If you follow pop culture, you've probably heard of the Museum of Ice Cream, a pop-up style museum currently running in Los Angeles. Followers of the MoIC know that it first opened last summer with a stint in New York followed by a trip to San Francisco before making its way to sunny So Cal. In just one short year, it has already become a cultural phenomenon and tourist destination for millennials, celebrities, and influencers from around the world.
What's so special about this museum and how does it relate to brick and mortar retail? Well, to start, the MoIC is a great example of identifying a pain point and solving it. Before the MoIC, millennials didn't have a place in New York that allowed them to create, explore, and document their experience in a social media-worthy environment. The MoIC solved that by providing a space for visitors to experiment, revel in nostalgia, and of course, take plenty of pretty pictures.
It shouldn't be a surprise that the space, so aptly envisioned for millennials, was in fact the brainchild of a millennial. Here's what retail store owners can learn from Maryellis Bunn, the 25 year old entrepreneur behind The Museum of Ice Cream.
Learn Everything You Can About Your Audience
Bunn knew she wanted to create an experience that would resonate with a millennial audience. As a millennial herself, she likely also knew that the experience would need to surprise and delight all of the five senses (in addition to being Instagram-worthy, of course). In addition to her creative strengths, Bunn had plenty of marketing experience as the previous head of forecasting and innovation for Time Inc and as a fashion and business consultant for companies like Facebook and Instagram. So, she and Manish Vora, her business partner and a former investment banker, started looking for new ways to connect with her demographic in an almost entirely experimental space. And then the Museum of Ice Cream was born.
KNOW WHAT SETS YOUR STORE APART AND SHOUT IT TO THE WORLD
One of the Museum of Ice Cream's biggest strengths is the fact that's so different from anything else out there. Think about your lingerie store for a moment. Are you the only store that provides bra fitting services in the area? How about nursing bras or mastectomy bras? Even if there is another lingerie store near you that you're competing with, chances are good you have a unique strength that gives you a competitive advantage over them.
If you haven't identified it already, your job is to find that unique selling proposition, or USP, and shout it to the world. Post it on all of your social media pages, on your website, on your Yelp page, and My Google Business listing. Put it on your business cards, email signature, and the front door of your store. Let everyone know that you are the go-to store for plus size bras, bra fitting services, bridal lingerie, small bust lingerie, or gender inclusive lingerie. Your uniqueness is your strength. Use it!
Partner with local businesses and influencers
While the endeavor was mostly self-funded by Bunn and Vora, brand partners provided the MoIC with ice cream, chocolates, and gift shop products. At the LA location, the Museum of Ice Cream works with local creameries native to Southern California. Dove provides some of the chocolates. In one of the museum's rooms, Tinder created an exhibit for visitors to create an "ice cream profile" and swipe right or left on ice cream flavors.
Create Visual Moments
If you're interested in turning your store from a destination into an experience, make sure your visual displays, products, and stores are photo-friendly. Invest in high-quality lighting, add a few beautiful mirrors, and cultivate a space that is conducive to shareable social media moments. Almost every angle of the Museum of designed to be photographed and interacted with, including the props, sculptures, statues, and displays.
Update your social media accounts often
Your followers want to hear from you. If you scroll through the Museum of Ice Cream's Instagram page, you'll notice that they typically update their feed 3 times a day and space out their posts every few hours.
Need another reason to post about your store's beautiful lingerie and upcoming events? Check this stat out: 67% of top-performing Instagram posts feature products. If you're worried about turning your customers off with frequent status updates, don't be. Just be sure you're not posting all product images (which can get stale and boring for your audience).
Consider this: Unless the customer visited your store recently, they have no idea that you just received a shipment of bridal robes or new soft and cozy pajama sets. So, by posting frequent and compelling content, you can get back on your customers' radar and get them even more excited to visit your store and pick up those products.
Create a unique hashtag for your brand
Give your customers every reason to share their purchase from you on social media. According to SproutSocial, 7 out of 10 hashtags on Instagram are branded. The MoIC hashtags all of their Instagram posts with #museumoficecream. If you don't already, now is a good time to start including hashtags with your Instagram posts so they can be found easily in search. And don't forget to create your own unique hashtag for any store events, launches, parties, sales, or promotions.
Be Ready To Evolve With Your Customers as their interests change
Without a doubt, the Museum of Ice Cream is here to stay. So, it's not surprising that they would be open to expanding to other cities and developing products (like their own ice cream brand) in the future.
The most successful businesses evolve with the needs of their customers. If you've been in business for a while, chances are good you've introduced new product lines, removed some product lines, experimented with offering body products, hosiery, or shapewear, and learned a lot about your customers in the process. Always be open to bringing in new products and services and never forget to ask for feedback from all of your customers.
BUILD A SOLID TEAM
As a business owner, you can't do everything. If you don't already have a solid team around you, focusing on hiring people to complement your weaknesses. Maybe it's time to hire an accountant, social media strategist, or business partner. Bunn, Vora, and an incredible team of artists, sculptors, writers, advertisers, analysts, and creatives worked together to bring the Museum of Ice Cream to life.
Not long ago, Bunn was a student at Parsons who was disappointed by the outdated nature of the city's establishments and dreamed of creating unique experiences for her generation. Along the way she met Vora and a concreate concept and business was born.
Take a moment to really look at your business. At one point, owning a lingerie store was just an idea of yours. Now look at where you are. Never ever be afraid to dream big for your business. Maybe you'd like to develop your own product line at some point or sell the store and start a new dream. No matter what you'd like to do in the future, you are your only limit.
be a customer advocate
Most importantly, with everything you do, always remember to put yourself in your customers' shoes. You can never go wrong if you lead, speak, and serve from a place of empathy and compassion. When asked about the Museum's launch, Bunn confessed that the first day of the New York opening was a "disaster". But, instead of letting the mix-up overshadow the grand opening, she worked quickly and turned it around, providing free ice cream and rescheduling admission for visitors that couldn't be accommodated.
So what can learn from Maryellis Bunn, co-founder of the Museum of Ice Cream? Keep solving problems, trust your intuition, build your network and your team, and always make time for the sweeter things in life.