It’s clear by now that for retailers, leveraging social media is no longer a “nice to have,” it’s a “must-have.” As new tools within social media channels become available to brands and retailers, it is quickly becoming a top resource for engaging with consumers, increasing brand awareness and even gaining more foot traffic in stores.
Many brands have welcomed social media marketing with open arms and are seeing its benefits, triggering greater interest. In fact, 91% of marketers want to know the most effective social tactics and best ways to engage their audience with social media, according to the 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner. So the interest is there, but they might just need a little push.
Retailers such as LIDS, Lowe’s and Sephora, among others, have realized the benefits of having a social media marketing strategy and are utilizing these offerings in unique ways this year, including:
- Bringing social media into the store through user generated content (UGC);
- Using “stories” features on Instagram to announce flash sales and develop unique campaigns; and
- Monitoring social media activity with in-house command centers.
Mixing Social Media With Brick-And-Mortar
Social media is a great driver for UGC, which can then be taken beyond the confines of a mobile device and into brick-and-mortar stores through digital signage. Ed King, Co-founder of High Street Collective, a retail experience consultancy, said this is an untapped territory in retail with much potential.
“One area of focus should be in how brick-and-mortar retailers leverage social media inside their store,” he said. “One of the last areas of social media retailers haven’t quite figured out is how to crack the code when integrating it inside the store.”
The benefits of UGC online and in-stores are clear. Research from Olapic shows that:
- 45% of consumers look at user-generated images for inspiration once a day or more;
- Consumers trust images of other consumers on social media 7X more than advertising; and
- 56% of consumers are more likely to buy a product after seeing it featured in a positive or relatable user-generated image.
King suggested displaying UGC within the store via digital signage, which can result in less buyer’s remorse and returns. Customers shopping in the store can see their peers’ photos of how they wear apparel or use sporting goods items and relate to them, helping to make their purchase decision. “It lessens purchase regret if you have a social wall showing people that are kayaking with products in [a sporting goods] store and validating purchases,” said King.
New Instagram Features Enhance Marketing Strategies
Instagram has quickly turned into the social platform where consumers can discover new brands and shop them with a single tap on their devices.
For example, the platform’s new “Shop Now” feature allows consumers to tap an image to get pricing information and be brought directly to the web site to add the item to their cart. Retailers such as Kate Spade, Warby Parker, Lulus and J.Crew have already seen success with this new feature. In fact, Lulus reported that 33% of people who tap to learn more about a product visit the company’s site via Shop Now.
Instagram also has stepped up its “Stories” game by enabling users to include links in each story that the viewer can access by swiping up. The feature then brings the user directly to a landing page, from which they can also return back to the app exactly where they left off. This allows retailers to drive Instagram users seamlessly to a web site.
Lowe’s is currently using Instagram Stories for a new campaign that leverages the narrow, vertical configuration of the capability to show transformations in other similarly-shaped micro spaces. The retailer also has found an interesting solution to viewers who skip stories frequently. By uploading multiple still frames as micro video clips that immediately skip to the next, the retailer created a flipbook effect of a room’s transformation. In the final frame, users are then prompted to swipe up, directing them to a mobile experience that includes how-to instructions and all the items from the project.
"Lowe’s is always exploring innovative and creative ways to engage with customers that are authentic to the social platform,” said Derrick Wood, VP Brand, Content and Advertising at Lowe’s in a statement. “With our new campaign on Instagram Stories, Lowe’s has developed an engaging, light-hearted approach to project videos, while showing how simple it can be to quickly change a small space into a more functional area. The simplicity of each project is matched by a quick swipe to more detailed instructions and to easily purchase the supplies needed to complete it."
Sephora is using Instagram Stories to announce flash sales, which is a unique way to keep shoppers on their toes and going back to the brand’s social media page on a weekly basis. Every Thursday, the retailer showcases five products on its Stories that will be on sale for 50% off while supplies last. The first week’s items — a collection of eye shadow palettes — sold out in less than a day.
LIDS Tracks Social Engagement With In-House ‘Press Box’
One of the requirements of leveraging a social media presence is that every channel needs to be monitored. LIDS is keeping tabs on all social activity with an in-house digital command center powered by Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Social Studio tool. The LIDS Press Box is located in the company's headquarters and provides insight on customers, stores, products and the brand itself.
“We created a space in our office that houses the social studio tool and individuals that work on all things social,” said Jeff Pearson, SVP of e-Commerce and Marketing at LIDS in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. ‘We have eight 55-inch TVs on one wall while others are glass, so people can see what is happening — what we’re doing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, as well as competitor information. Then, there are portions of dashboards that show our overall sentiment — positive and negative. It’s really a share of voice and visual area so people can see what’s happening from a social standpoint.”
The Press Box is staffed approximately 20 hours a day, so there is almost always someone available to answer questions and collect feedback from social channels. Some ways the retailer is doing that include:
- Hosting contests on Facebook, such as “The Ultimate Hat Collection” campaign, which asks consumers to take photos of their hat collections to win prizes (a good way to gain UGC); and
- Monitoring images on Instagram to discover trends in sports fashion.
LIDS’ efforts and its work with Salesforce have greatly enhanced its social media marketing strategies, according to Pearson. Since October 2016, the brand’s Facebook followers grew by 350,000; Twitter followers grew by 10,000; Instagram followers grew by 35,000.
“Our growth rates grew at a much-accelerated pace compared to our competition,” said Pearson. “The Social Studio tool allowed us to quickly generate appropriate accounts. Then, we had the tools in place so we can start to insert ourselves in conversations and have the right type of content/communication to enable that growth.”
Social media is an important aspect of retailers’ marketing strategies, and it’s only going to get more prominent. As new features and capabilities are introduced, brands must accept and utilize them in order to better connect with socially savvy consumers.
But despite successes, many retailers still have trouble convincing their top-level leadership about the importance of social media marketing. Without executive-level sponsorship, it can be difficult for organizations to scale up their social media efforts.
“As more of the industry is affected by Amazon, we have to use social media to get out there,” said Laura Davis-Taylor, Co-founder of High Street Collective. “And it comes from leadership and getting them to think differently and open their minds.”