To say social media is an integral part of our online experience is an understatement. A comScore report showed average time spent social networking is increasing, whereas instant messaging and email is largely decreasing. According to some sources the younger generation signing up to social media are shunning normal Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail email addresses, preferring the option of maintaining a single inbox with Facebook. Whilst this future would certainly limit one channel, it means that social media platforms will grow from strength to strength. The question is, have retailers perfected strategies or is there room for improvement?

Marketing spend for digital in 2014 is 38% of marketing budgets according to a study by Econsultancy, a rise of 3% on last year. A large degree of digital marketing professionals make assumptions that the only way to convert customers through online marketing is if the purchase takes place online. Whilst the online experience allows consumers to purchase with ease, numerous brands use the platforms to drive footfall into stores, with a large degree of success.

Brands cater content on social media to the demographic of their consumers which is a crucial factor in strategy. HMV is a great example of this, currently the focus on their social media accounts is a variety of nostalgia messaging, with imagery on popular films by decade, which fits in-line with the overall company direction. HMV also produced a series of gigs in-store and used messaging on social media platforms to create exposure. Not only will this strategy drive footfall and make the store a destination, but also increases their social media base as fans share\retweet.

Imagery of the gigs are uploaded along with links to their website for tour dates of bands and artists. Popular new releases are displayed with a focus on HMV exclusives which usually contain value added extras.

 HMV social

With many articles predicting their demise, HMV have recently posted impressive results with 19% market share (Amazon have 20%) and profits of £17 million in 11 months. Considering their prior journey into administration, the strategy appears to be working and social media has been a platform where they get messaging to both brand loyalists and casual consumers to direct them in-store.

The one drawback of social media is often found with customers frustrated with the lack of service they are receiving or an angry customer taking to social media to vent. A popular post can be sabotaged by a complaint, the focus of the message replaced with negativity. The complexity and expense of managing multiple social media accounts from both a resource perspective as well as dealing with complaints is complex and costly. When comparing it with in-store marketing, it certainly shows the simplicity of POS display. Whilst it may seem like everyone is on social media, this isn’t the case. Social media can’t be considered a solution on its own and must work in combination with all other marketing elements.

Primark are also a fine example of a retailer offering engaging content. They are incredibly active on social media, particularly with Twitter. The popular clothing retailer show new product imagery with a tracked call to action to the website. The landing page has a further link informing consumers the location of your nearest store. Primark also possess beneficial marketing partnerships with a variety of brands. Once again, social media is used to publicise these ties and offer consumers value in terms of competitions. Recently celebrating their 3 millionth fan liking their Facebook page, Primark’s customer demographic fits in perfectly with social media users. When the popular clothing company hits the US, it will be worthwhile offering geo-targeted pages for each state to fully tailor promotions and deals to consumers.

Clothing retailers drive footfall with the partnership between American Express and the social media platform Foursquare. American Express justify annual charges to cardholders with a variety of special offers and incentives. In this example, it’s applying credit on customers’ bills if they spend over a set amount at specific retailers. Registering for the deal on Foursquare takes a few clicks, then credit is automatically added to their account once they spend the required amount. The benefits of this deal to the retailer: They don’t need to train staff on entering customer codes or bother printing coupons, which can be timely and cost prohibitive; American Express offer rich data to the merchant in terms of the number of consumers who redeemed the offer and the amounts spent.

Social media

The more consumers liking\following the brand presents a wider base to promote your products. This earned form of advertising is an integral part of the overall digital strategy. Brand loyalists generally find you, however only engaging and interesting content will encourage the casual consumer to your page. Brands have become obsessed by the quantity of followers to their social media pages. Companies even offer services to essentially buy people to follow your page, giving away products for free to customers on their database. Whilst this will make your page appear as though it has more activity, the question that needs asking, is this actually bringing in more sales?

A combination of creativity and engaging content will increase your social media base. These pages should be the platform where you can show customers not only the latest products, but also used to generate an emotional connection. Pages should be grown organically by marketing, letting the content do the work. Brand partnerships can be used to not only offer incentives to followers, but also to further enhance the strength of the partnership. Cross platform technology can simplify the process of customers redeeming offers, with added benefits to brands using them. Lastly, a call to action informing consumers that they can purchase in-store, plus providing consumers with a landing page showing store locations.      

With social media not only staying in our lives, but growing due to the majority of the younger generation signing up, it will be a crucial platform in the future. The key messaging needs a dual approach. Whilst a link to convert online is a necessity, it is also vital to drive footfall into stores. Shopping footfall is down 1.1% on last year according to retail data from Springboard. Social media messaging can be used to change this. Social networks will soon promote the ease of buying through them, but it's unproven how many consumers would trust them with
bank details. Retailers clearly benefit if brands drive consumers into store. As consumers purchase your product they may be inclined to make a random purchase after strolling past an eye catching POS display or new special offer deal. 

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