Compete Blog: How Can Retailers Win the Social Media Race?

Discussion
Aug 07, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the Compete Blog. Compete Inc. is a web analytics company that focuses on understanding how consumers use the Internet.

Based on a recent survey by Compete, 40 percent of online shoppers believed retailers’ Facebook pages have been extremely/very influential on their purchasing decisions. There’s also the imperceptible impact social media has on building brand awareness and loyalty.

So, how should retailers make the best out of their social network marketing?

Blogs are no longer as effective. According to the Compete survey, less than eight percent of shoppers read or post on retailer blogs, forums, and reviews sites on a daily basis, a number that has been declining over the past six months. In addition, 42.9 percent of the population has never read or posted on a retailer blog. Many retailers are shifting their blogs to social networks such as Pinterest and Tumblr.

Everyone loves sales and promotions. Survey results told us more than 55 percent of people visit retailer Facebook pages (52.1 percent for Twitter) in order to keep up to date on sales and promotions. About half of consumers visit both sites to enter sweepstakes or giveaways.

Word-of-mouth is powerful (even if it is virtual). The survey showed nearly 30 percent of people visit retailers’ Facebook pages when they see that one of their friends "liked" the page. In addition, 29.4 percent of them try to connect with other people who like the retailer (same number for Twitter) and 18.2 percent of them wish to let others know why they like a specific retailer (18.7 percent for Twitter). Not only is word-of-mouth being spread quicker, it is also having a higher reach on a broader range of people.

Know your audiences well. According to Compete’s survey, more female shoppers are on Facebook and more male shoppers on Twitter. Also, for people in the 55+ age group, 66 percent don’t have a Twitter account and 73.4 percent of those who have accounts don’t follow retailers on Twitter.

Understand that not all social media channels are the same. Some companies spread themselves too thin and focus on all social channels, posting the same content in each network. But each network has its own function. For example, Pinterest works best with women, creative photos and crafts. According to Compete’s data, the most engaging traffic for Pinterest comes from retailers in the food, lifestyle and fashion industries. On the other hand, because Twitter allows users to share information so quickly with others, it would work better with retailers focused on daily sales and promotions such as Amazon and Walmart.

Which of the findings from Compete’s survey do you think is most important for retailers to act on? Are there others that you would add when it comes to retailers’ use of various social media platforms?

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18 Comments on "Compete Blog: How Can Retailers Win the Social Media Race?"


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Tom Redd
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

The most critical area is to know your customer or audience. The time is now—with technology and all of the feeders, from POS tape to site comments to social tracking—to understand your customers/shoppers and to refine their pathway to purchase.

The retail winners will focus on this space vs hit all channels…granular data is the way!

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

“Know your customer” is most important. The results of research on related customers may or may not apply to your local consumers. Determine what response you want and monitor the response you get.

Zel Bianco
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

It’s interesting that blogs are on the decline, while image-driven social media networks are growing. It just goes to show that people are spending less time reading, and interacting more instantaneously and visually.

I definitely agree that content should be tailored to the specific social media platform. But because people never know what will “work,” they utilize all social media tools in the same vein until one yields more progress than the other.

How do you know when a social media tool will work for you? Pinterest seems to be popular for women’s lifestyle needs, while Twitter works for getting out messages and promotions quickly. I would definitely agree with these findings.

“Know your customer” is always the most critical, as it’s foundational for implementing any strategy.

Joan Treistman
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

I was looking for some context in this article to understand what percent of the population is actually represented by this data. I Googled…what percent of the population shops (not necessarily buys) online. What I found and I will share it, suggests that this is still a small proportion of the population. And I am wary of focusing marketing strategy (all the eggs in one basket) on this segment.

Here are some findings (circa 2012). Perhaps someone else can help frame this unique marketplace.

“Online shopping has become a mainstream activity fully 70 percent of all Internet users ages 14 and up bought something online last year, according to eMarketer. E-commerce accounted for 6.6 percent of all retail sales.”

“Fifty percent of people buy one to two items online and eight percent of people have ordered something off a mobile device this year.”

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

Word of mouth is powerful and influential. Retailers have to find ways to influence the customer in a positive way. They have to be able to reach out and grab them through social media outlets. This places more responsibility on those given this task.

Lee Kent
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

The bottom line here is that retailers must know their customers and what their customers expect from them. They then want to be where their customers are communicating with them in the way they want to be communicated with.

Kim Herrington
Guest
Kim Herrington
8 years 9 months ago

I’m unsure on the data on the demise of blogs and worry that retailers will act too much on this. There’s overwhelming data to the contrary.

Social media and blogs pair together well and are part of a much larger conversion strategy having more in-depth content for interested potential leads to read is more valuable to conversion in than social media engagement that only scratches the surface.

