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GUEST COMMENT Retailers and the power of social

A radically new model is emerging when it comes to retail, and leading brands are already adapting to it. Take Klarna, the ‘buy now, pay later’ bank, in collaboration with retailers such as Schuh and ASOS, it recently set up a pop-up store in London to demonstrate the power technology holds in making the retail experience more personal and social. This move, towards a more digitally-led, holistic approach is the future of retail.

Hootsuite’s 2019 Retail Trends Report shows the importance of incorporating social media into a retail strategy. Brands from John Lewis who have adopted new technologies empowering staff to create better connections with customers, to Burberry and its social media-only launch of chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci’s inaugural London Fashion Week collection, both have seen success from exploiting the opportunities that social can bring.

Moreover, consumers are becoming ever more demanding, as they want to be treated like individuals and not a demographic while calling for more value in exchange for their time and information. Brands that use social media to their advantage can build real trust, improve the shopping experience and better connect with customers.

Be human and rebuild trust

Social networks have faced their fair share of challenges recently, with users calling into question the value they provide as they seek different ways to engage. 2018 marked a significant time in the history of social media, with high profile breaches of information leading to a sense of distrust amongst users. As such, Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer Report actually found that 60% of people no longer trust social media companies. Despite this doubt from users, it gives social networks the opportunity to start afresh and work with brands to rebuild the trust that has been lost.

Brands that are taking note of this and working to make a difference include Adidas and The New York Times. The companies are striving to create intimate, meaningful dialogues with smaller, more valuable audience groups. They’re creating online communities, by inviting customers to join groups on Facebook for example, and sharing insights and researched content, then stepping aside and letting passionate users talk to one another.

This is in light of users reverting back to their old ways, and trusting immediate friends, family and acquaintances on social media, as opposed to brands. By initiating these conversations and offering consumers an online environment where they can connect and chat together, the brands themselves will create a stronger, more trustworthy relationship with the consumers.

The impact of shopping technologies

The latest advancements in shopping technologies have greatly impacted the way in which people choose to shop, with online titans such as Amazon filling the social commerce gap that has for so long existed in its operations. For example, Amazon and Snapchat have created a visual search partnership, which allows users to take a photograph which triggers a direct link to Amazon product listings. The likes of eBay, and Guess have all seen success with the partnership. The online retailer has also recognised the power of social media influencers, introducing the Amazon Influencer Program. The program allows influencers to create their own presence on Amazon, which can be customised with products they recommend in their Instagram posts or YouTube videos.

With the likes of Instagram’s shoppable posts, users are offered a greater level of convenience as they are able to scroll through Instagram and shop their favourite brands, all without even leaving the app. Brands can turn their Instagram accounts into visual stores, adding product tags and information to their images and linking to product web pages. This creates a fast, natural progression from browsing to buying, in simple steps, consumers can see — tap — shop.

Meanwhile, Facebook’s Marketplace is a convenient way for brands and individuals to buy and sell in their community. Integrated into the Facebook website and app, the tool is easy for buyers to quickly find the products they’re looking for, and get real-time answers from sellers using Messenger. With Marketplace, brands can also effectively manage relationships throughout the entire sales funnel and buyer journey — from first interaction and inquiry to final sale.

The popularity of stories still soaring

For a long time, retailers were looking to move away from purely text-based media, and Stories emerged at the perfect time to answer their demands. In fact, according to our Retail report, 64% of respondents have either implemented Instagram Stories into their social strategy or plan to do so in the next 12 months. Overwhelmingly visual, Stories are designed to be consumed and enjoyed on the mobile device, capturing in-the-moment experiences and accompanying people as they go about their day. They also offer more room for experimentation as they usually disappear within a day, allowing brands to try something new to engage their consumers.

The importance of technology and Stories, in particular, is gaining attention in the boardroom too. ASOS’ CEO, Nick Beighton underlined the importance of Instagram Stories, saying it brought the online retailer “fantastic engagement” and 244 million views during the year. Social media followers were also up 13% globally to 22.7 million, adding that ASOS worked with Instagram to launch a geo-targeted shopping feed and was the first business to have successfully launched in multiple currencies on this format. ASOS’ move to using Stories as a marketing tool gives the brand a more personal feel and a more relatable connection to its consumers.

Reaching the consumer

Social media and retail are both fast-moving ecosystems, which is why they compliment each other so well. With major landmarks over the last 12 months proving the role social media has to play in retail strategy, every brand needs to consider new ways to get around time and budgetary constraints, to ensure they are cutting through the noise created by competition and reaching their target consumer. Social media is the perfect opportunity for direct-to-consumer communication, no matter the size of the organisation. From small, independent retailers, to e-commerce behemoths, social media will continue to prove its worth when it comes to a retailer’s marketing strategy.

Author: Rob Coyne, general manager, EMEA at Hootsuite

Image credit: Fotolia

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