Social selling done right: 4 tips to up your retail game

The top 500 retailers raked in close to $6.5 billion from social shopping in 2017, offering a strong indicator that the way sales are made has changed significantly over the past decade. And since the majority of businesses now use social media to sell (at least 88% in the US), the social selling landscape is a highly competitive one.

So what are the best social selling strategies that actually help retailers take advantage of this massive opportunity and stand out at the same time? Here are 4 ways that retail stores and associates can steal the spotlight by mobilizing the power of social:

 

1. The power to influence: turn your associates into brand ambassadors

One of the best ways to boost your brand awareness and improve results is altogether very human: leveraging your employees will get you everywhere. Foster excitement and motivation among your associates to become social influencers. While it’s true that some may be hesitant to blur their public and private social media personas, help them understand how a social selling program might build their professional identities and increase their visibility as leaders. As Nikki Baird of Forbes points out, “because consumers may be acting directly on something generated by a store employee, it’s much easier to track the direct influence that store employee has on generating sales.” Trigger motivation even further by ensuring associates are rewarded with commission for any item purchased through a clickable social post. Your associates will have relatively small yet highly engaged audiences, and this kind of exposure can have a significant impact on brand awareness, reach, traffic, and engagement. To avoid inappropriate posts, simply create clear sharing guidelines.

 

2. Choose the right tools & training

Your associates are likely too busy to spend precious time filtering through extensive email distribution lists. The launch of Salesfloor’s new Socialshop allows associates to link photos or assets with direct product links, enabling customers to click on them and make direct purchases. And any purchase made through a SocialShop feed are attributed back to the associate–an added incentive for them to promote on social media. Of course, on the baseline human front, it’s also important to make sure your associates are all on the same page by educating your entire team on best social media selling and customer engagement practices. A strong and unified team will only serve to make those perfectly suited tools even more powerful.

 

3. The indispensable importance of strong content

In the age of insta-sharing, great content is often challenging to come by. But the absolute ease and speed with which promotional posts can go out should not allow you to sacrifice the quality of your content, since everything released into the world by your business speaks volumes about your brand, and will never go unnoticed. Since your team is likely very busy on a constant basis, perhaps your marketing team can assist your social selling efforts by prepping an ongoing stream of credible, quality articles, topics, and relevant/timely announcements that your associates can then draw from and utilize as needed. Remember not to focus your social selling strategy too heavily on your company’s selling points, however, as this can work against you. Both your associates and your customers are modern, highly discerning buyers after all.

 

4. Personalization: because we all love attention

In addition to emails, texts, and other online marketing tactics, developing and harnessing ads featuring personalized content via social media channels can go a long way toward upping customer engagement. Additionally, direct messaging on social is usually very underexploited by retailers. Yet DMs—on Facebook, for instance—are invaluably convenient for sharing info about upcoming events or doling out discount codes to new or loyal customers. Fans of your brand and customers-to-be will feel more appreciated with individual attention, and this can additionally help your associates glean more useful customer data. Think of it as a bonus clienteling strategy. Your associates can now keep track of what a customer did, or what they preferred, so you can personalize the forms buyers engage with moving forward, significantly finessing your overall sales process.

Bottom line: social selling is a long-term game, so above all, be patient and stay the course. As long as you commit to your efforts, and adjust as needed, you’re sure to see tangible results. Bonus tip: avoid micromanaging your associates’ daily sharing. By allowing associates the space they need to build the trust of their (your) followers, you give your social selling strategy new life.

5 trends driving the evolution of retail

Retail is in major flux. Department stores have lost more jobs than coal mines have, and it’s not a phase. Digital transformation is key to exploring uncharted territory and maintaining a competitive edge in the modern retail landscape.

