If you build it, they will NOT come. You have to get them there.

Video Example from the French Connection YouTique (You Tube Store)

Retail stores are always looking for creative and new ways to reach their consumers. Utilizing social media platforms such as Facebook to augment marketing efforts is a great way to do this.  Here are five of the most current social media tools and ways to make the most of them.

  • A Facebook Store. Yes, that’s right… Technology has merged the shopping and social media experience by allowing you to create a Facebook store as part of your page. There are Facebook functions that allow consumers to browse brands, compare products and add their favorite choices to a list. For example, someone might look at both a Teva and a Keen shoe model and share the comparison with their social network by asking friends which one they should buy. The Facebook store easily allows shoppers to browse and purchase products without being redirected to multiple sites, which is an important attribute for retailers. Creating a Facebook Store might not be on your ‘to do’ list this year, but it’s good to be aware of the trend. The point of the Facebook experience is to direct your consumer/fan back to your website and, of course, into your brick and mortar store. Make sure you make it easy for fans and customers to “share” and “like” as part of browsing new products.
  • Interactive wall posts – Wall posts not only present a fantastic opportunity to promote product-specific content, they also invite e-commerce interactions. For Instance, create a countdown campaign that reveals a new product each day via an interactive mini-app on your Facebook wall. The Adidas Originals Wall Campaign is a good example of how to effectively use an app like this, but you could also use it for something like the eight days of Hanukah or twelve days of Christmas or whatever else you want to dream up! This enables fans to browse products without leaving your Facebook wall. This approach has proved to be hugely successful, spotlighting a new product each day and making it easy for fans to browse, share, “like” and purchase items without being directed away from your wall post. Up until now, we have only seen this kind of highly visual, highly interactive feature appearing as an app within a tab on Facebook. The user-friendliness and interactive nature makes it one that retailers will surely be excited about using this year.
  • Utilize YouTube & interactive video assets – Interactive video campaigns present brands with an opportunity to further bring their social media campaigns to life. A good example of the use of this technology is the fashion brand French Connection. They recently launched their YouTube store where they use YouTube’s Annotations feature, which allows them to provide online shoppers with a highly visual and interactive personal shopper-esque and brand experience. Shoppers are able to browse a wide range of products, trends, tips, and pairings, as well as purchase products directly from the YouTube videos. The store – so far – has proved to be a success in terms of sales and increased social media engagement. Of course, now you are asking yourself… “how do I use this technology?” Certainly French Connection has invested a lot of time, money and effort in creating this tool, but the take-away is clear: provide simple, well thought-out video assets that incorporate your product and brand values and engage your social media community. Give them the opportunity to buy from you. Image: Here is an example of well thought out video from the Rock Creek River Gorge Trail Race
  • Hash tag reviews through Twitter – There is certainly significant value in encouraging fans and customers to talk about your brand to their Twitter followers, particularly if it’s positive. In light of this, companies that are able to integrate and innovative a rewarding Twitter campaign will see the number of their followers and online customers increase. For example, a retail store could run a competition for customers to submit and share 140-charater mini-reviews of products via Twitter. Fans simply Tweet their product review along with the brand’s campaign-specific hash tag and shortened URL link.  As incentive, you can offer exclusive promotions, discounts or free items for the best, most re-tweeted and most imaginative reviews.
  • Reward your fans – Offer exclusive promotions with “share” and “like” buttons directly linked to a specific product on Facebook. This is an ideal way to convert Facebook and Twitter fans into customers. By offering exclusive offers to people who purchase items through a company’s Facebook store or app, retailers are more likely to increase repeat purchases, word-of-mouth advertisement and customer engagement in the social media realm. As well, rewarding fans who share their purchases across their own social media platforms is also a great way to increase traffic and visibility, gain new followers and maintain good relationships with customers.

What’s My Take Away?
It’s important to be aware of new technology and what it has to offer. With an increase in the number of Facebook Store tabs available, it’s important that retailers integrate their social media with e-commerce and continue to offer fans a social media experience alongside their brick and mortar and online stores. The idea is to create an effective balance between “social engagement” and “social selling.”  That said, the brick and mortar experience is the most important one of all. At the end of the day we all enjoy the experience of seeing and feeling products in real-time and engaging with like-minded community members in-person. So continue to to produce unique, fresh and innovative ideas in your social media, but be aware of trends and how you might use them to sell your product and grow your community on and off line.