Retail and social media are a match made in heaven, if it's done right

How to make social media work for your business this Christmas.

By Gerard Murnaghan Sprout Social

RETAIL AND SOCIAL media are a match made in heaven. The ability to reach and engage with exactly who you want, at any time is an opportunity that marketers cannot pass up.

At this time of year, the competition for potential customers’ attention is huge, and marketers are competing for digital, print and outdoor advertising. Many retailers just don’t have the budget for massive marketing campaigns, while for others they know that their target audience is best reached through social.

There are plenty of simple things you can do to set you apart from the rest as the Christmas shopping spree goes up a gear.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

This one is a bit of a cliché, but there are still many brands on social media that fire out large amounts of content hoping they will hit their audience.

Instead, focus on crafting a solid content plan by mirroring your overall marketing goals in your social media strategy.

Perhaps an important marketing goal is sales conversion from social media. If that’s the case, your posts should be including things which move people to a landing page or another part of your marketing funnel.

Any plan also needs to be based on knowing your ideal customer really well. Who are they, where are they, what platform do they use and what do they want from you on social media?

Our research in Ireland puts entertaining content top of the list for what Irish people will engage with, closely followed by posts that offer discounts.

Timing is also really important. For example, we’ve done some worldwide analysis and Wednesday at around the 11am to 1pm time frame is the best time to post on Facebook or Instagram. Keep an eye on your orders and tweak your posting based on when things are getting purchased.

Be omnipresent

Of course, you want to know your customer very well and target them for that repeat business. However, you run the risk of leaving money on the table if you don’t expand your reach.

Your ideal customer may use Twitter, but their friend might be a die-hard Facebook user and you need to have a content strategy and calendar to spread resources across different channels.

Cross promotion is an excellent tool in getting the most value out of your channels. It also serves to segment your strategy based on how your customers use social.

Twitter might be the go-to for customer service, whereas Instagram or Pinterest gives you the all-important sales conversion as it shows off your products the best. In cross-promoting and having your customers see your multi-channel presence you make the customer journey that much easier.

Seamless experience

Consumers expect a quick and pain-free experience when shopping online – be that for delivery, click-and-collect or even checking what’s in stock for a bricks and mortar retailer.

A simple and clear call to action in a bio or a social-specific landing page makes the customer journey much more enjoyable. Mobile-friendly pages are also a must, competition is fierce in the lead up to Christmas and a slow purchase process or bouncing between different links or landing pages will push your customer straight to another brand.

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The customer is always right

This is not the time of year to let customer service slip, despite what will be an increase in messages and queries from consumers. Sixty-one percent of respondents we surveyed would unfollow a brand on social because of poor customer service.

That’s a big number when you think about increased spending at Christmas, and the competition for attention. Having a really proactive approach to customer service is key.

Glasses will break and that medium-sized jumper will turn into an XXL, but how a brand reacts to the problem at a stressful time of year can be the difference between a repeat purchase or one less follower.

Rinse and repeat

I’m hoping that any retailer reading this has a successful Christmas on the sales front, but planning for 2020 can start now. Look at your figures and analytics to find out if there is a gap in your strategy.

Perhaps you had an excellent season and growth means you need a helping hand, look into how your social feeds can be better managed so you’re ahead of the pack next year. Measure what works best and never be afraid to scratch an idea off which didn’t work and file it in the ‘experience’ box. 

Gerard Murnaghan is General Manager and Vice President for Sprout Social EMEA.

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