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EDITORIAL Is Facebook’s influence so strong because they know me best of all?

Social media: the way to market and sell in lockdown and beyond

News that Facebook is now one of the most influential places for shoppers reflects just how changed the retail landscape is. While retailers struggle to understand what is going on – especially those with established brands – shoppers are shifting how they do things.

Even for those retailers that are trying to keep pace with the pampered consumer and are creating content and ‘stories’, trying to recruit influencers and leverage the wealth of social channels available, shoppers are having none of it. They are going to Facebook.

The problem is neatly illustrated by what is happening in voice commerce. In the UK, 60% of people with a voice device like Alexa use it to shop. Great, but 45% of them also feel that they aren’t getting as much out of them as they feel they should.

This, I think, shows just where we are at with retail. Change has happened so rapidly and many retailers have struggled to keep pace. More worrying, though, is that many have tried to adapt, but they keep falling short.

What shoppers want and what they are getting aren’t matched.

Look at Nike and its kids shoes subscription service: a neat idea and one that has form in retail already. However, it is now probably too late – the subscription shopping model has moved on. King of Shave is old news.

Similarly, Boen wines putting ‘tappable’ caps on its wine bottles so that, using NFC, people tucking into a nice bottle of Chardonnay can read more about it on their phone. I mean, really? Will they not be chewing the fat with a friend or, if alone, sobbing into their glass: does anyone really need to read about the wine while they drink it?

I’d wager that they are more likely to be on Facebook being influenced – that is where Boen should have put its efforts.

So what can be done to keep pace with this ever-increasing rapidity of change in retail? Well, stop trying to ape it and embrace it. Use Facebook and leverage that, don’t try and create your own on-board. The thing about modern retail marketing is that shoppers are becoming brand agnostic and are looking for either what their friends say is OK, what some other celeb says is OK, or what is unusual.

Social media has opened up the world to many things – intolerance, a platform for hate, racism, political chicanery and lies and endless photos of food – and one of those things is that it has allowed consumers to find what they want.

Personally, I don’t want a relationship with a brand, I just want some cool trousers or the right hat not a load of marketing guff and ‘inspiration’. On social media I can find those things as they basically understand me better. I hate that that is true, but it is.

This is perhaps the fundamental problem with retail today: it is trying to be something that people don’t want and hence they are going elsewhere for inspiration and to buy things. Perhaps there needs to be a fundamental re-evaluation of what shoppers want rather than what we thing we should be giving them?

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