Deloitte’s annual holiday survey results provided the first glimpse of what some retailers already knew. Social media works.
With more than half of all consumers using the Internet to search for discounts, research gifts, and ask friends and family what they might like, retailers that engaged consumers via blogs and social networks are realizing a return on investment despite tighter budgets.
Some, like Toys "R" Us, launched their own apps to offer a sneak peek of the chain’s in-store Black Friday specials. Other retailers, like Staples, used social media to advertise price cuts of nearly 50 percent for Nov. 27 on certain laptops, GPS devices and computer monitors. A few retailers employed best practices to help consumers do everything from debug a new purchase to finding parking spots while independent sites offered shopping round ups, online and off.
The Three Phases Of Retail Engagement
For companies still hesitant to embrace social media on some level, there is a lesson to be learned. The flexibility of communication intent works on multiple levels — before, during, and after a purchase. The online environment intersects and overlaps the offline environment.
• Before The Purchase. Consumers tend to research products and services online, forming a composite from multiple opinions: manufacturers, retailers, reviewers, friends and consumers. Depending the approach, social media provides an opportunity for discovery, education, and comparisons.
• During The Purchase. Consumers, especially those with smart phones, are increasingly likely to use social media tools and technologies to locate where a product or service is based on proximity, price, or even to find specific information. While some companies still make the mistake of thinking consumers relate online sales to online stores, an increasing amount of customers use social media to decide which offline stores they might visit.
• After The Purchase. Consumers not only provide feedback and reviews, but also have an opportunity to engage retailers with questions and direct feedback. Retailers with an online presence can engage a percentage of consumers who are interested in receiving future announcements, special appearances, incentives, and/or discounts.
While retailers are still rightly concerned about consumer confidence, social media is providing an essential economic connection. Sometimes it is less important to convince more people to buy than it is to find those people who are already buying.