Social Media Trends in Retail to look for in 2014

Welcome to 2014, where multi-channel marketing will be the single most important focus of your retail organization.

Gone are the days of having just a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. Today, notable brands such as Best Buy, J.Crew, Macy’s and K-Mart are integrating social media into how they interact with their customers before, during, and after they leave their stores. Even into their business itself, ala AMEX.

Here are five areas of focus to help your retail brand thrive in a noisy social economy in 2014.

1. Segmentation
Don’t treat content as one in the same. Content posted via Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Pinterest, and Twitter is consumed uniquely on mobile versus desktop.

Audiences vary by network.

A recent study discovered that 1/3 of women in the U.S. are on Pinterest which is an astonishing figure for retail marketers considering that today women hold the buying power in most households and 90% of Millennial Moms use social media to share information related to retail, apparel, food & beverage.

The biggest mistake that marketers make is to assume that there’s a “one size fits all” solution for your social media strategy and each platform can be used the same.

Facebook is your community of brand advocates where you are posting relevant updates whereas
Twitter is where you’re having meaningful 1-on-1 dialogue
Vine and Instagram humanize your brand through colorful photo and live video
Pinterest connects your brand as everyday solutions
Foursquare rewards your most loyal customers

An example is clothier J. Crew, with 1.3 million combined Facebook and Twitter followers, they’ve recently expanded their social presence to Pinterest and Instagram. In fact, J. Crew’s Instagram account now has 350,000+ followers which is far more than it has on Twitter.

Think of J.Crew’s Instagram account as a living Hallmark card with product placement from their Men and Women’s line. Last year, J. Crew became the first clothing brand to release it’s Fall catalog exclusively on Pinterest to it’s 100,000+ followers.

In 2013, many brands debuted their print and TV campaigns on Facebook and YouTube, respectively. See Taco Bell Doritos Loco’s on Vine and K-Mart’s #ShipMyPants campaign.

Key takeaway:

Outside of Facebook and Twitter, now’s the time to focus on building your community on Instagram, Pinterest, and Vine as well. Leverage your loyalty program, or existing email database, to let your customers know that they can stay connected to your brand on these channels.

However, be clear and upfront as to “What’s in it for them” i.e. follow us on Pinterest for recipes, home improvement tips, etc.  or Tell us about your shopping experience on Twitter!

2. Content
It’s cliché to say “Content is king” but it’s true. With Facebook engagement being at an all-time low, 2% or less of your community sees your content, consumers are tired of being “pitched” or sold to every time they get away to check their Facebook.

It’s important as ever to place emphasis on what your brand is posting.

The key is to “Say less, Show more” in terms of warm and emotional content. Content that makes a personal connection with your audience is going to result in a transaction of a “Like” or “Share”?

I was recently on Wal-Mart’s Facebook page and saw a New Year’s post pushing Fruit of the Loom socks and undershirts resulting in less than 3,000 “Likes” out of 34 million people that “Like” Wal-Mart’s page.

Post by Walmart.

Not a knock on Fruit of the Loom, or the folks at Wal-Mart, but undergarments on sale is not compelling content! Instead, Wal-Mart could have tried asking it’s community “Keeping you warm this Holiday season! Are you Fruit of the Loom #TeamSocks or #TeamTShirts?” which would have likely resulted in a much higher rate of engagement.

A brand that found a way to “Say less, Show more” this holiday season was FedEx through Facebook. This post, a few days before Christmas, generated over 40,000+ “Likes” and nearly 4,000 shares.

Post by FedEx.

Key takeaway:

Today’s socially engaged consumers are smart and don’t need to be oversold by your brand. Engaged customers keep coming back to your stores because of their affinity for your brand.

Think about why a consumer would follow your brand, what is the value add or purpose that you serve?

If it’s to create brand awareness by being top of mind near the top of their timeline try to use vibrant photo’s and short lines of copy as a start. Focus on developing more emotion from your social community rather than killing off what remaining engagement rates you have left!

