Four strategies being adopted by global retailers to captivate the online audience
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Four strategies being adopted by global retailers to captivate the online audience

Four strategies being adopted by global retailers to captivate the online audience

Four ways that retail brands can leverage the power of social media to win a new generation of consumers

Gulf Business

For a country that has an estimated population of 9.8 million, the social media user penetration rates across the UAE are amongst the highest in the world, with 99 per cent of the population using social media for leisure, entertainment, business and staying connected.

This presents a unique opportunity for brands to leverage the power of social media for engagement at every stage of the customer journey – thereby ensuring top of mind recall, strengthening brand loyalty, securing a larger share of customer spend and ultimately, increasing in-store footfall and online sales.

With a legion of well-known brands like Hertz, J.Crew, J.C. Penney and more filing for bankruptcy as a direct result of the impact of Covid-19, retailers cannot ignore the vast potential of social media as a way to engage with customers and push for survival of their brand.

Here are the top four strategies being adopted by global retailers to ensure a positive customer journey and captivate a new online audience.

1. Bricks-and-mortar to mobile: Omni-channel retail
The majority of customers now expect a fully integrated shopping experience that supersedes the traditional brick-and-mortar option, where a brand is available online, with a mobile-friendly site which is also app enabled. The future is omni-channel retailing, which allows customers to browse, shop and buy via a range of options, exceeding the brick-and-mortar
store and incorporating social media, website, and mobile apps.

Starbucks is a great example of a brand that has embraced the concept of omni-channel retail and become a pioneer in its deployment. Despite hundreds of physical locations in the United States, customers can still face long lines and Starbucks addressed this issue by introducing a key feature on their app that allows customers to order drinks through their mobile phone and pick them up at the counter, allowing people to skip lines and save time.

2. Social media shopping – Making ‘feeds’ into a shoppable experience
A major part of using social media for business is about client conversion and sales, and the ‘secret sauce’ that facilitates this goal is the ability for customers to make purchases directly from social media. There are a combination of ways to do this, which include making the online and social shopping experience easy and seamless and creating social media platforms reminiscent of a catalogue with a clear call to action.

But the most effective way is by activating the shopping apps and making your feed ‘shoppable’– on both Instagram and Facebook.

Having a carefully curated social media feed, that also acts like a shoppable catalogue, is a guaranteed way to boost follower engagement and ensure sales. A front runner in this is watch brand Daniel Wellington, which uses both its Facebook and Instagram feeds as a virtual ‘shop front’; all customers have to do is tap the shopping bag icon on an image to reveal more info about the product, with the next step being the option to purchase. Quick, effortless and the perfect way to satisfy impulse shoppers, as well as those seeking at-home convenience.

3. Strengthening brand loyalty through social media insights and market intelligence
Many people think social media for business is about sharing offers, updates and launching new products – but it’s also about increasing loyalty, brand affinity and reworking the messaging to ensure audience interest is captured.

Social media enables effective listening and is also one of the greatest market intelligence tools available to a brand. By gathering data from social media and analysing it, brands can get a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour and see what they’re doing right, where they’re falling short and most importantly, what customers want.

While there is a plethora of analytical tools available, one of the easiest and most effective ways to do this is through asking questions. What sort of products do people want? What sort of content do they want to see? Whether through Instagram Stories or question-based posts, picking people’s brains has never been easier.

We can see this trend in the feeds of many brands who are customising posts to ask direct questions, be it Sephora asking about your favourite lipstick colour, or Nespresso asking about your favourite coffee flavour. Brands are on a mission to get more customer insights and feedback to ensure a deeper connection with consumers.

4. Customer service – real-time engagement via social media
Social media has now evolved into a customer service channel, with a customer service-related query ranking amongst the top three reasons why someone reaches out to a brand. According to a Twitter survey, 60 per cent of people expect a response within an hour, which means that brands need to be prepared for real-time engagement.

The customer experience, especially when it’s negative, plays a critical role in the success of any business because it directly impacts a brand’s relationship with the customer, their brand loyalty, positive advocacy and future sales spend.

While no brand would ignore a customer in a physical store, survey results indicate that brands only respond to half of online messages. With a lack of response resulting in a 40+ per cent decrease in customer advocacy, and over 50 per cent of consumers saying that they would boycott a brand due to a poor response on social media, companies cannot afford to ignore even a single comment.

Zaib Shadani is the founder and managing director of Shadani Consulting and The Comms Room

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