Social Media And The Retail Industry

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“Social Media is about the people! Not about your business. Provide for the people and the people will provide for you.” – Matt Goulart, CEO Ignite Digital

For a few years now, social media has completely changed the business environment and redefined the way businesses communicate. Retail is a social activity, so it comes as no surprise that the retail industry was one of the first adopters of social media to help market and promote their brand to attract new customers. According to a McKinsey Global Institute Study, 85% of consumer and retail companies are using social media for marketing purposes, compared to the 66% of companies in other industries.

Social media platforms give retail businesses the capability to personalise the consumer experience; however, many retailers are still in the mind-set that social media is purely a marketing and sales tool.  Retailers who use social technology to simply push advertisements and promotions could be potentially damaging their long-term goal by failing to act on the other benefits of social media.  If implemented properly, social media is now a great way for retailers to boost sales, gather more customers and develop their business;

  • In 2014, the top 500 retailers earned £3.3 billion from social sales
  • 46% of web users look towards social media when making purchase
  • 91% of e-commerce retailers saw a lift in their SEO rank due to social referrals
  • 53% of users recommend companies and products on Twitter
  • 50% of shoppers have made a purchase based on a recommendation through social media

Retailers participating in social media need to develop a content strategy that puts the customers at the forefront of the campaign. Posting content too often or content that is irrelevant to your consumer base is the digital version of cold calling. With a carefully thought-out social strategy, retailers can gather a wealth of knowledge about their customers, build a rapport and help shape an online community thus allowing the business to gain a greater insight of their customers’ wants, needs and trends. The key word in ‘social media’ is ‘social’; businesses need to be able to engage with their customers in a meaningful way without becoming a social nuisance. Customers will appreciate this and feel they are being listened to, helping you learn more about them and build a reputation as a business that cares about its customers; after all, “a happy customer is the greatest advertisement”.

In summary, social media is a great marketing tool for retailers in boosting sales, growth and engaging with customers, but what are the benefits for consumers? They engage with brands online for specific reasons; the top five being:

  1. To take advantage of promotions and discounts
  2. Information on the latest products
  3. Customer service
  4. Entertaining content
  5. To offer feedback

Retailers need to take on board these five customer behaviours when developing their social media strategy. Use social media for what it is there for; take full advantage of its benefits and its growing community.  Social media has progressed from just being another advertising channel; it is now a much larger, mature platform which is here to stay. As a retail business, it is down to you to either evolve with it or be left behind.


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