Retail insights

The Evolution of Social Media Marketing in Retail

Blond beauty kissing for selfie

Once upon a time, and not so long ago, we all heard about a new thing called social media. It was the times of SixDegrees and MySpace, and it all seemed just a fun way to connect with friends and have access to some content.

Today, trillions of likes, tweets, hearts and snaps later, Social Media has evolved into a constant presence that supports virtual reality, shopping, recommendation engines, news (real and fake), entertainment, live feeds, reviews, listings, promotions, offers, and a whole myriad of ways to engage and connect with friends, brands, celebrities and even the Pope.

In this evolution, there’s a fascinating intersection where social media has become a tool for retailers to expand their sales, promote their products, connect with their customers and get to know them better.

Let’s explore their evolutions and the way each platform has become a sales instigator:

♦Twitter: The (in)famous 140 character constraint doesn’t seem to have been a limitation for retailers to create content and offers that influence the buying decision for potential consumers. Since the platform has become a great outlet for at-a-glance information and an excellent way to hold conversations with them, Twitter is a great channel to provide customer service. Customers are tweeting directly to businesses and expecting answers and resolution immediately. It may be daunting at first, but the payoff has been huge for brands that have mobilized their resources to support their clients on social media. Also, Twitter users are 160% more likely to stay up-to-date on brand news and promotions.

♦Facebook: The Social Media giant has become omnipresent at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Retailers are promoting their businesses, selling products directly on the platform, offering sales, discounts. It has even become a directory where companies get listed and reviewed. Today, Facebook is reporting over one million store visits per day in 100,000 locations and — amongst other things — has been blamed for propagating fake news that influenced the outcome of the American election. Or was it the Russians? 

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Social media icons applications

♦Youtube: It started as a platform to share videos with your friends. Then came the makeup tutorials that changed the beauty industry forever, giving self-made Youtube Stars like Michelle Phan a permanent contract with l’Oreal. It also serves as a library for video reviews of almost anything that can be bought. From perfumes to video games. Talking about video games reviewers. A guy named PewDiePie makes a staggering 15 million dollars a year by running his Youtube channel. Know a guy called Justin Bieber? Guess how he started…

♦Pinterest: Window shopping brought to your handheld device. Pinterest has become the perfect place for consumers to discover new products they didn’t know they needed. Then retailers put 2 + 2 together and started using content curation platforms like Pinterest to do what’s called “Social Showrooming.” Nordstrom being the leader at this encourages followers on social media to pin their favorite Nordstrom items and then highlights the most popular picks in creative and interactive displays within their shop. Also, Nordstrom created an in-store app that helps sales associates see the most popular items on Pinterest in real time so they can swap out inventory based on demand.

What’s the next big thing?

Ever heard of a Snap? Snapchat is the new kid on the block, and its user base is growing by the second. One of the reasons is its ephemeral nature: Snaps disappear forever after a while. This newly found layer of privacy has made the app a candid, more relaxed medium to share experiences. When consumers feel protected by a level of privacy they can feel and trust, they spend more time being themselves.

There is a shift in the way brands engage with their customers. Brands are now expected to produce interesting content, entertain, and provide value beyond their product offerings. Snapchat is the best example of this. Brands have to become people — a Snapchat user in this case — just like everyone else. And the communication is no longer from the position of an advertiser, but more a conversation where brands have to listen as much as they talk.

The challenge here is spontaneity. Snapchat offers brands the opportunity to show their “behind-the-scenes,” be real and less posed. Customers, especially millennials, can smell a fake from across the web.

Blond beauty kissing for selfie

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How is Snapchat pertinent to Local Marketing and how are retailers using it to draw more foot traffic to their stores?

Snapchat can be used to interact with customers that are passing through specific locations, so they see content that’s only available in those places. Ever heard of a Geofence? Here is where it gets a bit more interesting. Snapchat offers businesses the opportunity to “claim” a location for a certain amount of time. It can be as small as just one store or as significant as a whole country. You go to a map and draw a fence around the area you want to claim.

Once a location is claimed, and a Geofence established, brands can create filters and effects that users will start seeing and using when they enter the fenced area. Given Snapchat’s relaxed and candid nature, this is an excellent way to interact with existing and potential customers while promoting location-based events, offers or promotions.

But how are brands using this to their advantage? Let’s take a look at a couple of iconic examples:

Burberry

Burberry Store London

The 160-year-old fashion brand, an example of English tradition and the creator of the “Gabardine”, a British staple for the past century, has evolved into one of the most digital-savvy fashion retailers. Taking Snapchat by the horns, they have set an example of how a brand can become personable and feel closer to its audience than ever. How?

In 2015, and ahead of London’s Fashion Week, Burberry shared previews of their whole collection on Snapchat. Giving access to millions of fans to content that is usually reserved for VIP guests, the brand stood closer to its consumers. The feat was repeated right before their Spring/Summer 2016 catwalk, showing models, stylists and designers frantically working on the show’s backstage. Again, a place reserved for a handful of privileged guests. The stunt gathered more than 200 million views on Snapchat, breaking the company’s record.

It didn’t stop there. Burberry engaged the talent of iconic fashion photographer Mario Testino to shoot a campaign. The resulting product shots were shared on Snapchat months ahead of the full print launch, giving privileged access to its fans once again.

 

Bloomingdale’s

Who doesn’t like a good scavenger hunt? The giant retailer took to Snapchat to promote a very fashionable scavenger hunt to take place in and around its departments during September 2016. The brand scattered hundreds of designer items all over the store and encouraged its fans to take selfies with the items while using geofilters, and then send them to back to the store to win a prize. The gamification of the Snapchat filters was a great take on the Pokemon Go phenomenon that allowed the brand to interact directly with its fan base. Also, in a media environment that is celebrity-dominated, it’s refreshing to see more ordinary and everyday people taking center stage…even for the duration of a snap. As Andy Warhol once said: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”… It now seems that everyone can be world famous…but for 10 seconds.

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