Here are 5 trends currently driving the evolution of retail:

1. Personalization

Mass marketing continues to be overshadowed by more effective one-to-one experiences. Many brands have already begun to integrate big data. Increasingly, it will merge with other technologies to deliver hyper personal, in-store and online customer experiences. Store terminals and devices are en route to becoming aware of in-store interactions, enabling marketers to reflect on individuals’ purchase histories. Modern associates can use omnichannel clienteling to access customer profiles and purchase histories, and send personalized messages with clickable recommendations to customers. With customer data integrated in an app, automated reminders can even be sent to associates so follow-ups with customers are perfectly timed, be they on or offline.

 

2. Omnichannel culture

78% of retailers say it’s critical to integrate e-commerce and in-store experiences, speaking to the importance of an omnichannel journey. Retailers don’t have web/mobile departments anymore and have no choice but to reconfigure their companies to work both on and offline. New roles and approaches to inventory are needed, such as the endless aisle: an associate should not lose a sale because they don’t have the stock in-store. Instead, they should be equipped to order it online for the customer. A customer can walk out having purchased exactly what they want, even though their product may arrive at the store or their home a day or two later. This practice of combining physical and virtual product purchasing is the ultimate sales strategy. A recent study revealed that 90% of retailers will implement “buy online, pickup in store” by 2021.

 

3. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT devices provide the most direct pathway for retailers to connect devices to actionable data that can be used to drive traffic and sales. Customers can now receive personalized notifications on their smart device immediately upon entering a store—a special coupon, for example, based on items they’ve browsed or purchased before. IoT enabled devices and apps can also tell customers what’s in stock, show them similar brands, or allow them to view product pricing histories, driving them to shop online or in-store. IoT’s true value is in the data that can be used to connect online and offline activities and raise audience insights. Walmart, for example, uses weather data to anticipate grocery sales!

 

4. Tomorrow’s store associate

Shopping experiences are changing, which in turn transforms what it means to be an associate, and how one should interact with customers in-store and online. Associates should be empowered with the digital tools that allow them to connect and foster relationships with customers across all channels, and retailers must acknowledge that the growth of virtual associates is most definitely a trend leading us into the future.

At Saks Fifth Avenue, in-store associates can recommend and sell across mobile, web, and in-store, and customers can chat with them live online. In addition, Saks “Style Advisors” can help customers find items, answer styling questions, and send newly arrived products to be tried out. By combining personalized recommendations online with  in-store associate engagement, Saks is ahead of the game.

At Chico’s FAS,’ associates can order from the store’s distribution centre or from other stores as needed. The retailer also happens to collect customer data on over 90% of its sales, which means better informed associates.

At L’Occitane en Provence, personable “Beauty Advisors” are on hand at in-store social events to talk about products. They even hold open mic nights where visitors are invited to share thoughts. “The hard sell is not what anybody wants these days,” says vice president Paul Blackburn.”If you do that right, the sales come naturally.”

 

5. Artificial Intelligence

AI combines enormous data sets with deep-learning algorithms to reveal valuable insights. AI comes in many forms, including robots manufacturers, delivery drones, automated checkouts, and advanced chatbots. AI has two chief uses in retail. First, by using AI plugins to anticipate customer purchase behaviors, associates are better-enabled to make relevant product recommendations and offer suggestions that results in higher sales. For example, H&M’s Kik can ask customers questions via chat to narrow down what they want, and then automatically send relevant information, facilitating a purchase. Second, AI can be used to help associates better engage with customers. If a customer has an inventory question, AI technology can generate an appropriate response or recommendation, making it easier for associates to efficiently serve customers online. Associates can use data from AI forms or bots to make effective recommendations online and off. When associates work together with AI, retailers are unstoppable.

Customers are more than ready to engage with the above retail trends in tech. Be ready to meet them where they’re at while staying a step ahead of ever-changing retail trends!

3 ways to harness the powers of online personalization and boost CX

Today’s customer expects the personalization they receive in-store to be unified with their online shopping experience, and vice versa. For any retailer that counts customer loyalty among their goals, personalized marketing matters, and should be a top priority. Not convinced? Some statistics report a 20% increase in sales generated by personalized web experiences.

