As social networking and word-of-mouth strategies become more prominent within the retail industry, merchants are striving to increase brand penetration via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and foursquare. To make social media marketing less daunting, the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) has released Incite, a solution designed to link traditional loyalty programs with social networks. The approach boosts social sharing about a brand and helps merchants fortify social campaigns and marketing initiatives by harvesting real-time customer data.
Incite is powered by the Social Network Appreciation Platform (SNAP), a web-based offering that integrates traditional in-store loyalty programs into popular social media networks. It allows a retailer to “check in” customers automatically when they complete a transaction. Consumers then can select from a roster of retailers’ customized, pre-packed messages about the in-store experience and send them automatically to their friends and family via their social networking accounts. By opting to send a message, consumers receive additional rewards points and offerings. Automating the entire social sharing process makes effective interaction less of a struggle, stated Steve Messemer, Account Manager for Incite.
“Shopping is becoming a socially connected event and social media is another marketing channel that a retailer needs to manage,” Messemer told Retail TouchPoints. “Our friends, family and peers influence our purchase decisions every day through social media posts. But getting a social media marketing program started — and keeping up with the rapid pace of change in the industry — can be daunting for retailers.”
With Incite, merchants develop messages through a store-branded portal, which automatically sends creative, customized branded messages when transactions are complete, Messemer explained. Retailers can control their own campaigns, providing instant flexibility for marketing campaigns. “These word-of-mouth messages are crafted by the retailer, but approved by customers before being sent to friends and family on their social networks. They are shared in real time, just immediately after a loyalty transaction takes place in the store,” he noted. After sending a message, consumers enjoy rewards such as a coupon, offer, or virtual gaming badge after reaching a specific status or goal.
However, the most valuable asset of Incite is for merchants: retailers receive consumer data and track loyalty program activity in real time, allowing them to create optimal social campaigns and marketing initiatives. Data can be filtered and organized based on criteria, such as a range of dates or specific social networks.
“This data can give retailers a better idea where to invest social media marketing dollars by determining which social networks their customer base uses the most,” Messemer said. “It also can help a retailer identify their biggest brand advocates by determining who has the most friends. Incite also can highlight who ‘follows’ and ‘Likes’ corporate pages so the retailer can market to shoppers in a new and special way to get them to actively participate with the brand.”
As shoppers focus more on word-of-mouth via social networking sites, there will be a growing emphasis on new, innovative loyalty programs, according to Joe Finizio, President and CEO of RSPA.
“Loyalty programs that engage shoppers are critical elements for all merchants during 2012 and beyond,” he said. “Social media marketing will be moving from a version 1.0 phase, where it’s exciting but not understood completely, to a version 2.0 phase, where more business opportunities can be identified and turned into profitable products and services.”