How to Use Social Media to Optimize the Customer Experience in Retail

Social media has never been more important for a retail brand. It’s a key way to stand out in the hearts and minds of your customers in today’s omnichannel landscape. The customer journey is increasingly influenced by digital and mobile. Social media plays a critical role in this customer experience, from customer acquisition, engagement, retention and service, to loyalty and brand advocacy.

“Think of social media as one of the pillars of your retail store’s brand management. Social media is a way to connect the dots between the customer experience, loyalty, customer service and the spirit of discovery and emotions that make shopping enjoyable.”

In 2016, social media is not just about advertising; it’s education, content marketing, displaying your passion for helping customers, giving them a sneak peek at your products, and inspiring them with customer success stories. Social media done right can elevate your brand above the competition and boost sales. Extraordinary social media content translates to a uniquely memorable brand. Are you ready for your store to be one of those magical brands?

Shopping Online Background

How can you best use social media networks?

By improving the social media branding of your retail store you can directly impact sales and improve the customer experience as well as sending out campaigns and promotions. Here are some global best practices and ideas to help you:

 

Social Media Network Target Top Tips
Instagram Highly mobile younger Millennials and Gen Z consumers. Post high-resolution original photography with attention paid to professional design and branding.

  • Mix in inspirational quotes, offers, and tips.
  • Delete the lowest-performing 25% of posts in terms of likes and comments, to ensure quality on your feed.
  • Aim to surprise your followers with the occasional off-beat, eccentric or funny post.
Pinterest Millennial women, especially mothers, and people interested in fashion, style, lifestyle and self-improvement. It’s all about amazing pictures of your products.

  • Mirror your target audience and personas of your typical customers (pin as they pin).
  • Create a variety of boards that demonstrate your brand is ethical, cares about the environment, employees, customers and has a sense of style.
  • Post 3+ times a day.
Twitter Influencers, partners and business associates in your industry and loyal brand advocates and consumers. Post more frequently to compensate for the lower engagement and visibility of Twitter posts. Use a post scheduler like Buffer or Hootsuite and post a higher percentage of images with hashtags as tweets.

  • Use images to boost engagement.
  • Use multiple #hashtags in a single tweet to boost reach on topics that are relevant to your target audience and products.
  • Don’t forget to make it a two way conversation – interact with partner brands, influencers and customers to become a thought leader in your field.
Facebook Consumers who are 35+. Create your own 1-2 minute native videos that are highly shareable and post them on Facebook groups related to your vertical, products and store.

  • Post 1-2 times a day, at peak hours when your audience is online.
  • Embed text in images, inspire readers, and keep text brief.
  • Your posts are not readily seen by the majority of your followers unless you tap into Facebook Advertising, which can be an effective tool to grow and better target your audience.

Study your competitors!

Study your competitors and other independent brands in your retail industry and see how they are managing their social media marketing amongst different channels or platforms. This will give you ideas and inspiration on how you can use your own social channels even better to create a unique customer experience that spans online as well as in-store.

Customer Service

Many of your customers will have questions, require education, and want to talk with you on social media. Using social media as a way to offer great customer service really helps you stand out and provide a more omnichannel customer experience. This is especially true if your website does not have an IM chat. Here are a few rules of thumb to help you along:

  • Answer all questions and comments on a daily basis and monitor your social channels very closely. Response times matter.
  • Provide educational tips on your products to inspire your customer engagement and curiosity.
  • Do not delete a negative comment or complaint. Answer it compassionately and with the best of intentions to help your customers.
  • Find examples of some of the best support on Twitter and Facebook to get an idea of how good customer service works on social media, and share this with your employees. Bigger brands will often have a dedicated Twitter feed just for helping customers.
  • Turn happy customers into brand advocates. If your customer service is exceptional, word of mouth will translate into sharing that experience on social media. Online brand advocacy is very valuable for your retail store.

Conclusion

Using social media to optimize the customer experience has never been more important for independent retail brands. Doing it well can elevate your brand as one of the memorable favorites of your customers.

Your Turn

Are you doing something unique on social media to enhance your store’s brand? Share your story and experiences below.

Loving this article?

The full whitepaper for this article is available on Vend U, the free education portal for Vend. Available to all Vend customers, it provides world-class retail training with eBooks, guides, live events, webinars, and videos to give you the competitive edge in retail.

Log in to Vend U now and find the whitepaper in the Resources section. You’ll get more information about picking the right social media platform for your retail vertical, and valuable techniques to boost social media growth. Or, find out more about Vend U.

 

About the author
Michael Spencer is a brand & identity consultant, freelance copywriter and blogger for various clients. He’s a creative writer who is passionate about helping independent retailers boost their brand and inspire their customers. He has written over 400 educational articles in the last year on LinkedIn alone. He resides in Montreal. Contact him on LinkedIn, Twitter or Quora.

 

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