Here are 3 helpful hints for effectively harnessing the powers of online personalization:

1. Make the psychology of uniqueness your centrepiece

Shoppers want the things they buy to either tell a story that represents them, fit into the story of their life(style), be completely unique or customized to their preferences—or all of the above. With Marucci‘s on-site baseball bat customization tool, customers can tell their story by choosing their preferred material, colour, and design. Nike’s online custom running shoe builder is another great example of what Deloitte calls “the rise of mass personalization.” And if a customer is undecided online, retailers can use their inputted personal preferences as a means of re-engaging them later via advertising, email, or SMS. Give a customer a product, and they might be happy, but give them a story to tell, and they’ll come back to tell another.

Sites that offer customers personalized services via access to locally based associates are another great strategy for making customers feel unique. Being able to look at a product online and chat with a knowledgeable associate (AKA your own personal storyteller) means being able to learn its texture or quality, or get recommendations relevant to your purchase history, all from the comfort of your own home. Having an associate to chat with should feel like having a friend vet products in-store while feeding you information. Customers can see right through a bot unable to answer any question with the slightest bit of nuance or original thinking. There is no substitute for focused, friendly, human attention. The human touch is what sets retailers apart.

 

2. Don’t let your data go to waste

The biggest personalization challenges retailers face according to Experian is gaining insights fast enough, and having enough/accurate data. Creating an educational survey that leads consumers further down your funnel is a great way to collect information. You may be surprised how willing customers are to share data in exchange for reliable personalized experiences. Retailers should provide their associates with an automated tasking feature capable of gathering customer information both in-store and online. This is an invaluable way for associates to receive reminders to follow up. For example, if a given customer hasn’t purchased anything in 30 days, the associate will receive a notification, and any existing data can then be leveraged to make more effective personalized recommendations, offer relevant promotions, and cross-sell relevant products. This clienteling approach is at the heart of using data to drive personalization. Did you know 64% of millennials value “anticipation and customization of the experience” over privacy concerns?

Useful customer data has a shelf life. It’s important to review it frequently so its effectiveness can be experienced in real-time. Since data can be overwhelming, focus your efforts on data that can be acted upon, versus data that is simply interesting. DSW footwear launched a successful email campaign with their member data as the main event, essentially creating stories about their customers. By emailing their customers a detailed snapshot of their personal interactions with the brand over time (like purchases made, money saved, points needed to earn a particular savings certificate, etc.), they saw a 64% rise in email opens, a 13% rise in click-through rates, and a 58.82% rise in customers who read the email for 15+ seconds.

 

3. Use the right technology

E-commerce accounted for 11.7% of total retail sales in 2016, up 15.6% over 2015, and that trend continues. So now’s the time to get up close and personal with personalized experiences. Using omnichannel technology with location-based capabilities to send personalized offers straight to mobile handsets via chat, email, or SMS can go a long way toward making customers feel valued and associates feel effective. The growth of tools like Salesfloor address the challenges of personalization, allowing marketers to tailor digital experiences to customer journeys easily, access more accurate data points, and enable better recommendations. With the right tools, personalized customer experiences are accessible to all retailers and beneficial to all customers.

Future-proofing your personalization efforts means understanding your customers’ context, earning and maintaining their trust, and moving away from a transactional mentality to make customers’ personal preferences central to all you do. How effectively you communicate with customers, solve their issues, and get them to the cart directly affects engagement, conversion, and your bottom line.

Why WeChat & Weibo have a place in your social commerce strategy

Successful retailers nowadays know that social commerce is anything but a passive exercise. It’s no longer enough to post a marketing asset or two on Pinterest and wait for the masses of would-be customers to trickle in, or barge down your doors, as the case may be. It’s not news that the best-conceived social commerce strategies are those that take a consistently proactive and multifaceted approach to engaging customers.

