The latest figures from the Confederation of British Industry, show that UK retail sales growth has plunged at its fastest pace in over a year. As shoppers feel the strain of rising inflation, retail businesses can be the first to be hit.
But even when household budgets are tightening, there are still cost effective social media marketing tactics small retailers can harness to stand out and entice customers into their store or website.
What smaller retailers may lack in marketing budget and product range compared to their larger counterparts, they can make up for by strategically using these platforms to demonstrate their added value, reminding customers why they love to shop small.
So how can small UK retailers leverage social media to boost sales when consumers are feeling squeezed?
Before diving into tactics, you need to know where to find your target audience and understand the type of content that resonates with them most.
Start by reviewing your competitors’ social profiles, and see how engaged their audiences are by platform. Optimise your time by choosing the platforms where your customers are most active.
Facebook is best suited for overall brand awareness, reaching around 90% of social network users in the UK, and its heterogeneous user base makes it suitable for promoting virtually any type of product. Instagram is ideal for retailers that rely heavily on images and whose target audience is young adults, and Pinterest is an excellent network for reaching women, especially for retailers selling clothing or jewellery.
Twitter is the second largest social network in the UK by market share, accounting for 12% of the social media market. It’s a place for dialogue, real-time information and insights, and small retailers which design campaigns that play to these consumer needs can yield serious ROI. Twitter’s own research found that consumers who use the platform for customer service are most likely to do so for retail businesses.
When researching these platforms, consider how the audiences respond to different tones and types of content. Knowing that your audience responds better to GIFs and emoticons than longer posts will inform your posting strategy.
Communication that counts
Communication rather than promotion is at the heart of social media, and your content should drive conversation. And as smaller retailers will struggle to compete with larger ones in terms of their social network ad spend, driving organic engagement is even more crucial.
A few simple rules of organic engagement that small retailers should always follow are to adapt content to the audience and platform, use images and media where possible, and create a clear call to action.
Facebook Live is a great platform for small retailers to put these rules into practice, by showcasing their unique qualities in real time. Consider using this feature to carry out product demonstrations or tutorials, introduce viewers to your staff or provide a live tour of your shop. Broadcasting can help you to stand out compared to larger competitors, by demonstrating your employee’s in-depth knowledge of the product range and the highly-personalised level of service that customers receive in-store.
Live streams have also been known to receive 10x as many comments as pre-recorded videos, so it can really expand your online reach and levels of engagement, converting those followers into buyers.
As well as creating and posting content, actively listen to and engage with your community on social media.
Being a small business allows you to monitor these conversations closely and respond in a customer-centric way, which reinforces your company values and culture.
While developing engaging content is key to growing a loyal customer base, there are specific social media sales tactics you can employ to bridge the gap from awareness to action.
Facebook’s in-store and online offers can drive customers to your business. Customers can easily access the offer through the offers bookmark and pull it up on their phone at the till, or enter a code when purchasing online. You can choose to include a barcode or QR code at checkout to make the whole process quick and easy. Facebook will also remind those who have expressed an interest in your promotion about when it’s going to expire.
Retailers selling clothing, jewellery or beauty products can leverage Instagram’s shoppable posts. These provide customers with itemised descriptions of products, allowing them to make informed purchases without ever leaving the app. It’s a cost-effective solution for small retailers, as Instagram isn’t taking a cut from transactions that occur through the platform, but simply offers businesses the opportunity to pay to show shoppable posts to non-followers.
Research from Liberis shows that two of the top reasons British consumers prefer to use independent businesses is due to convenience and higher levels of customer service. Small retailers need to replicate these factors in the customer’s online experience to help close the loop between awareness, engagement and sales.
Part of this relates to showing good social media etiquette. For example, responding to comments and messages, both positive and negative, in a timely manner (ideally within 24 hours).
But all your efforts could be fruitless unless you have a professional website for followers to access once they’re invested in your social presence.
Your social profiles should include a link to your website, so ensure it makes the best possible impression on your visitors.
• Are there any error messages on the pages?
• Is your content free of grammar and spelling errors?
• Is all the content up-to-date and accurate?
• Does the design look professional?
• Is it mobile-optimised?
• Are you using high-quality imagery?
Consider these questions and make any necessary changes before going all in on social media.
When consumers are feeling the pinch, retailers that show they truly understand their customers and engage with them in a personal way will see more traffic at their checkout – both in-store and online.
By Leona Frank, senior manager in content strategy at Vistaprint
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