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The Shop Around the Corner (and in Your Mailbox, on Your iTunes…)

Lately I’ve been fascinated by the way design stores (online and brick and mortar) have been capitalizing on the blog, podcast and friendly video interview. Most design bloggers I know find these new techonologies helpful in connecting with their audience, while creating a sense of rapport and community with their readers. The podcast in particular was a big step for design blogs as we stepped away from the safety of our laptop anonymity and introduced our readers to our voices and, in the case of video interviews or segments, our faces.

Lately I’ve been fascinated by the way design stores (online and brick and mortar) have been capitalizing on the blog, podcast and friendly video interview. Most design bloggers I know find these new techonologies helpful in connecting with their audience, while creating a sense of rapport and community with their readers. The podcast in particular was a big step for design blogs as we stepped away from the safety of our laptop anonymity and introduced our readers to our voices and, in the case of video interviews or segments, our faces. Most blog editors I spoke with who’ve introduced these features find it increases readers’ trust of the author and connection with their writing. However, lately bloggers aren’t the only one picking up on how showing your face, voice and even your hip choice in clothing can be valuable in strengthening one’s sense of brand.

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One of my favorite online shops, FredFlare.com recently debuted a series of video podcasts in which the owners flitted through Las Vegas while shooting their new Fall 2006 catalog. I found myself sucked into the catchy theme music (which they wrote themselves) and the sense of “I know these people!” I had while watching. And apparently I wasn’t the only one. After conducting a podcast interview with them and airing it on my site, I was besieged by emails from people saying they felt like the owners of Fred Flare were “people they would be friends with” and that they seemed “like such nice people”. Now I’m sure you’re saying, what’s the big deal, they probably are nice people? And certainly they are, but when I started to ask people how it affected their purchasing with Fred Flare most of them said it affected it dramatically. Not only were they visiting the site to “visit” Mr. and Mr. Fred Flare, but they found themselves “shopping like I would in a shop owned by friends or family”. Then I noticed that a number of online retailers including modern design e-tailers like Design Public and 2Modern introduced blogs on their e-commerce sites where they talk casually and informally about topics and people in modern design, including designers and designs they carry in their own shops. I was immediately skeptical because it seems that connecting with a shop owner or e-tailer on a “friendly’ level that is often created when one blogs with photos of themselves in an informal, friendly tone can create a sense of trust that often leads to the loostening of purse strings. But perhaps this isn’t that different from reality. I have friends who own shops and I find myself shopping their more often than I normally would beause it feels familiar, like hanging out in their living room that just happens to be filled with great things to buy. So, is this trend good for the consumer or bad? Right now I’m torn- I can’t blame retailers for wanting to connect with their audience and share their thoughts on design, but if people feel like they’re friends with people and want to shop at their stores more often because of it, will retailers start to take advantage of their new “friends”? I hope not but we’ll see. I can’t image the boys at Fred Flare wanting to take advantage of their customer/friends but I can think of a lot of stores that would…