Asian social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo are the new normal and growing in popularity in North America, which means retailers need to pay close attention. It’s predicted that by 2020, Chinese social media use will hit 647 million active users, rendering a presence on these local platforms an absolute must for brands wanting to connect with the upscale Asian market. WeChat and Weibo have 938 million and 340 million active monthly users respectively.

There’s no denying that WeChat has transformed Asia’s digital landscape: the average user spends 70 minutes a day on the app. Blending facets of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, it also offers an integrated payment system. People can use it to book taxis, order takeout, buy clothes, or pay bills. Although some brands sell directly on WeChat, many major brands instead use it to seamlessly guide people onto their own online shopping platforms.

Retailers seeing success with WeChat & Weibo

Clothing Advisors at Harry Rosen realized they lacked strategies to reach this influential and growing market. Recognizing the importance of Asian social media, they developed a strategy for their sales associates: take advantage of Weibo and WeChat and use them as key selling tools. Customers can chat directly with Clothing Advisors who send them clickable images of exactly what they’re looking for. They can also follow up after a customer leaves the store by texting items they tried on, new arrivals they might like, or even getting in touch on the customer’s birthday to offer them the deals of the day.

When Harry Rosen launched accounts on both platforms in 2016, they enabled their Clothing Advisors the flexibility to use them to promote and sell products while still retaining ownership of the customers and their experiences. Results have been both incredibly positive and unprecedented: Advisors are using the platforms to successfully engage Asian customers. The fact that 30% of online requests Harry Rosen receives come in via text indicates that a growing number of their customers prefer being contacted this way. Clothing Advisors at Harry Rosen are adapting to their customers’ preferences by reaching out to Chinese customers via WeChat and Weibo and inviting them to celebrate Chinese New Year in-store (a decade-old tradition of theirs), or to recommend holiday-relevant products. Retailers need follow suite and prioritize adapting to their customers’ preferred modes of communication.

As a multi-brand department store, Bloomingdale’s has no equivalent in China. Hot Pot Digital is Bloomingdale’s retained China digital agency: its strategy, content and engagement campaigns on Weibo and WeChat have become an essential part of the store’s international tourism marketing efforts.

“Western retailers such as Bloomingdale’s have noticed a surge in Chinese retail tourism in the past few years that is substantially bolstering their top line in primary American and European markets,” says Brian Buchwald, co-founder of luxury retail-oriented digital platform Bomoda.
British luxury leather brand Mulberry, understanding the need to make a digital impact, let loose their marketing campaign for Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, in August 2015. Called “Mulberry Love Letters,” the Online to Offline campaign allows Chinese people based all over the world to send heartfelt messages over WeChat, which could then be transformed into a custom image for the recipient. To bring people into their stores, Mulberry promised a selected number of recipients the opportunity to take their digital love letter into one of the participating shops in Shanghai, Beijing, London, Paris, New York, and Toronto to receive a handcrafted leather bracelet that could be customized.

There is much to be learned from WeChat and Weibo when it comes to the future of social commerce. Other retailers currently using taking advantage of this learning opportunity include Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor.

The current face of influencer marketing

The fact that a retailer’s associates are its most powerful influencers is at the heart of the social strategy. Many retailers are making it possible for their stores and associates to engage with customers using Weibo and WeChat along with numerous other platforms. By adopting these strategies, retailers are able to take a good look at the opportunities surrounding influencer marketing–specifically how store associates and non-store influencers alike can engage customers and compel them to buy online as well as shop in-store. Any retailer working to integrate clickable products with in-person visits, expressed customer interests, and/or interactions with one’s personal, locally based associates is on the cutting edge as well as on the right track.

Retail industry leaders are learning that successfully tapping into the Asian market means significant profit. Adopting emerging marketing methods like WeChat and Weibo is an incredible way for your knowledgeable associates to tap into the power of the Asian market by making one’s business fully reachable, visible, and clickable on its most frequented platforms. Retailers ready to take the plunge should consider implementing a mobile application that allows sales associates (or Clothing Advisors, as the case may be) to text integrated products directly to happy customers.

