Not on Facebook? Here’s why you should be

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In one particular session I sat in on at this year’s BIG Show, the audience of several hundred were asked by the moderator to raise their hands if they “weren’t on Facebook.” Not surprisingly, only 3 people sheepishly raised their hands.

As you’ve probably read in our coverage of NRF’s 100th Annual Convention, there are a handful of technologies changing the game for the retail future, like precision retailing and augmented reality. But there’s one concept that’s not so new that retailers seem to not have a full grasp of. It’s social media. And if you’re in retail and don’t think it’s worth the time to explore Facebook or Twitter, think again.

Ahead of today’s Super Session entitled “The Future is BIG, The Future is NOW!” featuring some of the industry’s brightest minds, we reached out to one of the featured panelists, Bernie Brennan, to get his views on social media and mobility as a retail game changer. With a recently published best-selling book on the significant opportunities that retailers have to build market share by amplifying their culture and strategy through these new digital channels, Bernie’s insights into this component of the evolving industry are worth a read.

In your book, “Branded!: How Retailers Engage Consumers with Social Media and Mobility”, you write about retailers who are successfully implementing social media and mobility strategies. What made you want to write the book?

We believe that the rapid emergence of the “digital era” represents the most dynamic change in the relationship between retailers and consumers in the history of retail. Because this paradigm change is so dramatic, the degree of implementation on the part of retailers varies substantially. We were encouraged by industry leaders as well as executives of NRF to write a book directed to the executive leadership of retailers, as opposed to a technical book.

What are the three most innovative social media tactics you’ve seen utilized recently?

Frankly, there are many, and new initiatives are being implemented almost daily. To answer your question specifically, here are three compelling initiatives:

1. Commerce on Facebook. This enables customers to be interactive, discussing planned purchases, while they shop online. There are three proactive retailers: was the pioneer, Best Buy, and JCPenney, who are executing this strategy and are featured in Branded!

2. Localization is a compelling strategy that relates to dealing with customer needs on a local level. Now with the use of social media networks and location-based mobility, the retailer can truly serve individual stores’ local needs. Macy’s and Best Buy are leaders in this initiative.

3. Effective use of Twitter. Success of Twitter is based on a company’s open culture, and hiring, empowering, and inspiriting associates to be ambassadors of the company. Zappos is the industry leader in the social media channel.

There is definitely a movement toward “social ubiquity”. As the lines between social media and mobility are intersecting, the capabilities of smartphones continues to grow.

What trends and commonalities have you noticed with brands who are social media savvy?

Brands that are social media savvy have an unwavering approach to communicate their strategy and culture through social media and mobility. Starbucks is rated as one of the top social media leaders in the world, and now has almost 19 million fans on Facebook. Their philosophy was to “bring the coffee shop to the digital world.” Social media is an amplification of a company’s strategy!

Looking forward ten years, what will the retailer-consumer relationship look like? Do you think consumer engagement will look completely different?

It will be quite different, and in fact, this is already happening. The customer is tech-savvy, having enormous amounts of information available to them, online at home, on their mobile device, all the way to the aisle of the store. We use the term “the customer is in charge” and this paradigm will continue. Proactive retailers will benefit from this dynamic change.

What would you say to a retail company hesitant to launch a Facebook page or Twitter account?

I would suggest they get both of these accounts immediately. They could learn so much about their customers, and immediately begin positive engagement with them.

Brennan will be available for a “Branded!: How Retailers Engage Consumers with Social Media and Mobility” signing at noon outside of the special events hall.

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