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[19 comments]

Connecting social media and the store

May 23, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

Retailers use e-mail (79 percent) and their websites (77 percent) to promote their social commerce services to customers, according to the Retail TouchPoints Social Commerce Survey. But only 24 percent of retailers promote their social presence in-store at the point-of-sale (POS).

One retailer pushing the in-store/social connection is Nordstrom, which uses its Pinterest fan base to identify popular products and encourage social engagement. These "most-pinned products" are then promoted in-store with special signage and unique merchandise designs.

"What's great about social media is that it creates a bigger platform for customers to share their experiences with us and with each other," said Dan Evans, business PR director for Nordstrom.

One hurdle appears to be many retailers viewing social media and the store as separate channels addressing different parts of the sales funnel.

"Social media is currently being used as a brand awareness, top-of-the-funnel initiative," noted Pau Sabria, co-founder of Olapic, which helps stores monetize fan photos socially. "And in-store retail is used as an end-of-the-funnel channel, or a sales channel. These are very different approaches and rarely compete with one another."

To ensure that marketing and engagement strategies are relevant, retailers need to clearly identify target customers and their preferred social channels. Merchants also should consider the value of specific social channels. For example, Instagram is a valuable network for retailers to give consumers a "behind-the-scenes" look at their brand, while Twitter is a valuable service channel.

Most importantly, retailers need to determine how they can amplify consumers' shopping behaviors and encourage them to talk more about their experiences throughout the entire brand journey, according to Laura Davis-Taylor, SVP of omnichannel experience at The Integer Group.

"Retailers need to look at before, during and after the purchase and consider their consumers' shopping behaviors," Ms Davis-Taylor explained. However, because consumers continue to hop between channels and devices throughout their browsing and buying journeys, there no longer is a standard path to purchase, she added. Instead retailers "need to create a shopping story."

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Discussion Questions:

How should retailers be looking to better integrate social media with the in-store experience? What approaches have you seen that show promise? How actively should retailers be promoting their social media presence and programs at the store level?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How actively should retailers be promoting their social media presence and programs at the store level?

Comments:

It's all about ENGAGEMENT. The retailer that captures the imagination of the shopper - in and out of the store - and effectively creates a REAL connection with that individual has much more likelihood of success. If the shopping journey does not include this personal, one-on-one connection, then the retailer is simply a place to "buy products" rather than a place with an "emotional purpose."

How actively should retailers promote their social presence? As much and as often as possible. If the retailer has a compelling story to tell and is GENUINELY interested in connecting with its shoppers, then a full court press is the only path to follow.

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Dave Wendland, Vice President, Hamacher Resource Group

The first step is identifying your core customer - target and actual - and then understand why, what, when, where and how they use and interact with various social media channels. Simple in-store tagging (signage) or merchandising of top "pinned" products in Pinterest is a perfect example of how retailers can complete the connections.

The shopping journey is no longer done on a straight and clear road, rather there are many different trails, most all of which will lead to a successful purchase. All too often, retailers and brands operate as though the journey ends there - not so! The new journey continues after the purchase. In many cases this is the most important period of the journey.

What about a thank you, follow-ups making sure your customers are still delighted with their purchase decision? Many doctors now call 24-48 hours after a procedure to make certain you're doing fine. Why can't a brand do the same? It's easy and effective! Developing these practices and disciplines are the foundation to building that "customer for life."

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Adrian Weidmann, Principal, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

The Nordstrom idea is a nice grab at a shiny object but really, wouldn't you want a professional catalog as a shopper?

I think a totally different approach to leveraging social media is needed. I would suggest emphasizing building a brand audience that gives the retailer first party data...the most powerful asset there is for precision marketing in a digital marketing age. Encourage people to join a loyalty program and use social log-in so you have connected their social media activities with their clickstream and purchase behaviors. Once people become part of your audience in a social way, you can target and personalize messaging and offers to the highest response group possible -- those who are predisposed to your retail brand but who probably don't give you the share of wallet they could.

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Joel Rubinson, President, Rubinson Partners, Inc.

I don't think it makes sense to view the question of whether or not to promote a retailer's social presence in-store in a manner similar to how email and the website does. Instead, the question should be how social media can add value to the shopping experience, which leads to how you communicate this in multiple places along the purchase path (in email, the website, in-store, mobile app).

Wet Seal is known for using social smartly to complement and add value to the in-store experience by helping customers create, share and receive/offer feedback on outfit combinations. For other segments like food/grocery, the use case will differ but the goal should be the same; use social to add value such as participating in a promotion where an offer can be shared with your social network that in turn can lead to more customers following your brand. That in turn increases the universe of customers you can communicate with in the future.