Here’s to the continual evolution of effective marketing, AKA reaching people.

5 ways to increase customer lifetime with omnichannel retail strategy

Increasing your customer’s lifetime value

Just after the holiday shopping season in 2017, the Harvard Business Review conducted a survey and analyzed the shopping behaviour of approximately 46,000 Americans. The data revealed that nearly 73 percent of individuals used “used multiple channels during their shopping journey. We call them omnichannel customers.”

How does this shopping channel mix impact the lifetime value of a customer for a retailer? Retailers of all sizes have become increasingly focused on their omnichannel customer experience and how to measure its impact on CLV (customer lifetime value). Today, we’re looking at the relationship between an Omnichannel Retail Strategy and CLV, and offering some tips on how to boost your CLV.

 

Streamline Customer Service Operations Across Platforms

Service is at the core of shopping experiences and can create a unique differentiator for brick and mortar retailers. Companies need to place importance on their customer service operations and ensure that assistance from real people are available both online and in-store. Associates should have the ability to connect with and serve today’s shoppers both physically and digitally. In doing so, retailers can stay connected with shoppers even after they leave the store, provide assistance while they shop online, and ultimately create a positive, seamless shopping experience.

In providing customers with real-time assistance from an associate, they will be more inclined to shop with that associate as opposed to their competitor where they cannot get the same personalized service. Keeping customers coming back, will undeniably increase the CLV overall. Retailers that have empowered associates to serve online shoppers are seeing a 10x increase in conversion rate and a 50% increase in average order value

 

Integrate Digital Technology

With an increasing shift from stores to online, retailers need to think of new and exciting ways to bring the human interaction of personalization from stores to their online channels.

Several leading retailers that have utilized an omnichannel strategy have equipped associates with tools and technology that they need to serve both the in-store and online shopper. For example, retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, equip their associates with a mobile associate app that provides them with an online presence and helps them serve the in-store shopper better. Each associate has their own personal storefront where they can curate product collections and send personalized recommendations to their clients with clickable products. While serving a customer in-store, associates can access online inventory directly through the app and then place the order online. Completing the transaction right then and there is much simpler for the customer and helps “save-the-sale” for the associate. By equipping associates with the right tools, customers are able to have a unified shopping experience and keep them coming back for more, which ultimately increases your customer’s lifetime value.

 

Fight Showrooming

Showrooming is a marketing term that refers to when a customer interested in buying a product and visits a store to interact with the product. They ask questions and decide between available models with the purpose of going home and purchasing the exact product online for a cheaper price.

In certain situations, showrooming can be used to the retailer’s advantage, especially if the company is able to provide floor employees with the right tools and training. For example, if an item that a customer wants to buy is out of stock, an associate can offer to call/email them when it comes in. If associates cannot beat the price in the moment of an item, the associate can suggest contacting the customer when the item goes on sale. As the associate has already spent the time interacting with the client, then they should have built the trust enough to get their contact information and service the client even when they are not there. Reducing the chance that a customer buys from a competitor will increase that customer’s value to the business (CLV).

 

Harness Customer Data

As technology evolves, it’s becoming easier to gather customer data. Through clienteling tools, customer preferences, purchase history and shopping habits can be collected and then be harnessed to provide further insight into their behaviours and patterns. Associates can use this information to better understand what the consumer wants and needs. This helps the customer see their own value in the retailer’s world. Once they recognize that their shopping needs don’t need to be re-examined with every touchpoint, they will feel valued, which will keep the customer coming back for a good experience. By understanding their needs and isolating specific desires, you can cater your strategy based on that information, which will inevitably increase customer lifetime value over time.

 

It’s evident that a strong omnichannel strategy directly increases your company’s CLV. If you want to develop an Omnichannel Strategy to increase CLV, talk to your omnichannel solutions vendor, such as Salesfloor, to develop strategies, customer journeys and integrate the right technology.