As most retailers know, social media is incredibly important for brands. Whether encouraging customers to make recommendations to their friends, being part of the global conversation, or providing high quality customer care, social media has revolutionised the ways brands can communicate with their key audiences.
By now, all multi-location retailers should have a coherent and effective social media strategy of some kind. This might be quite basic or very extensive, depending on the audiences the brand wants to reach. Younger shoppers, for example, are more likely to use social media to seek recommendations, while older shoppers are more likely to use
the platform as a means of getting customer assistance.
What many brands may not have properly considered, however, is how their social media strategy should interact with their strategy to build loyalty with their customers.
Brands need to avoid the pitfall of thinking of loyalty – and by extension their loyalty programme – as something completely separate from the conversations they are having on social media. After all, both are ways of interacting with customers while building strong and lasting relationships.
Social media also needs to be fully integrated into all the ways that people want to shop and interact with retailers. Customers want to be able to connect with their brands on social media in a similar way that they would in-store. It should be a seamless experience, with the social media customer care agent able to quickly access important data that can help to resolve customer service complaints, or make recommendations based on what they’ve been looking at in the past.
This should of course cover loyalty programmes too. If someone has provided their personal data and chosen to interact more with the brand as a consequence, it’s just rude to treat them like a stranger. Social media teams should be able to draw from data collected with their loyalty programme, so each customer or brand advocate is spoken to in a tailored way that recognises their shared history together.
By integrating loyalty programmes with social accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, brands can also learn so much more about their customers and ensure that they are delivering the rewards that they really want. After all, rewards are a great way to build relationships with customers and encourage behaviour, whether it’s making another purchase or visiting a brand’s stores more regularly.
Rewards are much more effective if they’re targeted at those who will enjoy them the most. So if someone has said that a particular designer excites them, why not invite them to the opening of their latest collection? Social is just one more way for brands to ensure they are properly identifying customers and using personal data to deliver tailored rewards.
Of course, the question still remains as to whether most shoppers are happy to let brands have access to their social media accounts, or are comfortable with the idea of them listening to everything they say. Broadly speaking, most shoppers are happy for brands to listen, so long as they use that information to better their experiences. Data from social needs to be used wisely and deployed in a way that really adds something positive for the shopper.
Equally, wider social media campaigns need to be designed to avoid frustrating the best customers. After all, if you’re one of the brand’s most loyal customers, you’ll want to see marketing messages on social that are useful to you and reflect the loyalty you have given the brand. If you make a purchase every week and interact with the
brand regularly, the last thing you’ll want is to see marketing messages that treat you like any other new and unknown customer.
No one ever wants to feel as if they’re being taken for granted, and this extends to social media as much as it does in-store. It’s also unforgivable given the highly sophisticated targeting that can be achieved by brands on the most popular social media platforms.
Social is an incredibly powerful tool, but brands need to avoid letting marketing take full control of these platforms. They should be an integral part of the way that brands deliver their loyalty programmes and departments must make sure they’re communicated effectively to deliver the seamless and high quality experiences that customers really want.
Get this right and brands can build lasting and devoted relationships, both online and off.
Sanjit Gill is general manager at loyalty agency ICLP