Reeling Social Media into Omnichannel Marketing

By Wilson Raj — April 03, 2014

Imagine a digitally savvy shopper – maybe yourself. You've shopped with Brand X who has a good history of your past purchases, so they know you like discount offers. Today, you ask about one of their new products on social media. Next time you visit BrandX.com, up pops a 10% off coupon. Sale! But let's flip the scenario – say you complained on Twitter about e-mail overload from Brand X. Right before receiving two more e-mail offers. Ring up a big zero.
 
For retailers, social media marketing and the analytics that go with it can certainly pay dividends. But the big payoff comes from integrating social media into other multichannel activities to win customers' hearts and minds. A Deloitte study explains, "multi-channel customers often spend three to four times more on retail purchases than their single-channel counterparts." Isn't it worthwhile to identify, target and nurture these high-value consumers?
 
Omnichannel retail customers are digitally adept and demanding – they also dig deeper into their wallets. For that, they expect consistent, quality experiences from retail brands—wherever they engage. It's imperative that retailers relentlessly extract and integrate insights from social media and multi-channel analytics in order to deliver superior customer experiences to these highly profitable customers.
 
It's Not About Price
The effort is worth it. In a recent Harris Interactive poll, 70% of consumers said they would buy from a retailer with whom they've had a positive experience – even if they could get the item for less elsewhere.
 
Retailers who fail to prioritize customer experience are likely to suffer. When Harris Interactive surveyed online shoppers, 31% said that a poor experience leads them abandon the transaction entirely or, worse, switch to a competitor. In 2010, a staggering $44.7 billion was lost to lousy online customer experience alone: that's 11 iPads for every New York City resident. Imagine the further damage when negative buzz accelerates through social media. The loss is astronomical, with impacts to retailers' brand perception, brand equity, and brand preference.
 
It's About Boosting Revenue and Reputation
To attract these valuable omnichannel customers, retailers must embrace and execute on integrated multi-channel marketing. Those who effectively combine social media content and insights with other channels stand to increase sales and enhance brand preference—vital in today's hyper-competitive market.
 
Consider another recent study that analyzed about 400 U.S. consumers – and their whopping 5,300 touchpoints across multiple channels (social, website, print, search, out-of-home, TV, word-of-mouth, PR) with five fast-food restaurants. These restaurants were two to seven times more likely to see increased consumption and spend when social content was included. Results were strongest when they combined social with other media. For instance, the restaurants realized an aggregate 17% spend increase when they linked social media content to PR activities.
 
Four Strategies to Win Hearts and Minds
The message for online retailers is clear and profound: weaving a streamlined customer experience through all channels works. Here are four ways retailers can amp up their online customer experience prowess.
 
Use social media analytics to surface social content that drive changes in brand perception. That means incorporating pertinent social metrics into your brand and perception measurement programs. It also means addressing and identifying negative posts or press proactively.
 
Take a holistic approach when evaluating sales impact of social media marketing. Tie social media analytics with metrics from loyalty programs, store sales, inventory turnover, product returns, etc. The key is to get a fuller picture of your omnichannel customers.
 
Integrate your social media efforts for maximum impact. Consider how you can use online, in-store, TV, ads, search, etc. to strengthen themes that are resonating in social media, and vice versa. Seize the opportunity to define a unified data source. Capture new data about your customers by embedding analytics throughout the customer journey. Consistent data is an operational pre-requisite to enabling the prior three elements.
 
It boils down to this: your most valuable customers are experiencing your brand through multiple channels. Engage them likewise. Ask how social media can be a force multiplier in your integrated, omnichannel marketing. The answers will determine the trajectory of your retail sales and brand perception.
 
Wilson Raj is global director of customer intelligence at SAS.

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