Given the success of online shopping services (cheers, Jeff Bezos), you’d be forgiven for assuming that physical retail sales might be on the concurrent decline. In truth, it is in store that 90% of retail sales take place, according to eMarketer, which suggests that the physical retail industry is very much alive-and-kicking.
In spite of this, online tools like social media can still be hugely significant to achieving sales and customer retention, which is why they can, and really should be utilised in store with great consideration.
There are some fantastic examples of brands and retailers using social media to drive both awareness and sales. Marc Jacobs once gave out branded freebies in exchange for Twitter and Facebook engagements at a pop-up shop in New York, while Nintendo capitalised on the platform’s exclusivity by creating events to launch products, the tickets for which could only be accessed through social media. Victoria’s Secret have even employed the ‘selfie’ in their in store engagement, by offering customers free gifts in exchange for their social media posts.
These promotions were engaged with on a huge scale, resulting in considerable, ‘free’ social media hype for each respective brand. This relationship also comes at a benefit to both the retailer and consumer in terms of customer feedback. On one hand, firms can implement ‘social listening’ in real-time, to track the public perception of their brand through engagement, while customers can address issues and feedback with the retailer directly, enhancing brand loyalty and client interaction.
Considering the previously-mentioned examples, it is apparent that social media is as ingrained in retail as it is in wider society, as Chris Bowler of SapientRazorfish predicts:
"Visual social media channels, like Instagram and Pinterest, lend themselves well to showcasing products. This, combined with the fact that mobile behaviours are already ingrained in shopping and social sharing, makes for the perfect storm to use these properties and behaviours to full advantage."
What is less clear, however, is the quantifiable use of these consumer collaborations and viral engagements. Primarily, in a commercial climate that necessitates and prioritises customer experience, it is vital for businesses to drive brand engagement. In other words, it is no longer as simple as driving sales – for retailers, the emerging objective is for consumers to fundamentally ‘buy into’ their brand. In this context, the relationship between retailers and customers can be publicly established and advertised in the view of each consumer’s digital social group. Specifically, retailers can tangibly connect the personal networks of their customers with their brand, as participating social media users serve as targeted advertisements for their fellow prospective clientele.