Social media is everywhere and it is quickly becoming a reality in every facet of our lives, especially as business owners. Darcy Greg of Tom Bihn Bags said “any time a company is given more ways to directly communicate with customers, it’s an opportunity for growth.” Social media and social networking is definitely a new opportunity to communicate directly with your customers. The potential for growth is indeed tremendous for those retailers who choose to embrace Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and business blogs.
Recent studies have shed some light on the current state of social media in the retail industry:
– Online retailers are acquiring new customers at a 15% annual rate vs. 2% for traditional brick and mortar stores (Deloitte & Touche, USA)
– Of the 69% of online shoppers who say they use social media sites, 56% choose to interact with companies by “friending” or “following” at least one (ForeSee Results Survey)
– Shoppers who interact (with brands/companies) on social media sites are said to be more satisfied, and committed to the brand and more likely to make future purchases (ForeSee Results Survey)
– 65% of merchants surveyed said that consumers who shop across multiple channels are more profitable than single-channel consumers (Retail Systems Research)
– Just over 2/3 of Canadian retailers are using social media to advertise promotions, provide customer support, or to participate in product and trend conversations (Retail Council of Canada Report)
Could participation in online social networking be simply a new cost of doing business?
I have yet to come across a universal formula for stepping into the world of social media. The reality is that you need to figure out what is going to work for you and your retail business. It is different for most, but here are some basic ingredients to get you started.
Determine Where Your Customers ARE
It is best to start by determining which social network platforms your customers are actively using, because they are already participating somewhere. You don’t have to rely on assumptions here. There are a lot of great tools that allow you to search the entire web for mentions of your business name, product line(s), or any item of relevance. A couple of free online services to get your started are Collecta (www.collecta.com) and Google Alerts. Tools like these are great as you work to establish a strategic plan for your social media presence and to help you allocate your resources. You will find yourself ahead in the game if you set up shop in your customer’s backyard, rather then trying to attract them to visit yours.
Act Like a Consumer
Once you have decided on which social media platform(s) to engage in, start actively participating in them and learning about them. You can do this in a number of different ways; keep in mind that there is a lot of value in initially participating as consumer yourself. Sign up for an account and start to follow companies and people you are personally interested in. Keep a close eye on your competitor’s, your customers, and your partner’s watch how everyone interacts with everyone else and when you get comfortable start interacting and experimenting. When you start seeing a vision for how to use the platform to reach your company goals, set up your company pages, Facebook and Twitter accounts, blogs and dive in. If you will be participating in multiple platforms remember to stay consistent with your account name across all channels, this will help people recognize you.
Social Media is said to be a commitment not a campaign. So many clichés to choose from here, I’m going to go with – “You Get What You Give”. Simply signing up for an account or creating a page is not going to produce the results you are dreaming of. You need to participate. The jewel of social media is the new ability to communicate and connect, the opportunity to humanize your company. Choose your platforms, and commit to actively participating in them. You may not see an immediate ROI and that is okay, in fact it is normal, and all part of the Social Media game. Social Media is a commitment and the ROI is found in the long-term relationships you are building, the advocate’s you are empowering, and the customer loyalty you are fostering. All that rarely happens overnight so active engagement is key.
It is unlikely that social media is going to fade away, with Facebook currently at over 500 million users and picking up an estimated 250,000 new users everyday. Online social networking is opening up doors and outlets that consumers and individuals alike have clearly been craving for a long time, and there is a lot of research being done in the field of psychology to support the prediction that social media is only going to continue to grow. There are great opportunities for retailers who choose to be early adapters to social media, because although the platforms we use may change over time, social media is here to stay.
Canadian Retail Solutions Inc. (CRS) specializes in Inventory Control and Point of Sale Systems for retailers across Canada. Our business philosophy reflects an unwavering dedication to quality, integrity and personalized client support in all we do.
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