Generate Loyal Customers and Sales via Social Media
Retailers have heard all the buzz around social media and its value to their brands, but many are still unsure how to use the channel's capabilities to their benefit. In a session at last week's Retail Marketing Virtual Conference & Expo presented by Retail Online Integration and eM+C, Adam Cohen, partner, social media practice lead at interactive marketing agency Rosetta, and Kevin Ertell, vice president of retail strategy at ForeSee Results, a customer satisfaction measurement and management firm, sought to end the confusion with some best practices retailers can use to monetize social media.
Social media is an opportunity not only to interact directly with customers, but to watch what customers say in an unfiltered, unsurveyed environment, said Cohen. Social media isn't a side project that's to be relegated to interns; it must be integrated into your overall marketing approach. Here are some best practices that Cohen and Ertell provided to help retailers integrate social media into their marketing efforts:
* Understand the needs, attitudes and behaviors of customers to define differences in brand, purchase and channel preferences. Focus on the entire customer experience — from web and e-commerce assets to paid search to email to mobile, said Cohen.
* Focus on the lower levels of the marketing funnel. Loyalty and advocacy are two levels after conversion that are often overlooked, said Cohen. Social media tactics can be most powerful when targeting those segments of customers — repeat buyers and brand advocates. Chances are you already have brand advocates out there, said Cohen. What are you doing to build long-term relationships to interact with them?
* Plan your social media strategy. Consider the following when forming your brand's social media strategy:
- the level of risk;
- where and how your target demographic can most benefit from social media interactions;
- how and where your brand is being discussed in social media;
- what are the business objectives that you're trying to achieve (e.g., long-term customer relationships, brand awareness, etc.);
- how active are your customers in social media; and
- how much time and budget can you invest in the channel.
There's a perception that social media is free, said Cohen. While that may be true for a lot of the tools that you use, it takes an investment of effort to get the most out of the channel as possible.
* Leverage social media tools based on your customers’ behaviors. If your customers tend to be conversationalists, for example, you might want to sign up for a Twitter feed or a Facebook fan page to engage them in conversation, said Cohen. By focusing on your best customers and not every person that you possibly can, you can set up an advocacy structure that can take off, added Ertell. Victoria's Secret, with 3 million Facebook fans, is an example of a retailer that's effectively leveraged the viral power of the “share” function of Facebook, Ertell said.
* Provide news about new products. Consumers who are following your brand through social media are interested in what you have to offer, said Ertell. Recognize these people with information about new products. This won't cost you anything, and could drive sales, he added.
* Focus on initiatives that'll demonstrate success. For retailers, that may mean implementing ratings and reviews programs on their websites more so than creating Facebook fan pages. It's harder to build up that longer-term community and get value out of it from scratch, said Cohen.
* Track your social media efforts. Return on investment for social media can be measured, said Cohen. Tools available offer keyword development, data collection, supplemental research, and insight summary and recommendations. Key performance indicators that should be considered include:
- share of voice;
- customer satisfaction;
- brand favorability and awareness; and
- attribution of revenue.
Dell, for example, is sharing deals and links via Twitter. All sales from those links are attributed back to Twitter.
The numbers behind social media
ForeSee Results’ Ertell added some data points from a recent whitepaper he wrote to demonstrate the power of social media. (The whitepaper was based on a survey his firm conducted of 10,000 visitors to top 40 retail websites.) The first takeaway was that Facebook is far and away the most popular social media site for consumers. On average, consumers interact with or are “friends” with one to five brands on Facebook.
And contrary to conventional wisdom, which says that retailers shouldn't promote via social media, 49 percent of respondents to ForeSee's study said the main reason they interact with brands through social media sites is to learn about sales and special offers, the highest of any response. Based on these figures, Ertell recommended retailers give consumers special offers and deals via social media.
Digging deeper into this notion, Ertell noted that consumers who interact with retailers via social networks are 9 percent more likely to buy online than consumers who don't, and 18 percent more likely to buy offline. “Interaction with a social network is about the entire brand, especially for multichannel retailers, and not just an online technique or tactic,” said Ertell.