Connecting with Families through an Online Story Time
by Brock Eastman
You may be feeling the stress of the pandemic both on a personal level and in business. Whether due to lower customer traffic and sales or new protocols you and your guests are required to follow, this is a challenging time. While I’m sure, like me, you’re hoping we get back to normal soon, I wanted to share something you can do right now to connect with consumers.
Just as you are feeling stresses in your business and daily life, so are your customers. As a dad of four kids and a children’s author, I want to focus on your customers who are parents or grandparents with kids in the home. Change is a challenge, and the change we’re facing can cause not only stress but fear in children, who hear talk of this virus that is spreading and disrupting their usual routine.
The change we’re facing can cause not only stress but fear in children
So, let’s give them an escape—an escape that leads them to the hope we have in Jesus Christ, by creating a virtual story time in your store.
There are many great platforms out there to use. And most are free or have a low cost. Because of the pandemic, millions have been forced to work from home, and these platforms have accelerated their development and options.
An easy one is Facebook or Instagram Live. There is a high probability that most of your audience is already on one of these platforms. It’s free and it can be linked right back to your own store page or website. Microsoft Teams and Zoom are also great options, though they offer different levels of service and cost structures. Many schools are using Microsoft Teams already, so there is a good chance that your consumers are currently using it for any at-home learning. Another option that is free, but less market adopted, is Google Hangouts.
FREQUENCY AND CONSISTENCY
Regardless of how many times you plan to host a story time, be sure it’s consistent. Pick a day and time and keep it the same. This will help your customers plan, by putting it on their calendar, and will also create a rhythm. So, whether you do it the first Saturday of every month at 10 AM or every Monday and Wednesday at 6 PM, be consistent. With all the changes and unknowns, this is a great opportunity for you to model the unwavering rock we know as Jesus.
Many publishers have laxed their requirements on their books being read aloud on video. This creates a wonderful variety of content for all ages. From board books like Bedtime on Noah’s Ark to middle grade books like Taken (The Quest for Truth series), you can find a story to reach nearly any age audience. I suggest using titles that aren’t as well known, but ones you or your employees really enjoy. Why? Because the most popular titles are likely already on the web and available to watch. Give your consumers something unique, which will enhance their view of you as an expert in the field of books, and someone who can provide solid recommendations to them.
Give your consumers something unique, which will enhance their view of you as an expert in the field of books
Other than books, you can also engage your audience with crafts, devotions, coloring, games, recipes, and might I suggest, experiments. This fall, I have a brand-new devotional project coming out called Faith and Science with Dr. Fizzlebop: 52 Fizztastically Fun Experiments and Devotions for Families (Tyndale Kids). And as my character Dr. Fizzlebop, I lead kids through experiments on video, giving them hands-on learning, while tying it back to God’s Word through a devotion.
A devotion or time of prayer is something we can offer our clientele that other organizations and retailers won’t
And a devotion or time of prayer is something we can offer our clientele that other organizations and retailers won’t. As a Christian retailer, you have a special opportunity to give your customers hope and trust in a powerful God. So let me encourage you to end your virtual event with prayer or even a short devotion. Personalize it by looking into the camera and asking your audience to let your store know how you can be praying for them. This will create a strong connection and show your customers how much you care.
Be sure to give yourself enough time to promote the event. Around two weeks out, begin using your social media channels and flyers or mailers to let customers know about the upcoming event. Families often don’t plan too far in advance, but you want to be sure you’re not launching a virtual event that no one knows about. Even if you have a few thousand likes on Facebook or followers on Instagram, it doesn’t mean your customers will be available right when you go live. Plan the date and time, and let your community know when and how to access the virtual event.
Have the book you’re reading available. Whether in your physical store or available to mail out, have inventory of the story you’re sharing. Families will have a positive connection to the story you’ve read to them, and kids will likely ask their parents to get it so they can read it again. Create a special offer they can’t resist, so that your store doesn’t miss out on the purchase to another retailer. For example, if you have a pair of books or a series, offer them as a bonus for a really great discount, aiming for quantity over margin.
I hope what I’ve written will be helpful for you. Take courage in knowing that God’s got you and He’s not caught off guard by what’s going on. You are an essential part of your community and can provide a light in this time of darkness. You may never know how you are impacting the families who shop at your store, but I guarantee you are. CRA