Social Media and the New Rules of Retail: Spreading the Word

Both devices and retailer’s social media feeds need to be weapons in battles fought as part of the New Rules of Retail
Both devices and retailer’s social media feeds need to be weapons in battles fought as part of the New Rules of Retail

Over the past several weeks, we’ve examined the challenges retailers are facing due to COVID-19 and looked at some proactive ways to respond. Today, I want to look at the fifth and final new rule of retail in this new normal: consumers will extend their power over retail via social media.

We’ve seen this countless times over the past few months, most recently with AMC: if consumers feel that your environment is unsafe, they’ll use social media to broadcast that assessment far and wide.

And those social media posts will have a greater reach today than ever before — a recent GlobalData survey found that 43.7 percent of consumers worldwide are now spending more time on social media due to COVID-19.

So what’s the best way to respond?

Retailers have long used social media to build fan bases, giving their followers a feeling of exclusivity, access to promotions, and a relationship with the brand — but in most cases, it’s really just mass marketing through a different channel.

As GlobalData retail analyst Emily Salter puts it, it’s time for retailers to focus on things other than products, such as “elements of their brand identity that resonate with shoppers, the positive actions they have taken during the crisis, and building engagement to foster a sense of community.”

The thing is, if you can get your social media team and your operations team to talk to each other, you have an excellent story to tell. Has that been part of your culture? Or is social media exclusively an extension of your Marketing department?

Everything operations is doing to open your store safely, and everything your salespeople are doing to make sure they and your customers are safe, can and should be shared digitally, honestly and personally:

“Here’s what we’re doing to open our stores in the midst of a world-changing event and make sure that you, the customer, are safe when you come in.”

“Hey, I’m going to work today under adverse conditions, but my company is taking these steps to care for me, and I feel safe inviting you in. Please come to our store.”

Of course, you can’t just manufacture those messages, and you have to make sure that your in-store experience matches up to your online presence. Hypocrisy is the number one disease that social media cures.

So when those consumers come into your store, you’ve got to prove it.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, that’s about a lot more than just implementing social distancing or widening aisles. You have to ensure that your customers know their health and safety is an integral part of the in-store experience — and technology can be transformative in helping you do so.

Next week, we’ll begin looking more specifically at the ways you can leverage technology to thrive in today’s new normal.

In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me directly here, or click here to download our white paper on responding to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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