A little over a year ago, STORES Magazine featured a cover story on Facebook. At the time we reported that only a handful of retailers were dabbling in the space, but those who were found the conversation to be engaging – because they were connecting one-to-one with customers, and because it opened a window to new possibilities. Where would the conversation lead them? And importantly, were they prepared to go?
Now just 14 months later Facebook has exploded. Hundreds of retailers have set up Facebook pages and they’re networking freely with shoppers. Though business inside traditional stores slowed, shoppers continued to seek out their favorite brands and coveted retail stores via social networking sites in an effort to keep a finger in the pie. They kept track of events and new store openings and they read with interest when a sale was mentioned. Some played games and some were successful at soliciting and securing shoppers’ point of view on product. All this social networking drives home the value of the relationships retailers have and continue to cultivate with their customers. It also emphasizes just how imperative it is for retail executives to embrace social media and climb this learning curve.
Challenges remain, however. Since each retailer’s business is unique, there’s no formula for how to interact with shoppers. Brand building is key, but there are numerous ways to cultivate loyalty. Ultimately, there are a whole lot of folks trying to determine whether there is a bottom line lift to be achieved from this difficult-to-pin down social media phenomenon.
In the October issue of STORES Lori Schafer, executive advisor to the SAS Global Retail Practice, asks retailers, “Are You Being Anti Social?” She shares her experiences helping retailers get acquainted with social networking, including the emerging role business analysis will play in managing this burgeoning channel. It’s a fascinating read.