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Take a Trip to the ‘Mall’ and Improve Your Blog [Day 13 - 31DBBB]

This post is an excerpt from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook

ShoppingToday’s task in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project is to go Shopping!

OK – I can hear what you’re probably thinking:

“What? This ProBlogger dude has lost his mind – what does shopping have to do with blogging?”

Stick with me for a second and let me explain….

The reason I want to encourage you to go shopping is twofold:

A. It’ll get you away from your blog for a bit - I was chatting with another blogger yesterday and we both admitted to each other that we’d been in our PJ’s all day blogging (it was 4pm for me) and needed to get out more – sad but true.

B. It’ll give you a chance to do some observation exercises that could help your - this is the main reason for today’s task and is based upon an experience that I had today at a local shopping center (or ‘mall’ as many of you non Aussies would call it).

The Exercise:

1. Step away from the Computer (come on, you can do it)

2. Grab a notebook and pen (do you remember them? They are the things you used to use before your primary form of communication involved typing)

3. Head to your local shopping center/mall/CBD shopping area (easier for some than others I realize – apologies to those in rural areas, this may or may not work in your local general store)

4. Once at the ‘mall’ take 30 minutes or so to go ‘wandering’ with no agenda (don’t do your groceries) except to ‘watch’ and ‘observe’ in some of the following ways:

  • Who is there? Who are they with?
  • What are they doing?
  • What are they buying? What products are particularly in demand at the moment?
  • How do they make their buying decisions?
  • What are the retailers doing to get people’s attention and stand out?
  • What messages are they using in their marketing?
  • What colors/design techniques are in at the moment?
  • What other things are ‘hot’ or in fashion?
  • What sales techniques are sales staff using?
  • What are retail outlets doing well? What are they doing poorly?

5. As you watch, make some notes. Don’t attempt to find any ‘lessons’ or try to tie it back to your blog yet.

6. Once you’ve spent half an hour or so on ‘observation mode’ find a spot to sit down (a food court perhaps) with a coffee and go over the things that you’ve noticed and see if there’s any lessons there that you might be able to apply to your blogging?

This process might seem a little random and pointless – but it’s something that I’ve done on numerous occassions over the last few years and each time that I’ve done it I’ve come away with at least one new idea that I want to apply in my blogging.

Some of the ideas have come directly from things I’ve seen retailers doing in their marketing (for example, today I saw a store using an attention grabbing technique that I want to try to apply to one of my blogs to draw readers eyes) – while others are more lessons about ‘people’ and how they operate and once or twice I’ve even seen illustrations to use for posts or even ideas for new blog post topics. Once I even spotted a trend that gave me an idea for a new blog.

If nothing else it’ll get you out of the house for a bit!

I’d love to hear your experiences of this exercise in comments below!

Update: Here’s what I learned on MY shopping expedition when I first posted this exercise in the last 31 Day Challenge – I hope it gives some ideas on how this might work out.

Update #2: They’re talking about this over at the 31DBBB forum: Day 13 – Visit a ‘Mall’ (really… a Mall) You should join them!

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

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About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Gala says:

    I have just read your “10 Lessons in Blogging Learned on a Shopping Expedition”
    Your observations, Darren, are outstanding. I visit malls regularly, mainly for buying food. But I have noticed only a few things of what you saw, e.g. people don´t like to be overhelmed by shop personal attention and information, they don´t like, just hate to wait in queues, importance of sensory experience and surprising. However, I am afraid I won´t be able to use anything of that in my blogging. For all that I will go to the neigbour mall this afternoon and will observe.

  2. Marcus Neto says:

    You know not what you ask. Step away form my computer? But the world will coming crashing to an end. ;-)

    Seriously though. I am really enjoying this series. And since putting a focus on my blog my traffic has increased 30%. Good stuff.

  3. You never have to ask me twice to go to the mall!! I just usually want to do a bit of shopping once i am there.

    Another suggestion is to go to an Art Museum. When I ran a creative services team, I used to send my graphic designers to the galleries for an afternoon. They came back refreshed and ready to try new things.

    Can’t write more now, off to see what I discover at the Mall!

