Mastering social media isn’t easy for any retailer, but what if it could help you convert online audiences to offline customers?
Virtually every retailer uses social media to connect with customers online, with the ultimate goal being that those customers visit them in-store and make a purchase. Social media can help you reach a wider demographic of potential customers that may never have discovered your store otherwise. But it’s not all about brand awareness. And this article, we’re going to explore how retailers can use social media for offline sales.
The real reason why you should be active on social media as a retailer is to help drive foot traffic to your physical retail environment. Before we talk about tactics and strategies to implement to help you do that, let’s first take a look at the social media platforms that you can use, and how to prioritize the platforms that make the most sense for your business.
How to choose social media platforms as a retailer
When it comes to choosing the right social media platforms to prioritize, the most important thing to keep in mind is that not all platforms will work for your business. Not only is it unlikely that your target customers are hanging out on every platform, but there’s no way you can cover them all effectively. The best thing you can do as a retailer is to pick one to three platforms, depending on your business’s size, your number of locations and where your ideal customer spends their time online, and do focus on building awareness on those platforms well.
In other words, focusing your energy engaging on the platforms that will convert.
Facebook is still the king of social media and is one of the major platforms you should be updating regularly. An active Facebook profile with pictures of your store, products and engaging content that’s valuable to people (like articles, videos, and user-generated content) shows customers what your brand does or sells, and gives them a method of contact. Since a Facebook Page adds legitimacy to your business, you should always have a Facebook page you update regularly. Facebook Pages are also a great way to house and display customer reviews, given they’re positive and aren’t defamatory.
How to do well on the platform: be active by consistently engaging with people who Like, Follow and participate with your Page; content-wise, consider using video whenever possible, show product releases, and even share behind the scenes company content that’s appropriate.
When to avoid the platform: you never want to avoid Facebook as a business, but be aware that organic reach is not as easy to achieve on Facebook as it once was. So it’s important not to go all-in on Facebook alone.
Instagram is the most popular platform for sharing aesthetically pleasing content, such as photos, videos, Boomerangs, stop-motion videos and images of products and your brand in general. While visual content is the focus of this platform, you can use the captions in each Feed post to share information about your brand, products, customers and more. The majority of Instagram users are between the ages of 18-45, with a pretty even gender split, but almost any retailer can find an audience on this platform to market to.
How to do well on the platform: use this platform for high-quality imagery and videos, and track analytics to see what kind of content works well. Instagram Stories with video are growing more popular by the day, so consider creating content for Stories specifically.
When to avoid the platform: if you have a much older demographic or your products won’t translate into exciting visual content, Instagram may not be the platform for your retail business.
While Pinterest is included as a form of “social media” on many lists, it’s actually a search engine, and you’ll see the best results from Pinterest when you treat it as one. If you know you should be on Pinterest but still find it bewildering, the Simple Pin Podcast and Collective offers some of the most accessible information on how to implement Pinterest for businesses. When it comes to Pinterest, most brands that offer products (especially fashion or beauty-related products) use it to share visually pleasing ads, along with content that links to product pages, blog content or collaborations.
How to do well on the platform: share content that connects with your customers desire to be inspired – the entire sentiment behind Pinterest is to share content that inspires people to live a certain way or buy certain products, so the content you share has to be both aesthetically pleasing and of value to users.
When to avoid the platform: building traffic through Pinterest can be a lengthy process, and content creation for this platform that is of value to users is time-consuming. If you offer a very niche product or have limited content resources, this platform may not be worth your time investment.
Many retailers will recognize the success of other retailers who use Twitter to share news and updates but also engage with audiences and customers. Especially successful when content is witty and brands respond in a timely manner to audiences who use the platform as a direct way of getting in touch with brands, Twitter can be helpful when your brand has a lot to say. However, because users often view Twitter as a public customer service forum between customers and brands, you have to be prepared to be consistently active on Twitter.
How to do well on the platform: share content that resonates with your audiences, like updates and news about your store, press releases, new product drops and more. If you engage consistently with users on Twitter and respond quickly to customer inquiries, you can manage brand reputation and awareness through the platform proactively.
When to avoid the platform: if you haven’t yet developed a strong brand voice or set of values, and don’t have the resources to engage actively on the platform, Twitter may not be the best option for your retail business. And, if your target customers aren’t active on Twitter, you may feel your time is better invested in a different social media platform!
How to use social media to drive offline sales
Here are 5 social media strategies you can implement starting today.
Create a dialogue and focus on responsivity
Thanks to online shopping, customers no longer need to travel to a store unless there’s an incentive for them to do so, or your store offers an experience they just have to check out. So you’ve got to offer customers an experience in-store that they cannot get online. One way you can do this is by creating a dialogue between customers and your local retail location(s). Show them what products you have in stock, ask them what they’d like to see, and answer their questions as quickly as possible.
If you’re a business that has to compete with next-day shipping, it’s important you show customers that they can easily get in touch with your store, order products for in-store pickup, or get something more while in-store (like products offered through end caps).
Keep in mind that some social media platforms like Facebook show Page visitors your level of responsiveness, and this is an indicator for customers of the quality of your customer service.
Listen to your customers
One of the simplest ways to monitor whether your social media efforts are paying off is by paying close attention to what customers say about you online. Through comments, reviews, and direct messages, your customers will tell you (either directly or indirectly) how their experience with your store has been, what they want to see in your other retail locations, and will relate any questions they have that could help you improve your in-store experience. Remember that, while your target or ideal customer may be one type of person, they may vary in each of your locations, so keep an eye on trends to see if this is the case and reflect it in your social media marketing.
Create a community customers are drawn to
Focus on engagement and outreach
One of the easiest ways to encourage audiences to interact with your brand and feel encouraged to visit your physical retail store is through engagement and outreach. This can range and includes everything from responding to comments and reviews to answering audience questions online, acknowledging complaints and concerns, showing audiences what goes on in your company’s head office, sharing news and updates, and joining in on conversations that customers are having about brands or products like yours. When customers feel you’re engaged and active in communicating with them, it gives them incentive to purchase.
Run loyalty programs and special discounts
Your social media profiles are an ideal place to promote special in-store only deals, sales, and discounts, so take advantage of the capability to share this news through your social media channels. You can create offers like these on a regular basis, or theme them based on holidays or times of year, but ensure you aren’t running these exclusive deals or discounts for too long. The idea is to create a feeling of scarcity, where customers feel they would miss out on something great if they don’t visit your store to purchase! Customers won’t feel the need to visit your store if they know they can get a deal or discount whenever they visit your online accounts.
IS YOUR RETAIL ENVIRONMENT DESIGNED TO DRAW CUSTOMERS IN, OR PUSH THEM AWAY?
Making the most of your retail space starts with understanding what inspires your customers to keep coming back for more, time and again. We help our clients conceptualize and build spaces that create experiences shoppers can feel, intangible elements that draw them in, and allows them to be a part of something greater than themselves. And we plan and build out programs that are consistently replicable while making the most of a client’s budget and timelines. Interested in exploring how we can help you with your retail design? Contact us today!