Social Media Networking in Retail

The internet revolution that kicked off a lot of surprises also instituted Social Media Networking that is proving to be a boon to the retailers
Being social

Social Media Networking’s popularity has grown manifold over the years. And small and large size businesses are equally earmarking separate budgets to increase their presence on social communities. Vinay Bhatia, Customer Care Associate and Vice-President, Marketing and Loyalty, Shoppers Stop, shares, “Social media marketing platforms facilitate brands to ‘engage’ with their TGs (Target Groups). So, instead of a one-way communication, there is a dialogue that generates feedbacks, addresses customer issues/queries and creates brand affinity.  And all this happens in real time!” Thus we see that the utility of social media marketing is not always in increasing revenues or profits directly, but in establishing a better interface with brands’ existing and prospective customers.

 

A report on e-business benchmark (2010) by E-payment provider Sage Pay(UK’s fastest growing independent payment service provider) states, “Only seven percent of British online shoppers visiting a site buy something. Interestingly, 71 percent of online shoppers brought in via social media complete a purchase after a transaction has been initiated.”

 

It further affirms that “a minuscule five percent of marketers polled, found social media was the most effective communication channel. And as the ecommerce market matures, e-businesses need to do more to make the most of their (social media networking sites) potential. The statistics show that merchants are pretty good at getting shoppers to their site but at the crucial point they are letting customers slip away,” Sage Pay also said.

 

Evaluating success

So even as social media platforms have increasingly become inevitable for businesses, what exactly defines the success of a social media marketing campaign?

 

Bhatia states, “There is an instant viral effect that SMM (Social Media Marketing) campaigns create and therefore the addition of followers/participation to one’s page/contest to feedbacks/comments and daily page views/likes really define the success of any SMM campaign. The effectiveness of any SMM programme can really be measured by the kind of engagement that the campaign has been able to generate.”

 

On the optimum mix that a brands’ marketing campaign must have, Bhatia informs, “The ideal mix for any brand will be to engage in platforms that provide social conversation marketing, social media marketing, social content marketing and social network profiling.”

 

ROI and SMM

Brands largely measure the impact of social media by traffic, page views, and the size of their social graph or communities on the social networking platforms. These standards, however, are not necessarily symbolic of brand stature, resonance, loyalty, advocacy or, business performance, marketers believe. As a result the demand for concrete yardsticks for measuring the revenue impact of social media marketing has been felt by businesses worldwide.

 

A 2009 study quoted by e-marketer stated that as much as 84 percent marketers surveyed, did not measure their ROI on SMM. The study however also predicted that the demand for measuring ROI in 2010 would rise significantly, in the wake of a palpable maturation of social media ROI. One of the major ways to lay down a calculated SMM strategy, according to the study, is to “tie the activity to an end game, the ability to know what it is we want to measure before we engage. Doing so, allows us to define a strategy and a tactical plan to support activity that helps us reach our goals and objectives.”

 

@Delloutlet on Twitter claims to have recorded $ 6.5 million revenue from its global portals on Twitter. TM Lewin (mentioned earlier), Jimmy Choo, Bloomingdale etc. are others which have leveraged social media platforms to improve their sales, customer service, product quality/range etc. Many of these categorically believe that the returns on investment on SMM are beyond rupees or dollars or cents.

 

What lies ahead?

The adoption of SMM in India as well, has been quick and progressive. “India is at heels with the west, with the world becoming one on the online space. There are case studies on best practices that are making marketers more aware on what is happening in the west,” Bhatia believes. Apparently big-box retailers like Pantaloons, Shoppers Stop, Mahindra Retail, to newer brands like Cocoberry, have established their presence on social media platforms. The annual budget spending on social media marketing is also increasing, at least in the international markets. But to ascertain that the increase in spending would definitely lead to increased sales or ROI has been a difficult task.

 

The full potential of social media as a marketing platform is yet to be realised and brands and retailers are working their way up to tap the same. Since the medium is cost-effective, marketers are arguably upbeat about its utility. The phenomenon indeed, has just begun and the best is yet to come.

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