A complete guide to social media for retail.

social media for retail

For most retailers, social media is simply a tool for marketing and sales. However, for the most ingenious – those that are willing to truly invest in their online presence – it can be a way to build on-going, valuable relationships with customers over time. And this, in turn, will drive in-store sales.

To ensure that you are making the most of your online presence, here are the seven tips that will grow your retail business.


Evaluation is as important in establishing your online presence. And it starts with some basic questions.

  • What do you actually sell?

This may sound silly, of course you know what you sell! But writing it down and having it clear – especially if you carry a lot of stock types – is important so that you know what type of platforms and features you will want to take advantage of later.

  • Who are your customers?

This is key! Using social media is all about finding your customers and building relationships with them. Though you are looking for new customers – as well as schmoozing the oldies – and you haven’t met them yet, you should have a fair understanding of their profile. What areas do they live in? What is their age? Gender? And so on. This will not only help you choose the best social media platform, but help you target your future customers much more effectively.

  • Why people buy your product or service?

Why do people want to buy your product? This is something you have already analysed when you started your business, but it is important to bring this to the front of your plan and  build out your messaging and story on  social.

  • What are your resources?

Simply put: what are you willing to invest to make sure your social media campaign is successful? Whether time, focus or money, you need to be clear what your resources are. Are you willing to have a dedicated team? How will this be organised? As a business leader your job is to define roles. This is where you are comfortable. Just treat your social media campaign like a mini retail outlet that needs to be set up.

Put in the effort!

Like all things in business, as in life, you only get out what you are willing to put in – this is very true when it comes to increasing sales through social media marketing! Should you just set profiles and pages and then just fiddle with it now and again, nothing is going to happen. However, if you have a focused, well-thought strategy that you push forward with regular engagement and thoughtful content, your efforts will pay off.

Start listening.

There are people talking about your business and products – without you even knowing. Just because you are not listening to it does not mean isn’t happening. But if you want to have a successful social media presence as a retail business, you need to start listening now to your customer’s valuable opinions and engage in constructive conversations.

It is a sad fact that some business do not listen to what people are saying. This is invaluable information, and though it may not always be pleasant, it is important. So take advantage of it. If you want sales, you need to keep people happy. To improve your listening skills, you can simply start by monitoring various variations of your brand name and products. Not everyone will spell it correctly, so make sure you search them with typos as well! Active listening means you’re not waiting for customers to come to you. But you are reaching out first.

social media listening for retail

It is very likely that you will get some mentions that are not so flattering – if not, this is not necessarily a good thing either, as perhaps your business isn’t penetrating social media. No one likes getting bad feedback, but you cannot ignore this! Ignoring it does not change thngs and it could cost you a customer. Why not try turning the negative feedback to positive?

So respond and take action as fast as you can. According to latest studies, people expect a response within four hours. You may not be set up to respond to everything in real time, but don’t leave these people hanging. The majority of people just want to feel like they have been heard, so recognize what they are saying. Do not just drop the customer service telephone number down for help – they could have got that themselves! If the conversation has to happen over the phone, then set up someone to call them.

Moreover, It is worth inputting effort to notice and thank those who have taken the time to share a positive comment about your business (whether they directly mentioned you or not). This shows that you listen and appreciate what your customers have to say.

Give them a reason to visit your store.

Likes and shares are great, as are relationships between people and your business. But don’t forget that you are ultimately trying to get people to come in and buy stuff. This is the untimate game and why you are in social media after all. To get people in your store you should understand why your potential customers follow you on social media. Here are the top five reasons:

  • To find out about promotions
  • To find out about the latest products
  • They just love your content (good work you!)
  • So they can give you feedback on your products and services

A great way to both reward your followers and get people in through the doors of your store is to offer exclusive promotions to your social media fans. If the deal is good enough, not only will you see them in store, but they will also stay tuned with your social media channels for more deals.

Events are also cool! It is a great way to get your online friends down to the store. If promoted correctly, an event can offer you an incredible chance to form relationships with both new and current customers.

Let’s say you’re a fashion store. You can invite fans, social media influencers and local bloggers to your store, for an exclusive preview of the new collections and styling sessions. You can also promote the event on social media by posting sneak peeks at new collections and styling tips from your store stylists prior to it. Moreover, it’s is important to promote the event while it happens, by encouraging fashionistas to snap selfies for social media using your event’s hashtag for a chance to win gift vouchers or something special from the new collection.

social media events for retail

Remember though, do not get carried away with promotions. They are cool, but if you over do it, people will just wait for them and only come when it is cheap. Depending on your business then this may not be what you want.

Drive in-store purchases back online.

Once your customers are in your store, it will be great if they tell their friends about their experience. When customers see photos of ordinary people using a product, they’re more likely to buy. Why? People can tell that the person behind the camera really, really loves these brands.

Establishing a branded hashtag, as well as having a printed banner that encourages photo-snapping, will constitute a powerful tactic to encourage people to share photos when they are in your store. Even better, you can reward your most active shoppers by offering discounts or gift vouchers.

A thing to remember is that people want to be acclaimed for their style.  When Saks Fifth Avenue turned its customers into style icons the results were massive. The company encouraged customers while in the dressing rooms to upload their outfits in social media with the hashtag #SaksStyle. The display banner on the mirror was perfect – “Want to be a style icon? Tag #SaksStyle so everyone can shop your look on saks.com/saksstyle.” The campaign not only got customers engaged, but it also appealed to their ego. Genius.

social media campaigns for retail

Create ‘drive in-store traffic’ Facebook ads.

As people are increasingly searching for products and business locations on their mobile phones, Facebook’s Store Visits objective can help businesses achieve their sales objectives. The Store Visits objective’ is suitable for multi-location businesses and is an excellent tool for businesses in retail.

increase retail sales through social media

Facebook’s Store Visits advertising is targeting users who are more likely to go to a store (based on location and previous behaviour). It lets people who are near one of the store locations to see the advert. The advert presents a slideshow-like product carousel that shows what’s available in nearby store as well as the distance to get there and store-specific prices.

To ensure that product availability information is accurate, Facebook is requiring shop owners to upload their store-specific inventory on Facebook and update them at least once every 24 hours.

The ads also includes maps with directions on how to get to the store as well as contact information.

It is all about telling stories.

Successful brands nowadays invest in visual storytelling. Visual storytelling helps bring the brand to life through stories. These stories are short and easy to consume, and tie into the brand’s personality, they may be your products in action, behind-the-scenes footage, your customers’ occasional selfies, your happy employees etc.

The is exactly what the well-known dietician Jean-Philippe does. Instead of “yelling’’ about his services on social media, he offers creative ideas about making daily nutrition exciting and fun. He also pays special attention to moms.

social media content

The takeaway.

It is true that having a successful presence on social media means time and effort. However, it can also be fun and really rewarding, both for your brand, as well as your bottom line. Whether it takes you weeks or months to get there, if you follow the steps above, the exposure your business will get will be well worth your effort.

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