  4. blog4movie says:

    Beside go to mall, I usually find the idea by going to cinema, not only can watch cool movies, but also can see cool people, that could create good idea sometimes :P

  5. I do this type of exercise all the time for restaurant reviews by looking at the diners. What brings them to the restaurant? (special occasion, meeting friends, a date, etc.) What do they order? What attracted them to the restaurant? By looking at the cars in the parkiing lot, the prices of the drinks, and the diners’ clothing – what does that tell me about demographics, along with age and if they are dining with kids or other couples/friends. People watching is a great way to discover what attracts peope to things, products, and services.

  6. We have a terrific mall in the area, but I get to it no more than twice a year.

    So, I think I’ll try this exercise in our local shopping “strip,” one day this week. Fortunately, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts in the same plaza, and I’ll look forward to working on part 2, over a caramel latte!

  7. Just observing people and their moves tells one thing in the mall, most don’t come really to shop but to chill out and get entertained. Similarly in blogging you need to offer free services and write entertaining stuff to keep readers intact.

  8. Both the artist and the scientist in me encourage observation and cogitation. After reading everyone’s posts here, I realized that I have been doing something similar all my life every time I’m out. I people watch, scene watch, study store windows and the people around them. Heck, I even listen to other people’s conversations if they are loud enough.

    Apparently, this is already part of my box.

    ;)

  9. Sugar Jones says:

    I used to love going to the mall to people watch. It’s a fun experience. The best part of shopping, IMHO

  10. It’s like you said in the beginning… When your business centers around your blog and the computer in some way, it’s easy to sit there all day and let time fly by. And yes, although perhaps productive, you miss out on what I would consider to be a lot of other opportunities.

    For example, a lot of the clients that I work (real estate agents) author local niche blogs. I encourage them to attend local meetups and other local events. Developing content is great… Developing content that’s seo rich is great… But nothing beats face-to-face interactions. I encourage them to try and turn some of their off-line connections into off-line connections by attending at least one monthly meetup. I ask that they take tons of photos and upload them onto flickr and perhaps a little video too. This gets them away from the computer and out of the office and building relationships.

    As for me personally, as a blogger… I noticed that the more time I spend outside of the office with other bloggers, friends, co-workers, etc. the more ideas I get for new content. Sure I get some of those ideas from reading my feedreader, but there’s something about personal face-to-face interaction that helps stimulate new ideas too.

  11. Nicole says:

    I never thought going to the mall could provide so much insight. Thanks for a great post!

  12. just enjoy mall situation and get more benefits

  13. Great post. The best way learn a new approach is through observing your target. This rule applies to a lot of things including creating effective blog posts to grab peoples interest.

  14. I can totally relate with post and comments, my online biz has me sitting about 12 hours a day, had to start aerobics again, and feel much better.

  15. Desire Paths. At least that’s what we call them in the Landscape Design/Planning world. A desire path is a frequently traveled path through the landscape (or the mall, or whatever) – regardless of whether or not there is actually a path there. In the landscape, this is a worn chunk of grass that has been trampled to death. There probably should be a path there. Experienced designers can predict many of these paths, but some designers prefer to let the desire paths dictate the design.

    So why is this an observation I find important? Desire paths in the physical world is rooted in the human psyche. Whether or not we think about it consciously, humans have a desire to do things quicker and simpler. If it means cutting off the corner of a park, so be it: Shortest distance between points. But in the digital world, it also applies. I realize that blog readers are not going to dig for information, I need to make sure it’s easy for them to find: Shortest distance between two points = fewest number of clicks and/or mouse/keyboard movements.

    This means tweaking the hierarchy of my site for those looking for specific topics. Maybe a page dedicated to articles for beginners, or articles for advanced photographers. I made a post, but perhaps that should be a dedicated page that I would update frequently. This also means I am contemplating the structure of my home page.

    Lots to think about.

  16. Ryan Bickett says:

    I think this is great advice. Not only is it good for us to get up and away from our computers, but it’s also an activity that will help us focus on our audience.

    I’ve caught myself focusing more on my ideas than ideas that will actually work with my audience. I think this is a great exercise to either put weight behind my ideas or help me to realize that I may need to tweak what I am doing a bit.

    Thanks for another quality post!

  17. Brook Lenox says:

    Can I send me 12 yr old daughter? :) WOW…this is going to take some commitment. Does Best Buy qualify (one store I really love). Kidding aside…this is a good way to brainstorm.

