Despite manners and respect obviously not on many people’s shopping lists, the power of social media to lift an economy was there for all to see during the Black Friday shopping rush.
Just a few years ago, the most influential skill retailers had to lure in shoppers was window dressing. The best displays would take a fair chunk of the news headlines as showbiz celebs were brought in to signal the start of a sales avalanche.
But Twitter and Facebook have now ram-raided those windows and thrown aside the robotic mannequins in favour of a hashtag.
Simply put, online shopping and promotions go to the customers in their homes and offices and tell them about great deals, rather than waiting for them to pass the shop and notice that X-Factor runner-up Ivor Back-Story will be starting a sale the following week.
The stats are pretty impressive. Credit check site Experian recorded that £385,000 per minute was spent online on Black Friday, adding up to an eye-watering £555.5m. But even that was dwarfed by Cyber Monday on the first of this month, where £451,000 was spent every minute until £649.6m had been jammed into the tills.
Who’s making these dates up? And why stop there? Let’s build a retail recovery based on Trade-up Tuesday, where everyone brings back their toasters and exchanges them for a better one, or Thirsty Thursday, where gallons of drink are discounted to get people in the mood for Black Friday.
The cult of flash-mobbing shows how social media can become social action in the blink of an eye. Tell someone there is a short-term offer available and they will appreciate that information is only being given to a selected number of people and they will want to respond. Then they get the offer, enjoy it, look out for the next one – and a valued customer is recruited.
Retailers who dominate a particular sector will be well aware of the impact avid Twitter users have, so as well as making sure offers are seen by as many people as possible they will also seek out potential customers who have a large fan-base and ask them to help pass the message on.
The dream ticket might be that a tweet suggesting “you too can have a beautiful wooden floor like @katyperry” will get retweeted by the perky American songstress and suddenly 61.5m followers are looking at the name of a hard-working British business.
Or if Facebook hits more of your target audience, you need to get Cristiano Ronaldo on board in the hope that a few of his 103,770,000 fans might be interested.
It’s not crude – it’s targeted. No one deserves to run a business if they don’t know all there is to know about customers. What do they buy? When do they buy it? When they shop what else do they pick up?
Read more about social media and business:
- How best to use social media: a financial and insurance guide
- Solving customer complaints using social media platforms
- Three ingenious ways companies used topical tweets
Amazon will tell you in an instant what similar books are available in line with what you have just bought. The internet retailer are tracking your shopping habits as soon as you type in Fifty Shades of Grey and will adjust it (thankfully) if you really meant to type in Fifty Sheds of Grey.
That’s pure retail common sense and now an integral part of running a business selling to consumers. If you know a few million potential customers are looking at Katy Perry’s latest message, why on earth wouldn’t you walk up to them, nudge their elbow and ask “while you’re waiting, would you like to have a look at this….?”
All this is undoubted fact, but we cannot and must not say that the high street retailer is no longer valid or is ‘old-fashioned’. Each still plays a vitally important role in the retail economy. There are lessons to learn though from online outlets and the “new” way of attracting customers.
Engaging with customers and potential customers through social media is incredibly important. The immediate engagement that drives footfall to the high street or the retail park will help to ensure that retailers thrive and the diversity of the sector ensures its ongoing success and longevity.
Whether selling in-store or online, rethinking attitudes and embracing technology and all that it brings is the option that forward-thinking businesses are taking.
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