Social Media for Retailers

Tom Ollerton, senior marketing manager of Skive, looks at how retailers can optimise social media resources better.

As humans, we can’t help ourselves being sociable creatures, most of us like being around people, we don’t like being alone or ignored. It is having people around us who care about us that makes us feel important and wanted. It is this reason that the social element of the web has become so ubiquitous. It gives us a feeling of connectivity and importance (though remotely) to the people we care about us and the people who we find value in.

It is this inherent need to be sociable that provides a huge opportunity for brands to sell to us using social media. I subscribe to the idea that the social element of the web is the web and other digital disciplines such as ecommerce, display, gaming, video, usability, should be tagged on the end of the social web and not the other way around.

Before we look at the possibilities for retailers within social media, we need to understand the bigger picture. The uses of the social web in retail stretch across e-commerce, CRM, Product Development, User Generated Content, Blogging, R&D, SEO, Monitoring, Strategy and PR to mention but a few. In essence, there is a lot more on offer than your typical social agency’s recommendation – the “you-need-a-facebook-page-and-a-twitter-profile” reflex is one that’s all too often defaulted to due to lack of creativity or experience.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see how the social web permeates all elements of a retailer’s online world and the opportunities to take advantage of it and engage consumers in a whole new way are so broad there’s no way to cover them in any real depth here. What I’d like to do is to demonstrate some social web recent trends and the opportunities for retailers around them:

1. Crowd Purchasing
Sites such as Groupon or Wowcher operate on the principle that if a large group of people commit to buying a single item, this guarantees a fixed number of sales for the vendor and offers a bulk buy discount to the consumer. This model hasn’t taken off for the Groupons of this world just yet – its profile is still very small in the UK – but when and if it does, the retail monsters might find it difficult not to offer a “group discount” option on products that people may be happy to wait a little longer for.

2. Social Shopping
This is a trend that takes advantage of our covetous and creative nature. Kaboodle and Polyvore provide a blank canvas for people to curate their own product moodboards using products from all over the web to express their personality online. Profiles on social shopping sites become personally curated shop windows that other site visitors can peer into and comment on and mark as favourites. The beauty of this is that all items are linked through to purchase making these sites a clever affiliate proposition. Dorothy Perkins and Gap are already experimenting in this space although it’s the Starbuck’s collaboration with fashion site Polyvore that is most unexpected and exciting. Starbucks fans were asked to “create a [fashion] set with a Starbucks coffee cup involved and show everyone how your cup o’ Joe compliments your fashion sense.” This puts Starbucks in a completely different light repositioning their coffee as a desirable accessory.

3. Facebook Pounds
Recently, Facebook launched Facebook Credits which allows you to buy virtual goods on the platform integrating with PayPal. Although nothing is official, it is highly likely we will see an extension to this allowing a more traditional ecommerce experience on the platform. We may even see a “Pay with Facebook” button appearing on retailers’ facebook pages before too long. This could mean the end of the traditional ecommerce engine and we will see Facebook changing into the affiliate beast from hell. This is especially relevant when you consider that 4 of the top 30 Facebook pages are now retailers (Facebook Insider). Unsurprisingly, a customer who visits an ecommerce site via a social network is 10 times more likely to buy than other users (SagePay(PSP) which is credited to the reassurance that the larger social media networks can offer. And with 56% of visitors to retailers websites also being fans on a retailers social network page, it’s no surprise that visitors who friend a retailer on a social network are more satisfied, committed and more likely to purchase from a retailer (Forsee).

4. Creativity
The final opportunity across the board for retailers and the social web is creativity. Before too long, all retailers will be proficient in social CRM, social customer service, blogger outreach, monitoring and managing profiles, whether taken care of by an agency partner or through internal resources. Once this has happened the only thing that will help brands gain cut through in the social space will be a great creative idea that resonates across their networks. This was no different for traditional media or traditional forms of digital such as email – once proficiency is the norm creativity is what cuts through.

As one of Nestlé’s digital creative partners, Skive have helped the Skinny Cow brand to create vibrant and engaging executions on the Facebook platform. There’s a number of great examples of creative ideas executed on and offline to drive engagement for a new brand. Retailers need only to look at some of these to understand just how much is available over and above the Facebook page/Twitter profile default I talked about earlier and need to push their agency partners to deliver the engagement with consumers that is readily available.

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