Retailers encourage customers to engage with the brand and offer highly responsive customer service when they foster two-way conversations with existing and potential shoppers. Here are some practical approaches that leading IRUK Top500 retailers are taking
1.Choose relevant social media channels…
When shoppers spend most of their online time using social media, it makes sense to enable this group also to talk about the products they have bought – or are considering buying. IRUK Top500 retailer Matalan [IRDX RMAT] supports six social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Google Plus – and also operates a blog. Shoe retailer Schuh [IRDX RSCH] has seven social media channels – all those just mentioned plus a Snapchat channel too. The most relevant channels offer retailers a way to express their brand personality: Schuh’s YouTube channel, for example, features a series of entertaining ‘how to’ and ‘shoe hack’ videos covering issues such as restoring salt-stained shoes, what to do when shoes are too small or too large, and how to open wine with a shoe!
For those retailers without the resources to cover a wide range of social media channels, it can be more strategic to focus resources on the sites that best lend themselves to the brand. So Pinterest and Instagram enable highly visual brands to showcase their wares, Twitter is the go-to channel for customer service, and many use Facebook to start conversations and organise events and competitions.
2. …and try out some new ones
Fashion retailers are among those making good use of Snapchat to engage with its growing millennial audience. A recent Snaplytics Snapchat Quarterly Report analysed 500 brands using the site and found that brands post an average of 13 stories a month – and that the optimum length for a brand story is 11 snaps.
Burberry [IRDX RBUR] has used the site for time-limited campaigns. One collaboration featured British actress Lily James, and saw Burberry use a dedicated Snapchat filter over the course of 24 hours.
When we took a look at the latest stories, we found a new one from Topshop [IRDX RTOP], which came live from a shoot in Hoxton and was told in the recommended 11 snaps. Also, MyVoucherCodes.co.uk recently featured a range of retail brands in what it said was an industry-first, a six-hour event on Facebook Live.
3. Engage with international customers
Talking to shoppers in new markets via the channels they use means developing an international social media presence that can help raise brand awareness. UK retail brands have used social media sites in China and Asia to open conversations and develop relationships. Fashionistas could follow Burberry’s September 2016 catwalk show in London, for example, via channels including WeChat. Its WeChat followers had exclusive access to buy two editions of ‘The Bridle Bag’ through in-app purchases. The WeChat experience was activated through an HTML5 mini site, which gave what Burberry billed as “unprecedented access,” to the show, which had a takeover from actors Kris Wu and Vicky Zhao.
Meanwhile, when Sainsbury’s [IRDX RSBR] extended its partnership with Tmall in China, it signed up for Super Brand status during the 8.8 shopping festival in 2016 as it looked to raise awareness with new audiences.
4. Make red letter days special
Focusing on events that are of interest to existing and potential shoppers helps retailers to stand out from the crowd. London Fashion Week 2017 proved to be a useful location for retailers to have conversations with their customers. Topshop enabled their shoppers to watch – and shop – its show live via its website. Content on Instagram included live streaming of the Burberry (pictured) and Mulberry [IRDX RMBY] catwalk shows, while designers including Thakoon and Prabal Gurung used Instagram Live to share behind-the-scenes moments.
Eva Chen, Instagram’s head of fashion partnerships, says the key to using Instagram Live is to keep it casual, while going with the flow and answering questions from followers. She says, “When answering questions from your followers, be sure to give their account name a shout out and repeat the question.”
It’s also important to give it time – she advises it can take at least 15 to 20 minutes from the start of an event for viewer numbers to peak.