read what you observed. Then sit down with a nice cup of coffee to at the end of the 30 minutes mall visit to see if anything relates to your blogging.

Any number of things could come out of it. There’s a lot of questions you could ask but these 4 should get you started.

4 Application Questions To Your Blog

1. Is there anything you can apply to your blog?

2. Could you change your design?

3. Could you change your calls to action you have been using?

4. Could you change something in your marketing or selling technique?

Some thoughts from Darren

Darren observed one time in a book store that no customers were in any other section of the shop other than the best-seller list section. This taught Darren the power of social proof. What is popular is validated by the buzz of the product. This gave Darren an idea to go home and create a list of best-seller list based upon affiliate products that he noticed had sold well. It had a really big impact on the sales of those products.

Darren also observed the power of upselling. A smart salesman suggesting a second item to Darren at just the right time convinced him to buy the “add-on” item. That challenged Darren to go home and to think about the selling experience of his eBooks.

Buying a Suit… My Shopping Experience

On a personal level, yesterday I went to my local mall to buy a suit. This served several purposes. First, I needed a suit for work as we are having professional photos taken today. Second, my sister is getting married in January so I needed a suit for the wedding. Third, my work shoes have definitely seen better days and needed to be replaced. If you have read my blog much you will notice I am a relatively frugal person. My goal was to spend less than $700 on the entire outfit.

I had forgotten about this post on visiting the mall until I stepped through the door of Dillard’s. Why Dillard’s you might ask? Because they carry my favorite kind of shoes called Echo’s. As I walked in the store, my mood suddenly changed with an upbeat song. I noticed as I entered the store that there were products attractively displayed throughout the aisles. I also noticed that there were sales people in each section or department of the store. There were no other customers around in the men’s department during the week. Yet each salesperson seemed to be busying themselves with anything but engaging me as a customer.

I had done a little shopping online. I had the idea of going into the store and buying either a Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein suit. I approached a salesperson and was directed on down to the next department which was suits, ties, and dress shirts. I walked up to the sales lady whose name was Lisa and introduced myself. She proceeded to take measurements and to try to walk me through the sale. Taking my measurements was awkward as it seemed she hadn’t done much of it fore. Eventually, Lisa took me to a Ralph Lauren suit. She asked good questions like “Do you like this one?” or “How does it feel?”

Being in sales for nearly a decade myself, I quickly noticed that she was new. She didn’t understand the labels on the coat hangers and seemed a bit lost as to where items were located throughout the store. She presented me with one suit that was a bit too small. Turns out the suit was also an athletic fit. Since we’ve had two kids and bought a house, let’s just say I’m not as fit or athletic as I used to be. Lol. So the athletic fit was not for me. I had to search the remainder selection and find my own size. I  determined that instead of an athletic fit or slim fit I wanted a regular suit. I noticed too that they had a very limited selection of suits in black. Lisa explained that they didn’t carry a lot of what was online. So basically I had 3-4 options to choose from. I chose the Ralph Lauren in my actual size.

Meanwhile the other salesperson next door in the shoes department never introduced herself before going to look for the Echo shoes I had picked out. She was significantly younger and also a new employee. At first she said she didn’t have my size. When I asked her to look again or call another store to see if they had it in stock, she was suddenly able to locate the shoes I was asking for. She then offered the unnecessary piece of information that the shoe storage room was very disorganized. This just re-affirmed my impression that professionalism is no longer a priority for department sales staff.

Checking out was also an interesting experience. Apparently shoe girl was on commission and Lisa simply had a quota. My purchase had to be rung up as two separate transactions. While shoe girl was ringing up my sale she decided to take the opportunity to ask Lisa how to ring up a cash transaction. I was not paying with cash. I was paying with plastic. I don’t see why this question could not have waited until after she was done with my transaction. It was also awkward because I was told I was the first sale of the day and business was terribly slow. Big incentive to come back right? Nobody is shopping at Dillard’s expect me. I should have gone to Men’s Warehouse or some other speciality store. Needless to say I won’t be returning any time soon.