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Gib Bassett, Global Program Director for Consumer Goods, Teradata Corp.

While retailers are increasingly exploring social media as "brand awareness," few seem to be connecting to the consumer experience in store. There is no standard connected purchase path. Social media seems to be most effective at connecting with consumers as they interact.

One of the exciting new companies mentioned in the article is Olapic. Olapic has created a platform where retailers can search for consumer photos in popular social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. These photos can then be harvested and used as rich content on web sites and other social media to show real consumers using products. Retailers like Steve Madden are using Olapic to get consumers to post photos of themselves wearing Steve Madden products, which can then appear on Steve Madden home page.

At this point it seems clear that consumers are voting that social media is not about directly purchasing products. Consumers can search for product info many places. Social media is much more about relationships. Toms Shoes is a great example of a retailer that has been a pioneer in getting consumers to establish brand relationships by posting "selfies" using their products from around the world.

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Chris Petersen, PhD, President, Integrated Marketing Solutions

Retailers should be thinking about social as a key ingredient in the total marketing mix, even though it can be difficult to quantify ROI. That is the first hurdle. Then I think there's good advice in this article regarding clearly identifying the purpose of each channel and how it should be used. Do not ignore Pinterest if you have a very visual product. And be present - participate in the discussions shoppers are having about your brand and related lifestyle topics.

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Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief, Retail TouchPoints

Social media and in-store are all part of the shopper experience, from considering a purchase, through the purchase, to after sale service. Each step of the way, retailers should be asking questions, listening and making reasoned suggestions. No other media can satisfy each phase of the process.

Retailers who are active in social media should promote their availability by placing social media website/app logos on their bags, on point of sale materials and in their communication vehicles.

It's no longer good enough to just encourage consumers to visit a store. Consumers want a dialogue throughout the shopping experience, both with friends and with the retailer.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Social media is a great vehicle for engaging with shoppers. If a retailer is really committed to using social media, the promotion of it should take place consistently and everywhere possible. Of course, promoting it is only part of the equation - if social media is not used to create an emotional connection to the retailer (or worse yet, is never updated) then it is a wasted effort.

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Brian Numainville, Principal, The Retail Feedback Group

Integration of sales channels is key and retailers should look at what best meets their specific needs.

Interesting, but not surprising, that Nordstrom gets the focus in 2/3 discussion articles today that deal with sales channel integration.

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Bill Davis, Director, MB&G Consulting

As a consumer I am really fed up with the aggressiveness with which marketers throw social media campaigns in my face. And I have heard similar major frustrations from many consumers - of all ages.

Retailers should be very cautious about this. In reality, marketers too often try to get consumers to do their jobs for them. That approach always fails. Stores do best when they enable people to BE consumers. After all, isn't buying what's most important both for today and for your brand in the future?

Doug Garnett, Founder & CEO, Atomic Direct

Friends and colleagues don't limit where they have a conversation, so why should stores limit where they engage social media? Since the whole idea of social media is to create a conversation, it makes since to continue any dialogue in the store - just like friends would.

It seems a wise choice then to integrate social media with the in-store experience because it offers continuity and an opportunity to deepen the relationship with customers. Posting the most pinned items at Nordstrom communicates to their customers that they are listening and care about their opinions. This helps to build loyalty. Seeing that other shoppers agree with them also creates validation for a shopper's choice and taste.

The challenge is determining which social media is most relevant to your customers and how to integrate that at store level.

'RetailRetell'

Offer Wi-Fi with a link to a mobile app so that shoppers can quickly/easily share their experiences in the store on social media, and connect with them on their devices at the same time for the post-store exepreince. Another good thing about social media is that it can help draw traffic to the store if you offer in-store only content. Providing signage in the store with call to action to follow on social media or install a mobile app would be a good start

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Kenneth Leung, Director of Enterprise Industry Marketing, Avaya

Social is really a mobile play for in-store and most retailers do not see the connection there. Everyone complains that mobile has a low CR but few really look into why. Most customers are using their phone in the store so if the product is in the store, why buy on your phone? Mobile is an augmentation of the in-store experience and so will social. But until retailers start changing their internal structures to meet the way customers shop, it won't matter what they do with social.

Edward Chenard, Consultant , Echenard

Showing what's trending online into the store experience is a great way to engage members of these audiences who are not aware of online developments. It's one of the things we are supposed to do as retailers: provide our shoppers with ideas.

