Social Media Marketing for Independent Retailers

October 27, 2015

Social media is a key tactic in this day and age to reach customers, especially customers in generation Y. This generation grew up using computers and the internet and hasn’t experienced a world without 24-hour access to anything they want. They are keen to customize and tailor their experience to what is important to them, and they do not have patience for outlets that cannot accommodate this.

Social media is a customer-centric platform because it is so customizable. A locally owned business may be able to control its store front, website, and pricing structure, but to think a business’ social media platform as being controlled by the business can be a mistake. A business’ social media platform is owned by its users, specifically its customers. A business can only influence and guide its social media presence, as well as being an active member of the community being created.

Your customers probably already use social channels such as Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter to talk with you, as well as talk about you. There is an increased use of social media to address customer service issues, and you can find reviews of your store in many places online. Monitoring and responding is an important part of the guest experience.

Make no mistake, however, that social media is vital for your marketing strategy as well, and when used correctly, can create unlimited opportunity for driving customer engagement that converts to revenue.

In the college market (ages 18–23), 75.8 percent of students use Facebook regularly and 50 percent of those are on the site for an hour or more a day.* During that time they are served ads, see posts from businesses they have followed, and share their own experiences, which include sharing sales and savings they received when buying, particularly when they are incentivized to do so.

Basic business rules include that increasing business for a retailer can happen in one of three ways. Increase basket size, meaning the size of the cart running through the checkout. Increase traffic, meaning the number of customers coming to your store or site, and increasing frequency of visits, meaning the number of times any one customer comes in to your store or visits your site. For sales to grow, a combination of all three of these components must happen.

Effective use of social media can influence each of these areas when use correctly. Especially for a brick-and-mortar store which has the added benefit of being a local business with a necessary geo-targeted audience. This is especially true for independent retailers capturing sales of the college market on their campus and beyond.

Taking advantage of the local market through emphasizing the local aspect, creating content to engage and drive traffic to the store, and providing superior customer service can all contribute to increased sales.

Examples include:

  • Posting hours of operation or special hours due to seasonal demand is a great way to communicate with customers and actually provide them with value. Think aboutt back-to-school season. Are you using Facebook and Twitter to advise students about extended hours and providing them instructions on how to navigate your store during this busy rush period? (Twitter may only account for 34.5 percent of users in this age group,* but with a campus of 15,000, you can reach over 5,000 potential customers.)
  • If you allow an option to customers to pay for a transaction online and pick it up in-store, posting about it on your social media feed along with providing instructions with a link to your website page describing this process will not only remind customers of the that option but will also give them access to the your website to place their orders. Twenty-eight percent of college students never set foot in a bookstore when purchasing course materials.** Bringing students back to the bookstore by showcasing convenient shopping options is one way to increase your traffic both online and in-store.
  • Post photos of new gear that has just arrived and include a link to your website. Add a jpeg. of a coupon for guests to bring with them for a discount. Visit free barcode generator websites, such as barcodesinc.com, to create a barcode in the image so staff members only need to scan the customer’s phone.
  • People use social media as a way to connect but also as a way to unwind and disengage. Using humor is okay, especially with generation Y. Businesses can no longer just inform—they have to entertain too. Periodically posting about the school’s sports teams or current events allows you to piggyback off of content that is integrally interesting to your target audience.
  • Assign an employee to monitor social media and create a voice that is used to reply to posts, questions, and comments posted to your page by customers. Even when receiving a complaint on your page, leave it up and take the time to handle that customer experience immediately.
  • If you have an eCommerce site, make sure to add the “Shop Now” button onto your Facebook page. This will link your social users directly to your website to begin shopping.

Contests, coupons, and engaging content can allow social media to work for you.  Local businesses have a big advantage with social media because they are naturally geo-targeting with content and aligning with their audience’s interests, thus connecting with them on a granular level. A store knows when finals week occurs for the school they serve, so you can engage customers with fun memes about how to get through finals successfully. While you are entertaining, why not throw in a plug for buyback week? All it takes is a little ingenuity and forethought to implement a social media program that pays dividends in the end.

* 2015 Fall Crux Student Survey, **2015 Spring Crux Student Survey

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