Closing Thoughts

Going shopping can be a very enlightening experience. I learned both in what to do and what not do. Having a well organized, appealing blog can attract people’s atention. I realize that presentation, professionalism, and easy check out are important to customers. Having helpful, knowledgable staff is also important. This challenged me to further research in depth topics I blog about. When I write I want my work to be professional, informative, and helpful.

If you don’t have a mall or shopping center around you look into going to the local library, the shopping channel, a local tourist destination, a restaurant, a gallery, or a restaurant. It’s about people watching but it’s also about seeing how people sell and are sold to.

Further reading:

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Have you ever tried something like this? If so, share your experience. If not, try it out! Where will you go? How do you think this exercise could you improve your blog?

{Click to go back to day 12 here} {Click to go forward to day 14 here} *Coming Soon*

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About Jonathan Key 112 Articles
Jonathan graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Ouachita Baptist University. He also holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington. While he works for a contractor buying specialized tools, his passion is personal finance, frugal living, blogging, and stewardship.

53 Comments

  1. That is a really good idea! I am sure lots of people can draw some blogging inspiration from the people and sights at the mall.

  2. I love to go to the Mall and shop, so this is a great task for me 😉 Seriously though, this is a really great idea. Good to see what people are buying and what they react to. Also, I do get ideas when I’m away from my computer.
    Shann Eva recently posted…Voxbox RevealMy Profile

    • Shann just make sure you don’t overspend lol. But seriously yeah it can be a very useful experiment. I think I get better ideas when I’m living life than hunched over a computer… 😀

  3. Hey, I never thought of it that way. But once you realize it, malling is somewhat similar to blogging. Good points right here, thanks for sharing!

  4. I absolutely love go to the mall and i am sure it will be the Inspiration of many blogger. When i am in the mall i am observing what’s new

  5. I really liked this! I liked making these kinds of connections. Your point is well made. Just earlier visiting another blog, there was a whole slew of comments that the blog owner had not taken the time to even answer one and I thought to myself what disrespect and discourtesy. People come to your blog – or your store and no one to attend to them. I really like this post…did I say that already? 🙂
    Claudette recently posted…Fear: A SWAP Tactic To Overcome ItMy Profile

    • Claudette thanks for stopping by! You bring up some good points. Yes, it’s so important to follow up with people and readers in particular. People like being acknowledged and feeling they’re respected. Thanks for commenting and reading!

  6. What a great idea! This list of questions will be so helpful.

    I work at a small grocery store and am appalled at the customer service you received! It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to be courteous and thoughtful, and get a manager if you need more assistance. I don’t blame you for not wanting to go back! Hope your next experience is better!
    Nicole recently posted…My Favorite Apple Crisp and Mix-insMy Profile

  7. those are great ideas. I love the idea about going to the mall. So much can be learned on how they buy and well people watching is fun.

  8. Jonathan,
    I must admit that for many years I have avoided going to the mall with a passion. However, I am a people watcher and love to observe. Your point is well made. Interaction with others stimulates the mind and can give you insights and experiences that can be missed if we are always glued to our computer. Thank you for this thought provoking post!
    Horace Williams Jr recently posted…Do you Really want God Clearing out all the Clutter?My Profile

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this post on #BrilliantBlogPosts, because of your post I’m going to be reading and listening to more of the ProBlogger podcasts and I’ve already had a few insights into my own blogging. This is great advice and I intend to do it at some point, probably once the kids are back at school after half-term!
    Morgan Prince recently posted…Easy Halloween Costume Ideas for BoysMy Profile

  10. Hi Jonathan,

    I found out who Problogger was by reading one of your blogs the other week. Now I’m addicted and about to start day 1!

    See you at the end!

    • Lori I’m so glad you stopped by and checked out the blog! Yes Problogger is one of the best blogging resources out there. It should really help focus your blog. I know it has helped me tremendously. Remember to pace yourself I think I burned out after trying to do the challenge consecutively after day 11 or 12. Thanks again for reading!

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