Leverage social media platforms for business benefit

Two Ways Retailers Can Take Social Media Engagement to the Next Level

Apr 16, 2019
Traditional brick and mortar retailers have made significant progress in using social media platforms to engage with customers, enhance brand awareness and deliver a more memorable shopping experience. Facebook pages, Snapchat stories, Twitter campaigns and Instagram followers help retailers personalize messages and create differentiation and value – all of which are essential to survival in the Age of Amazon.

Today, the stakes are higher. Technology innovation and improved business models are creating new opportunities to leverage social media platforms for business benefit. To gain true competitive advantage, retailers must significantly expand and deepen their data collection and analysis capabilities to draw deeper and more actionable insights into customer personas. In addition, they need to go beyond engagement and awareness and use social media to execute transactions and impact and generate sales.

One: Doing More with (More) Data
When it comes to big data and analytics, retail faces the basic problem of finding a needle in a haystack. Sources of data include CRM systems, social media platforms and loyalty and reward programs, not to mention in-store beacons, interactive monitors, sensors and cameras. The reality is that retailers have at their disposal exponentially-growing volumes of data to analyze. As a result, the haystacks keep getting bigger – but the needles of insight are becoming increasingly valuable.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled analytics tools can help by applying pattern recognition to massive volumes of data to identify meaningful linkages and causal relationships between disparate and seemingly random variables. Smart tools can also gauge sentiment and emotional engagement with a brand by parsing language and context to determine if a brand is leaving customers happy, angry or indifferent.

Such insights allow retailers to apply an increasingly fact-based approach to assessment and planning. Why, for example, did the launch of a new apparel line flourish in Manhattan but flop in San Francisco? Analytics can identify factors that include competitive pressure, prevalence (or absence of) social media influencers, or something as innocuous and uncontrollable as the weather. Smart tools can also help articulate lessons learned to apply to future campaigns.

With regard to social media specifically, tackling the haystack/needle conundrum requires continually tracking conversations on multiple social channels to stay abreast of emerging trends. Here, questions to address include: What topics are trending on Twitter that are relevant to my brand? How is my brand being mentioned on Snapchat and Youtube? How can I join these conversations to best leverage these opportunities?

Audience segmentation is essential to enable actionable focus on specific audiences, as well as define robust queries to continually home in on valuable nuggets of insight. Data initiatives should be similarly segmented between examining historical data, enabling real-time responses to social conversations and supporting predictive modeling. By integrating these insights into their business intelligence strategy, retailers can gain increasing visibility into and influence over the customer buying lifecycle.

Two: Closing the Sale
Retailers also have an opportunity to leverage social media as a tool for revenue generation, specifically as a growing e-commerce channel. While websites, brand-specific apps, and social media play an increasingly central role in the shopping experience, the vast majority of transactions still take place in brick and mortar establishments. While retailers obviously don’t want to lose in-store revenue, they have an opportunity to augment revenue via social channels.

Consider, for instance, a mobile app that features images of a cosmetic store’s facial products. Rather than simply enticing the customer to visit the store, what if the app included an option to swipe and click to buy products and execute the transaction directly from the device? New innovations in Point-of-Sale mobility capabilities can make such features easy, intuitive and secure. In addition to generating revenue and delivering an optimal experience, such functionality provides yet another source of insight. And while such an approach might risk some cannibalization of in-store sales, the alternative – losing in-store sales without e-commerce growth – isn’t pretty.

Retail disruption is here to stay. Traditional brick and mortar retailers can’t survive by deploying traditional business-as-usual models. Nor can they survive by out-Amazoning online giants by enhancing e-commerce, logistics and distribution capabilities. Rather, they need to find a third way that builds a compelling brand, creates a memorable customer journey and leverages physical space as a competitive advantage rather than a liability. To achieve this winning combination, a more strategic approach to social media is essential.

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Tracy Bateman

Tracy Bateman

Retail and Hospitality Offering Manager, has 15 years of experience in technology-based solution business development. Her background includes managing data networks for enterprise clients, as well as developing an expense management solution and social mobile computing platform for the retail industry. She has worked with numerous businesses to launch new digital, social and mobile technology innovations to create an enhanced customer experience.

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