Social media has become more than just a channel today. Retailers are finding innovative ways to leverage their brands using social media platforms. With customers married to their mobile devices, it is imperative that retailers step up their social media game and engage in dialogue.
Jeremy Lewis, industry manager of technology and ecommerce for Facebook said at eTail East 2014, with 50% of all digital happening on mobile devices, mobile technology has now become a consumer behavior.
Lewis said when it comes to mobile and social it is about three things – discovery, personalization and efficient ROI.
Discovery pertains to the Facebook newsfeed which helps drive and grow sales. He recommends retailers leverage their newsfeed. Personalization allows retailers to reach real people with accuracy.
“People are their real selves on Facebook, personalization is incredibly important to marketing,” said Lewis.
Matt Hansen, director of marketing for online toy retailer Fat Brain Toys who spoke at eTail East 2014 said about a year ago Fat Brain Toys made a shift in their social media strategy. Fat Brain Toys has always used social media for conversation with its followers. The brand primarily uses Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and on occasion LinkedIn.
The company doubled up its efforts and has put its customer service information in its description about the company on its social media pages for the brand.
“We treat [social media] as a customer service link,” said Hansen.
Hansen said Fat Brain Toys uses social media for content and its content marketing plan. Content for Fat Brain Toys includes blogging, videos and infographics on various topics.
“What we do is continue that conversation, providing a lot more content, great pieces that support our brand,” said Hansen.
For example, Fat Brain Toys may post a blog post and the company will ask follow up questions and distribute it across the social media channels. The content comes from Fat Brain Toys’ content aggregator page.
Mark Venezia, vice president of global sales and partnerships for online custom apparel maker Spreadshirt.com who spoke at eTail East 2014 said one of the things the company has noticed over the last couple of years is that people are leveraging all social media channels like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
“Those that are the most successful are the ones that have dialogue with their community,” said Venezia.
Venezia recommends retailers that engage with their communities on social media, offer a back-and-forth will experience a higher conversion in their virtual shops.
Venezia recommends more engagement and leveraging multichannel rather than just YouTube and Facebook.
Todd Sprinkle, vice president of content and platform innovation for QVC U.S. who spoke at eTail East 2014, said the company is reimagining the worlds of shopping, entertainment and social as one by offering customers a unique ever-changing curation of products and program through its integration of broadcast, web, ecommerce, mobile and social platforms.
“In many ways QVC was a ‘social’ business before the advent of social networks,” said Sprinkle. “We have always worked to connect the designers, inventors and experts with our customers.”
Sprinkle said QVC customers are an engaged, savvy community of shoppers and its mobile and social media platforms have allowed customers to continue in the conversation with QVC where and when it is convenient for them.
“Social serves as an important entry point for consumers to begin interact with brands and move through the purchasing funnel,” said Sprinkle. “You don’t necessarily become a customer with one interaction.”
Sprinkle said social is an opportunity to invite people into the experience. It is a gateway to experience what makes your company different.
Don Brown, client success manager for social commerce platform Social Annex said retailers should be leveraging their client base in as many ways as possible.
Brown recommends using loyalty programs to reduce acquisition and retention costs. He recommended using social login to make the sign-up and check-out process fast and intuitive.
“Use visual commerce to maximize customer involvement with your products – curated galleries are one of the fastest growing tools to use today,” said Brown.
Brown said social commerce applications are designed to drive new quality traffic, grow conversion rates, drive regular referrals and expand your social reach.
Brown said social contests are hugely successful and are designed to have maximum reach and optimal results. Retailers should run various contests from on-site sweepstakes to Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. They should use photos, videos, voting contents and more to further extend their brand.
Brown said retailers should let the customers doing the talking for them with social user generated content, ratings and reviews, question and answer and social comments.
“This is a great way to let organic discussion regarding your products flow peer to peer,” said Brown.
Brown said Facebook is always at the front of the pack as the one social media platform that retailers are using.
T.J. Gentle, president and CEO of online furniture retailer SmartFurniture.com said when it comes to balancing business-to-business and business-to-consumer on social media; the B2B aspect of the brand needs to promote what’s good about the brand and the B2C needs to be helpful and ready with ideas that don’t seem self-promoting or invasive.
Garrett Eastham, CEO and co-founder of adaptive commerce solution platform edgecase who spoke at eTail East 2014, said to utilize your user generated content such as reviews, questions and posts into other parts of the merchandising and marketing experience.
Eastham said drive hyper engagement through social media channels like Facebook. There are great brands he said like children’s apparel retailer LollyWollyDoodle.com and women’s undergarment retailer Adoreme.com that use Facebook and Twitter presence to create simple, engaging posts.
Adoreme.com does this-or-that visual posts that allow fans posting on which product they love. LollyWollyDoodle does commenting raffles that have helped them double revenue year over year.
Alyssa Andrews who works in sales and PR team member for Fairytale Brownies said they regularly post beauty shots of the product or the baking process showing some of their ingredients. The visual starts a conversation and get customers engaged.
“We do have regular monthly Facebook giveaways,” said Andrews. “Our fans look forward to it and it increases the number of followers.”
Andrews said increasing the fan base at Fairytale Brownies isn’t as important as getting to know fans and letting the fans know them.
Andrews said when it comes to social media, it boils down to basics. She recommends retailers know their audience. What do they like to see and read? Give it to them on a regular basis.
When it comes to social media on a global scale, William Spruill co-founder of the Global Data Consortium said merchants should seek to understand the audience they are addressing and to tailor their communication to the norms of the audience.
“In the case of global social media, merchants should seek to identify the best local social outlets and then localize their communication with those outlets,” said Spruill.
Spruill said a great example is that in Europe, Xing is more popular than LinkedIn for business network connections. Having a profile on both sites and tailoring the message to both sites will provide a better outcome.
Spruill said in Europe retailers are leveraging social media to accelerate the fashion trend seems to be popular. For clothing retailer Zara and others using social media to communicate to patrons about new inventory and presale offerings is driving more customer loyalty engagement and ultimately closing more business.
Spruill said the best social sites are going to be dependent on the specific audience and region you are trying to address. Traditionally in Europe and Latin America there are varied social media channels that are dominant on a country by country or region by region basis.
“Again knowing who you are targeting and in what region you are targeting them will then lead to easily determining which social media outlets to participate in,” said Spruill.