Five Social Retailing Suggestions

The use of social media by retailers, or Social Retailing for short, continues to spread throughout the industry. However, there are very few established best practices since retailers are still exploring this new type of marketing and engagement. Retailers often have to try many approaches before finding the ones that work for their brand. Through my discussions and research, I’ve come up with five things retailers should consider:

1. Establish beachheads, now!

Remember when brands had to pay exorbitant prices for their web addresses when the internet went mainstream? Don’t let that happen with social media sites. Reserve accounts on the sites you might be using. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are the obvious choices, but there are others popping up all the time. Would Linkedin be appropriate? How about Pinterest?

You should also consider whether you need to support other languages. Do you need multiple Facebook pages for each country in which you operate? Should you consider Renren in China or Orkut in Brazil? Don’t assume the site popular in your home country are the same everywhere.

Also consider whether you want to establish a single corporate presence, or whether you want stores to have more control. Some retailers, like Best Buy and Walmart, allow individual stores to have accounts and create local content.

2. Acquire fans and followers.

Your customers are out there, but you can’t expect them to follow you without a little prodding. Sometimes they’ll follow you just because they want to be associated with your brand, but most often they want to get something out of the relationship. Plan on a campaign to acquire them across your selected sites. This is where contests, coupons, and promotions can attract the masses.

Once you've got their attention, you must continue to engage them with fresh content that includes sneak previews, product reviews, surveys, special events, etc.  While content should be coordinated across different social media sites, keep in mind the expectations for those sites varies.  You can typically post to Twitter multiple times daily, to Facebook a few times a week, and YouTube once a month.

3. Reward your best fans and followers.

Customers want to feel special, so let your best fan and followers know you appreciate them.  Offer them special deals, products, and badges that help them know you value them.  They, in turn, will become brand advocates and help spread your message.

When possible, make your rewards social.  For example, a promotion goes into affect only after 5000 likes, offer a discount for retweets, or award a badge for the most interesting comment.

4. Make shopping social.

Social commerce is not about recreating your e-commerce site within a social site.  Consumers will visit your website when they want to buy, but they'll visit your social channels when they want to learn.  Its important to foster conversations about your products and services, and refer people to your website when they are ready to purchase.

Similarly, you should add social features to your e-commerce site.  Allow your customers to review products, make recommendations, and discover each others' preferences.  Facebook is now allowing retailers to customize the famous "like" button with more expressive buttons such as "I own it," "I want it," and "not sure."

5. Mine psychographic data.

Consumers, especially teens, are willing to share lots of information about themselves in exchange for a more personalized experience.  With their permission, you can gather psychographic data that includes their interests, activities, and opinions.  This additional information helps create a more complete view of individuals so you can tailor their online and in-store experience to meet their needs.

Other resources I suggest are the NRF Social Retailing Blueprint and this presentation.
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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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