A lot of retailers aren’t using blogs well, if at all, and aren’t optimizing their strategies to use blogs as a cornerstone for content direction online. It’s no surprise that shoppers don’t like to read bad blogs and this might be the source of this change. Who wants to read a bad blog that’s not interesting and only sales pitches thinly veiled?

John Karolefski
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

It’s a tie between “knowing the audience well” and “everybody loves sales and promotions.’ The former is key because it has always been a fundamental element of communication, while the latter is key because, er, everybody loves sales and promotions.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

Clearly the tried and true—know your customer. But, I’d quickly add you need to also know your media. The reason social networks don’t work out for retailers is because retailers are digital marketers. As long as we are stuck on tried and true bromides here’s another one—stick to your knitting.

Verlin Youd
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

As mentioned by many, the most important finding is that different customers use different social media for different reasons. A retailer needs to know their target markets, segments, and more than ever before, individuals, so that they can provide value in the preferred media. That preferred media could be based on different customer segments, but will in the future also include different media for different needs of the same shopper, for instance recipes on Pinterest, sales on Twitter, and loyalty information on Facebook.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

One aspect not mentioned in the article is that I believe retailers can learn from CPG Brand presences in social channels. The largest Facebook presence is not a celebrity, and it is not a retailer…it’s a CPG Brand. Take a look at what they are doing to create awareness for their brand. See what can be transferred to retailer social sites and don’t be too proud to learn and leverage a best practice from another industry!

Shep Hyken
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

Consumers believe what other consumers say about a product or store. Get a positive comment to go viral and you have a very influential marketing opportunity.

Other important strategies to consider:

Don’t just promote. Even though a large number of followers like to be kept up to date on sales and specials, they also like useful content. It can be information (latest styles, trends, products, etc.) or can be a “how to” article or video.

Exploit YouTube. This may be the best social media tool to get you search engine rankings, recognition and more. You can create a lot of valuable content on YouTube.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
8 years 9 months ago

Retailers should act on this: Don’t lead, follow. Don’t be the icebreaker, but follow the icebreaker. It’s cheaper, less frustrating, and ultimately more successful. Any kind of retail “victory” in social media means little or nothing. Regarding the Compete Blog report title—”How Can Retailers Win the Social Media Race?”—it’s not a race and being first has no measurable value. I’d be interested in He Tang’s definition of “win” in this context.

Brian Fletcher
Guest
Brian Fletcher
8 years 9 months ago

Key Point: Know your target audience and the most impactful and effective way to reach them (not always the same thing!).

Also, I am curious to understand more about the survey conducted by Compete. Asking consumers to report on their use of social media is one thing, but actually observing it is another! In-person qualitative research incorporating online and mobile real-time components would uncover true insights into how social media is used to make retail purchases today. Observed vs. reported behavior can really shed some light on how retailers can best use social media channels to further engage with consumers.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

At the risk of impugning Compete’s reputation, I’d be reluctant to put too much faith in a survey of which we know absolutely nothing (survey methodology, scope, sponsorship, etc.) from a site I’ve never heard of…particularly as it runs so counter to my personal experiences. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, I’d have to say that yes, “know your audience” is good advice.

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
8 years 9 months ago

Knowing your audience always comes first, but in social, understanding the various channels is a close second. Social properties should be created or managed with a specific target segment or audience in mind. Retailers should start with the overall business or marketing objectives they are seeking to drive and then narrow those down to the down to the specifics that a social strategy can help with. Finally, map your target audience and objective to the channel that offers the best mix of fit and reach.

The 40% statistic is high compared to other research that I’ve seen, but I suspect the key word there is “influential.” Social is influencing purchasing decisions, but it’s a far lower percentage that are actually clicking through to make a purchase straight from a Facebook post and retailers need to be careful to not make their social presence overtly transaction oriented.

Warren Thayer
Guest
8 years 9 months ago

About the survey: which consumers? How many of them? Basic demographics? Which type of products? Which type of retailers? And how do you break each of these factors out? Without this, I can’t see a blessed thing here that is actionable for anybody.

As the resident Luddite on this site (although I did just get a smart phone and am learning how to use it), I am always, always suspicious of data from tech-related companies that always seems to support widespread usage of big data by 97% of the population to move rivers and alter the orbit of the moon.

AmolRatna Srivastav
Guest
AmolRatna Srivastav
8 years 9 months ago

Understanding the dynamics of different social media channels, I think, is most important. Social media is typically thought of as “one channel” while the reality is that it’s collection of different channels. Who goes to twitter vs facebook vs tumblr analysis can be very powerful. Also, we can see a segmentation happening by the choice of social media channel that a person is selecting which can be utilized for better marketing. This does need a more thorough analysis…

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