Social media marketing provides retailers with previously unimaginable ways of targeting would-be customers. Today, more and more companies launch advertising campaigns via social media instead of television, and television shows advertise using social media campaigns.
By Rebecca Quinn, director EU strategy and operations, Wildfire Interactive
Our teams at Wildfire are seeing progressive retailers create interactive promotions with exclusive deals accessed via the Facebook news feed or a brand’s page. The most successful of these are clearly integrated with both on and offline marketing efforts and as a result, these brands convert online followers into real-life customers.
Importantly, the growing influence of social media has made consumers more aware of how they can benefit from following their favourite retailers on Facebook, Twitter and other social channels. From ‘checking in’ to a coffee shop to receiving a complimentary muffin, to collecting a discount code from an exclusive online deal, there are many opportunities that make liking a brand’s page or following its feed worthwhile.
Customers now know what to expect and they want to engage with brands in this way. And by creating a personalised service that keeps customers coming back, these brands are safe-guarding their own longevity.
However, not all retail companies have been quick to pick up on the growing opportunity. There’s a gulf developing between innovative, tech-savvy brands and some of the more traditional high-street and premium retailers that are only focused on foot traffic.
Our research shows that brands in the technology, media and entertainment sectors in particular are four times more focused on enticing consumers through social media channels. By contrast, the high street is still relying primarily on footfall, with three times the focus on in-shop purchases rather than online sales.
The good news is that there are signs of improvement. Our experience shows that social marketers across the board typically move through three stages as they mature: growth, engagement and monetisation. Some aren’t as far along that journey as others and are still focusing mainly on growth in fans and followers.
However, more and more companies are concentrating on engagement. Having spent time developing fan bases, they’re now creating engaging content for customers as well as taking advantage of social media as a tool for communicating directly with users.
Benefit Cosmetics is a great example of a premium retail brand that is doing this well. The company does no traditional advertising but focuses its marketing efforts on social media with spectacular effects. In August 2011, they started engaging with consumers through social media in an integrated digital campaign for “they’re Real!” mascara, which was itself launched in September.
It involved blogger-focused events, YouTube videos, social advertising and a social promotion each month up until December. By the end of the year, the Benefit Facebook page was the fasted growing in the UK across all sectors, in the 100,000-500,000 fans category (according to Fanalyzer.co.uk).
The total number of fans grew from 30,000 to over 100,000 over the course of the 6 month promotion. The mascara line is now Benefit’s number one selling product and, based on NPD data for December 2012, it has also become the number one selling brand of mascara in the UK.
The final stage of social media maturity, monetisation, has yet to take off on the same scale, although it too is growing. As with Benefit, we’re seeing an increasing number of Wildfire clients report success in driving sales via social channels.
In a November 2011 Wildfire survey of over 700 marketers, the majority of respondents surveyed see social media as a means to grow brand awareness (88%) and engage in a dialogue with customers (85%), but only 54% noted increased sales and partnerships as the biggest benefits of social media. We believe that the most successful social marketers in 2012 will spend time pursuing goals in all three areas.
Whatever the stage of social maturity, there is one message that was clear in our survey results: social media is here to stay. According to our research, 97% of marketers believe social media benefits their business and 75% of marketers plan to increase their social media spend in 2012.
As momentum builds, I recommend retailers take a note or two from the tremendous success of a brand like Benefit, and take the plunge into a social dialogue with their customers, to avoid being left behind.