  18. Joshua says:

    I did the same thing too, some time its talking to someone that got you the inspiration to write, and it was through that I was able to write 4 different post.

    If you have nothing to share, go out to shopping malls and just look around. It will do you good.

    http://WebsiteMakerNovice.com
    For Beginners In Website Creation

  19. I like this idea. I will recommend this article to my friends. Thank you

  20. This is my favorite assignment so far just because I think the power of observation is so important.

    I heard someone once say that great artists notice things that other don’t. I think it can be said of anyone who succeeds in their chosen field.

    Great sales people notice body language that average sales people miss. Great bloggers perhaps notice the trends that average bloggers miss.

    ~ Leisa

  21. Hi this is a good article and very usefull.Keep doing the good job.
    Thanks again.

  22. Rajat says:

    Will surely practice this thing tomorrow and see the difference

  23. gabybali says:

    Darren just told me to do something that a girl loves the most and some were even born to do this: Going to the mall aka shopping :) !!

    I did it yesterday but ended up with buying groceries (my fav!)… At least he gives me a very different task this time. And I do need to go out and leave my laptop for a while.

    Terima kasih,Darren!

  24. Tony says:

    This exercise distracted me. I got caught up in all the shopping. I’ll need to go back.

  25. Stephen Wise says:

    I basically look at magazines as well. Use youself as your own specimen, and when something really catches your eye enough for you to want to get pulled in to the article or whatever it may be, simply put a check mark on it with your sharpie. Do this for a couple of pages, but the most important is the magazine cover, and the index. Those two pages is where you should test your own psyche.

    http://onlivedream.com

  26. Sam sall says:

    yay,I love shopping,even if just to observe,I really get caught in the blogging thing & I to go out more often.and freshen up my mind with more ideas

  27. Mrs Green says:

    lovely to spent some time away from the computer. I live in the middle of the countryside, so no malls for miles around. However, a walk in nature is enough to recharge the batteries and get the creativity flowing once again :)

    A change of scenery and habit is great for supercharging the passion to write.

  28. Well, I finally made it to the mall this weekend – however I was on a mission to pick up some things. But, I am very much a people watcher, and I did my fare share of time in retail – so it was interesting so watch interpersonal relationships in action at the mall – Which couples were happy? Which weren’t? The families that were at the mall on a sunny Sunday morning? And then noticing the people who are truly into retail and customer service, and those who are just doing it for a paycheck. Customer service is definitely something you either have or you don’t. Clearly, the guy who ran in the back and hid when I started to walk over to place and order in the food court was NOT all about customer service. ;)

    Not necessarily related to the challenge, but definitely food for thought. And inspiration for a possible future blog post!

  29. This is a fantastic idea. I am a people watcher, especially when I’m in the mall. I’ll let you know what happens when I visit the mall on Saturday.

  30. Nic says:

    Ok…I LOVE this idea! But I can’t guarantee that I won’t spend the whole time shopping! Haha :)

  31. that’s a new and creative article .. I shall try

  32. Maria Palma says:

    I think just getting out and about in general is good to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve gotten my best ideas from people watching and overheard conversations standing in line at the grocery store. This is a great exercise!

  33. My daughter wants me to take her and a friend to the mall tomorrow. Now I have no excuse!

  34. This really is a great tip, and one should always try to learn from ALL situations, not only the ones that seem most logical at first.
    Life is a lesson, learn it well.

  35. Hugo says:

    I didn’t know you where an ozzy. Awesome. I’ve been traveling around there for a year.
    Tomorrow i’ll dive into that shopping centre to gain myself some inspiration.
    Thanks!

  36. Ann Sachs says:

    I live in the middle of Manhattan where there is no such a thing as a mall! Every day is people-watching for those of us who live here, and as I am in the theatre industry, it is what we do for a living. So this may be the only assignment of the 31 days that I won’t be doing as prescribed.

    This 31Days project is absolutely spectacular – thank you, Darren!

  37. tiffany UK says:

    I think the best way to promote is by commenting on others blog. Beside the promotion, we can also build a nice relation with other blogger and I think it really helpful :)

  38. This really is a great tip, and one should always try to learn from ALL situations, not only the ones that seem most logical at first.