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IRX 2013 Preview: Interview with Julia Monro of M&S

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Ahead of our annual expo, we’ve asked some of our key speakers for a sneak preview of what they’ll be telling delegates to IRX 2013. Today we feature Julia Monro, social media manager at M&S.

Internet Retailing: What will you be speaking about at Internet Retailing Expo?

Julia Monro, social media manager at M&S: I’m going to be speaking about ‘the social customer’ – I hope I can debunk some myths and preconceptions about the M&S customer, what social media means to them, and how we’ve evolved to become a far more social business as a result.

IR: We have seen multichannel retailing steadily grow in recent years. What is contributing to this growth and how has it impacted on business?

JM: The customer is changing, particularly in their greater use and comfort with technology. The popularity of mobile and tablet devices as a convenient way to browse, shop and engage with social channels is leading brands to adapt how they interact with their customers. There is more time and opportunity than ever to be present in our customers’ lives – we need to earn our place there.

IR: What are the challenges of adapting to greater customer savvy when it comes to engaging with brands via social media channels?

JM: Communication has to really shift – finding the right tone may not be as easy as you expect, working out what customers want to hear and where you can add value to their lives through digital content.

IR: What are the opportunities of incorporating the customer’s voice within your business?

JM: Endless! They probably want your business to be the best it can be, so make sure you’re listening to them. If you do nothing else, compile a list of the top five ‘most talked about themes’ from your social channels each week and make sure the right people see them.

IR: What role will social media have to play in the future of retailing in terms of listening to, engaging with and analysing what your customers are saying?

JM: I believe this is the area of most value to be gained from social media. What is the point in having a million Facebook fans if you don’t know or don’t care what they think about your business? Listening is the first step in the process – I think we’ll see the businesses that flourish are those that are listening via social media and make real changes as a result. Customer surveys and listening groups are costly and limited – you could have all the info you need at your finger tips through social media and customer reviews, it’s about how you harness it.

IR: Who does your social media strategy target?

JM: It’s difficult to target all of our customers and we have to be realistic that not everyone is on Facebook or Instagram – so we look at which demographic is most relevant by social network, and target our approach and content accordingly

IR: It has been accepted for years that the customer is at the centre of a retailer’s business. Do you think this is the case with you? How would you evidence that, what changes has this driven in the business and in what areas are you looking to improve (if any)?

JM: Absolutely, but the changes we’ve discussed mean there are always going to be challenges keeping up with and adapting to what customers expect. Who would have thought five years ago that Twitter would be one of our biggest customer service channels and we’d have a dedicated team for it? One exceptional case for us was the response to Seb White’s mum posting on our Facebook page last year – we took the initiative and put Seb in our Christmas magazine and the media and public response was totally unexpected but fantastic. It was really just a matter of listening to customers and trying to do the right thing. That’s what we need to keep on doing.

IR: Why should retailers be utilising social media as part of their strategy online?

JM: Because your customer (and everybody else) is using it!

IR: What new areas or innovations in your field are on you monitoring at present, and why?

JM: I’m keen to see how social buying and social rewards pan out… How users react to platform changes is also interesting, do more ads and data concerns really upset us? And what excellent content will look like this year and beyond.

Julia Monro is speaking in The Customer Journey conference at IRX 2013, to be held at the NEC in Birmingham on March 20 and 21. Julia will be appearing at 2pm on March 21. For more details visit

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