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Linking social media with stores can unlock great opportunity for retailers

Although using social media is moving up retailersÂ’ agendas, and their stores are for most multi-channel businesses still the main sales driver, the majority of merchants have yet to work out how to link these two elements to enhance engagement with their customers. By Glynn Davis

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Linking social media with stores can unlock great opportunity for retailers

Although using social media is moving up retailersÂ’ agendas, and their stores are for most multi-channel businesses still the main sales driver, the majority of merchants have yet to work out how to link these two elements to enhance engagement with their customers. By Glynn Davis

Ahead of his appearance at the Retail Bulletin In-store Engagement Conference 2012 in London on July 10 Jeremy Waite, head of social strategy at TBG Digital, suggests “many retailers are absolutely awful at this as they’ve not yet figured out how to join the dots” between their stores and their social media activities.

What they have a problem with is creating a link between the customer interaction online and their subsequent purchase offline, something that Waite says Google refers to as ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline). 

Retailers’ technology is in the main not advanced enough for them to track these customers who have engaged with them through social media and then gone into their stores to make a transaction.

For many businesses he suggests a problem area is their till systems. He recommends having them rigged up to take customers’ email addresses when they make a purchase that can then be matched to their activity when they go online and engage with social media platforms. “You can track what they are doing and see how influential they are. Part of measuring ROI and attributing purchasing habits to online behaviour can be solved by doing this,” he suggests.

Retailers could also get their customers to check into Foursquare when in-store or use NFC phones (when they become more widespread) or prompt them to log-in when they use the store’s free wi-fi service. Starbucks are already seeing huge success as the world’s leading FourSquare brand. The America is about a year ahead of the UK with location based services like this.

He also suggests augmented reality (AR) will be another way for joining social media and the store. An offer could be highlighted on Facebook or Twitter and when a customer holds their phone up to an AR poster in-store then this activates the deal and closes the loop.

For the likes of Starbucks Waite says the mechanics can be very easy as they can simply offer free muffins and cakes in their outlets that ties into their social media activity. But for other retailers “much more thought needs to be put into it”. He adds: “The more expensive the products that you sell, then the more creative you need to be because the stakes are higher.”

“There are all these mechanics that retailers can leverage to get the benefits from social media. But at the moment social media is relegated to just being used as a customer service tool, which is no bad thing, but much more is possible from it,” says Waite.

He suggests Twitter is particularly well suited to being used by retailers as a customer service tool: “It is an amazing conversation platform where you can check what people are saying about your brand. While most retailers just see it as a tool to promote their businesses and show videos, most people just want to talk to brands on it.”

Waite points to Wal-Mart as having a customer service app on Facebook that he says saves the company a “phenomenal amount of time and money”.

Other speakers at the event include Tesco.com, Marks and Spencer, McDonald's Restaurants, Schuh, Vodafone Group, Carphone Warehouse, Harrods, The Co-operative Group, o2 UK Telefónica, White Stuff, Star Micronics, and eDigitalResearch.
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