Your advertising agency and social media teams should be collaborating to develop your content strategy and editorial calendar for the year ahead.

Holidays are a given for high engagement but think about the “Mini holidays” in between during which shoppers are actively scouring social media for deals, specials, tips, etc. such as Super Bowl, 4th of July, Summer vacations, etc.

For each transaction i.e. a “Like” or “Retweet” your friends of fans/followers will be exposed to your brands content and content is what sells.

3. Adapt
If you’re brand is going to have a voice in a noisy multi-channel environment must adapt your social media strategy to go outside of Facebook.  Here’s why:  Millennial shoppers.  Don’t underestimate the buying power and influence of the Millennial Generation.

Also known as Gen-Y, Millennials comprise about a quarter of the US population. A recent study by eMarketer shows that Millennials over-index in mobile and internet consumption compared to previous generations.

Today, around 68% of Millennials get their news from social media and 66% look up a store after learning that their friends have checked in there. So why should marketers care? Simple, the Millennial generation is expected to outspend Baby Boomers by 2017.

Because Millennials rely mostly on their friends to make buying decisions, we are at a generational crossroads in which “Likes”, “Retweets”, “Pins”, “Revines” and “Shares” are gradually becoming the new form of currency amongst brand marketers.

Here’s another jaw dropping statistic, 91% of Millennials make their Facebook Places and Foursquare check-ins public.

An example of a brand using social media to connect with this demographic is Taco Bell. One of my favorite campaigns of the last year was Taco Bell’s use of Vine to launch it’s latest Doritos Loco’s flavor.

Using a catchy 6-second video, Taco Bell’s Vine was tweeted over 1,400 times and seen by millions across the Twitter universe.

Key takeaway: 

Build actual ROI by offering your customers mobile coupons exclusively through one or multiple social channels,  create special discounts and offers for checking-in on Foursquare and most importantly “speak where they are speaking” i.e.

Millennials haven’t completely given up on Facebook, nor will they, but they’ve also gravitated to other mediums as seen with how brands are leveraging Instagram, Vine and Pinterest.

Adapt now, cash-in later!

Here’s another tip: 

If you’re a retailer with brick and mortar locations chances are that you see thousands of customers per day. Hash-tags on in-store signage with call to actions lead to higher engagement before, during, and post-shopping trips. It also tells your customer that you care about them beyond the cash register.

4. Community
It’s likely that you’ve put your focus and attention around building a large fan base on Facebook and Twitter over the last few years, don’t lose sight of this and ignore your community just because you’re adopting an Omni-channel strategy.

As a retailer, Facebook and Twitter helps your customers stay connected in between shopping trips. Make your community feel empowered by offering exclusive content such as tips, coupons, and occasional freebies.

During the recent holiday season, Best Buy kept over 2 million shoppers engaged with daily posts pertaining to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 inventory’s, exclusive offers, and even a Google+ hangout for last-minute holiday gift ideas proving how valuable a community of online shoppers can be for a traditional retail brand.

Key takeaway:

Don’t lose sight on the community you’ve already built while figuring out how-to grow and push content via new social media channels. Leverage traditional digital mediums such as: email, web, and mobile combined with social communities to keep your customers engaged, and informed, in between shopping trips. Social media is a tool to build brand awareness and customer engagement, an engagement builds loyalty and loyalty grows sales.

5. Collaborate
The word “Reciprocate” comes to mind here. In 2014, leveraging brand advocates such as associates and bloggers should be a primary focus. These are the people who are already speaking about your brand and hold valuable influence over buying decisions.

Make meaningful connections with moms and lifestyle enthusiast’s such as: foodies and deal bloggers.

For example, Whole Foods has a blog devoted to recipes and meal preparation tips provided by chefs and food bloggers offering their customers a go-to digital solution beyond the in store experience.

Bloggers are online influencers which hold the keys to inform their followers, fans, and subscribers -often in the thousands or more – about your brand. Create an “Always on” strategy for your organization in 2014 through brand advocates as an extension of brand generated content.