5 Ways Social Media Has Impacted Retail

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Retail as we once knew it has changed beyond all recognition.

The introduction of online shopping has split brands into one of two camps: those who are thriving, and those who are failing. Those who are thriving have embraced the Internet; seeing online shopping and social media integration as an extension of their bricks-and-mortar offering. Those who are failing have simply neglected to evolve.

One of the most dramatic changes to the way we shop has been down to our increased use of social media.

Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram have all transformed the way we see brands, browse products and give in to impulse purchases. We’re constantly exposed to our favourite retailers and their offering – whether at home, at work, or in the car – and the industry has evolved considerably to make room for this new wave of so-called ‘m-shoppers’.

Here, we take a look at 5 of the ways social media has impacted on retail:

1. Customer service

Twitter and other social networks have open brands up to their consumers in a more personal way than ever before. And while this can be a positive for many, it should also come with a word of warning.

Social media is instant; meaning that customers can quickly write rash comments on their accounts and fire them out into the World Wide Web. As a retailer on the receiving end of this kind of criticism, managing customer service can be tricky.

There are some brands that do this really well; ASOS for instance has a specific @ASOS_HereToHelp account where they handle customer queries round the clock. Others fail to respond adequately, resulting in a social media crisis of epic proportions.

2. Push towards ecommerce

Social media and ecommerce are natural companions.

For many retailers though, this takes attention away from their physical stores and is – by association – a negative. For some more conventional brands and retailers, this move towards an ecommerce generation is a negative.

And while it is true that social and ecommerce go hand-in-hand, it doesn’t have to be bad news for your brand. Many consumers will browse products online and then buy them in store, or vice versa. With these two parts of a retail offering working in harmony, brands should be utilising social media to drive sales across both elements.

3. Increased brand visibility

Social media increases brand visibility no end, opening them up to a brand new audience.

Free marketing and promotion is almost impossible to come by, so retailers should be jumping at the change to engage with their customers in a completely new way.  The drawback arrives when brands realise they need to invest a great deal of time into building up a following, and keeping them engaged.

For the brands that nail this though, social media can be a great way of boosting their retail presence and engaging with customers in a completely new way.

4. Reverse showrooming

Showrooming – the act of researching a product in a physical store and then buying it at a cheaper price online – has long since haunted retailers. With the help of social media though, retailers are actually encouraging these m-shoppers into store.

Brands are sharing images of their products on their social accounts, and directing customers in store. This act of ‘reverse showrooming’ is actually having a positive impact on retail through the building of customer relationships, brand engagement, and the driving of sales.

5. Sales and promotions

Another positive impact of social media on retail can be found within the running of sales and promotions. It is now easier than ever for brands to engage with their customers – and encourage them to spend – by running a social media promotion.

‘Retweet to win’ type campaigns are hugely popular; not only because they work, but because they also grow brand awareness. Retailers can drive customers to their online stores, or even provide offers that can only be redeemed in store.

Simple and effective, social media is a great way of raising awareness about a brand. For retailers, it is imperative they embrace the social media age. Those who failed to adapt are now missing from our high streets entirely.

Social media’s impact on retail doesn’t have to be negative; when a campaign is run correctly it can have huge rewards.

Clare Evans works for Green Room retail, one of Europe’s leading experiential creative practices, specializing in retail store design, visual merchandising and point-of-sale design. Speak to them today about transforming your store.

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