So I suppose the question is: how can we best provide ideas to audiences using social media and how can we then support the actions that follow...and that's a full circle back to the need to understand audiences and how they engage.

But that's just one layer of an onion - I think the best way to do it is to do it is to ask customers in stores why it connected with them, and figure out audience-specific nuances.

The bigger context is, we are in a period of transformation - figure it out because these ideas will become noise very soon.

Vahe Katros, Consultant, Plan B

Sometimes I read these things and think, are we looking for a text book here? Goodness gracious (that's southern speak), retail IS social! From the beginning of time, retail has always been a social thing.

Think back to the first dinner party. Someone had to come up with the idea then talk about it with friends to see if they liked it. Figure out what it entailed. What it should look like, What it should feel like. What you wanted your guests to get from it. Then you had to go down to my great grandfathers Mercantile (Okay, so that wasn't the beginning of time) and ask Mr. Bob what he had or what he could get to make the evening a smash. Lots of back and forth, sharing, planning.

Of course Mr. Bob would follow up afterwards to see how things went. He was a smart business man and knew that if the Jones had a great party, others would surely follow. And don't you know that he talked it up to everyone who came in the Mercantile!

All social! So how should retail be looking at social today? The same way Mr. Bob did but with shiny new tools and approaches. Retail needs to look at the entire life cycle of the journey, identify the various touchpoints and start touching. You know what I mean. And that's my 2 cents!

Lee Kent, Let's meet share and succeed in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

If a company is not using social media to promote and market their stores, they are not only behind the times, they risk extinction. For many retailers, this is where customers are "hanging out." Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest and more; these are the places people turn to to engage with a company, interact with other customers and friends and learn about a company's products.

The key for retailers is to balance selling with engaging. Big difference. Build the relationship and you won't have to sell nearly as hard, if at all. Create value through social by helping customers be more successful with their products. Example: Ace Hardware puts How-To videos on YouTube.

If you create a community and engage at the relationship level versus the sales level, your customers will appreciate you, buy from you and talk about you. And, if you're lucky, they will become loyal to you.

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Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Social marketing involves visual marketing which translate into the camera feature of the smart phone. Instagram are photos, Pinterest are photos/graphics, Facebook is photos as well as Twitter. All of the social marketing implementation I seen work successfully involved the use of visual marketing and photo sharing on social networks.

The best social media campaigns I've seen in retail is the social media photo shot that allow customers to take a picture of themselves at a focal point in the store and send the photo to their friends on Instagram and Facebook.

The second best and this is in Europe is the use of diorama scenes to take photos of similar to Macy's windows during the holiday season. People take these photos and seem to share it among their friends.

Social media is providing the environment for a person to share their experiences with others - not sales channel workflow or collective interests. I believe when retailers create the environment for customers to whip out their camera photo to share visual marketing is the day retailers realize how social media marketing really works.

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

Perhaps the real question here is how important is the integration of social media in the store. By its very definition, social media is NOT true advertising or promotion, and since it is largely dependent on consumers having a smart phone, phablet or tablet that is "on" and part of the consumer's active shopping experience, we have immediately decreased the number of shoppers who are exposed, or even sensitive to an in-store social media presence. Instead, these resources would be better spent on going back to better OTS advertising, promotion, and shopping basics....

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

I am not certain that on-site social is relevant (or should be a priority) for all online retailers. If you are selling a service or products that have high purchase consideration rates then there is no doubt that integrating social media into your store experience will increase overall site performance.

The key is understanding the influence mix and determining to what extent consumers depend on opinions of others and third party information services to make a purchase decision. If the purchase decision is skewed towards these factors then these companies and brands are (and have) experienced the greatest shift in how consumers gather and evaluate information.

It is these types of companies and brands that will experience the greatest ROI by incorporating social into they're shopping experience.

I think building conversations around shop-able consumer images of a commerce sites product(s) on product detail pages is a great way to increase a sites social shopping experience. People love to share and shop visual images which is why Pinterest provides marketers with the greatest purchase intent. As time goes on, my bet is we will see more and more e-commerce sites implement Pinterest-like shopping communities directly on their own real-estate.

I still come across many sites (more that don't than do) that have a very strong social media/Facebook presence and promotions and are not using Facebook Connect to tie in these promotions on-site in exchange for a coupon or discount. This is a mistake as this is one of the easiest ways marketers can use social media on-site to not only help drive conversions, but also get rich user data to make their overall marketing programs even more effective.

joe mcgrail, Director of Sales , blucarat

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