Simon Brennan, VP Europe, Engage Hub
Envisage the future of retail and it’s currently hard to imagine anything other than purchases being made on five-inch screens. It is no secret that the UK high street is struggling to keep up with retail developments driven by the rise of ecommerce, and according to a recent study by Royal Mail, consumers are now doing 80 percent of their shopping online. This has had a massive impact on the sector and challenges brick and mortar stores to transform their approach or risk extinction. PWC’s recent research revealed that in the first half of 2019, 1,234 stores shut down across the UK’ high street, compared to 1,123 shops in 2018.
As consumers, we are buying goods and services online via ads served to us on Instagram. We share photos and reviews of what we consume on Facebook. And we complain to brands on Twitter. Social media is ingrained in our lives, but there’s still a way to go for businesses who want to capitalise on its power.
Customer engagement on multiple channels, including social media must be a more proactive process, which is throwing an additional curveball at most traditional retailers. Brands are still struggling with the digital transformation of their businesses and are trying to grasp how to engage this new breed of savvy shoppers that are demanding personalised and streamlined purchase journeys, competitive pricing and high-quality products or services.
With many brands offering multi-channel customer experiences, standing out is becoming more challenging. Brands need to build trust to earn customer loyalty and this is where social media can be pivotal. It does seem slightly ironic that these channels play such an important role in building trustworthy relationship with consumers. As a country, we trust social media platforms less than any other major nation and favour stronger regulation of Silicon Valley’s technology companies.
Nevertheless, online reputation is surpassing the power of word of mouth. Trust is the foundation of any long-lasting relationship, yet it’s often undervalued in many client-marketer relationships. One reason organisations find it difficult to build trust is because they view social media as ‘marketing communications’ and separate from customer experience and customer service.
Therefore, to garner customer’s trust organisations need to change their approach and use three social media strategies to engage their audience in a more meaningful way.
Uncover the data goldmine you’re sitting on
Retailers that want to enjoy long term success should see social platforms as an invaluable source of data. By using social listening and analytics, brands can see who their customers are, what they want, why they want it and how they want to get it. They can then use this insight – and the specific stories – to inform their marketing personas, develop their campaigns and shape their customer experience strategies.
It’s no secret that big data will provide companies with the ability to get closer to their customers, but the challenge is how to measure the value. Traditional metrics (likes, follows and shares) might feel good, but they’re ultimately meaningless unless companies can link them to outcomes.
A high engagement rate, for example, indicates you have a loyal, active base of customers – and engaged customers are more likely to buy from you.
Be the helping hand on the customer journey
By using real-time data insights, including those from social channels, businesses can see a visual representation of customer interactions at each touchpoint.
The right social media strategy will provide insights, which can be connected with data derived from other channels to garner trust from customers in the overall customer experience. This invaluable holistic understanding of a customer’s journey enables business leaders to make evidence-based decisions about optimising the experience. When used correctly, social media can be a powerful way to close customer service gaps, gain valuable data insights, streamline response handling and boost the overall experience you offer.
Connect the insight dots
However, understanding the actual customer journey is tricky because the data isn’t always easily accessible. The rise of multi-channel means companies are hampered by data siloes, with marketing systems not necessarily communicating with support, sales or logistics in a seamless way. As a result, lots of what retailers know about the customer journey comes from extrapolating an incomplete picture.
The best place to start when it comes to identifying areas for evolution is building an understanding of the customer journey based on fact, not assumption. And that means connecting the data siloes so businesses can understand when people are flitting from social to SMS to email to website to store – and what they’re doing at each touchpoint.
The reality is that the retail landscape has shifted significantly over the last years, as modern consumers seek unique shopping experiences, new engagement and purchase channels and an increased level of brand and product transparency and authenticity.
Brands and retailers that recognise these evolving preferences and deliver informative, interactive and personalised experiences online and offline can both retain their existing customers and attract new ones