Before internet marketing and ecommerce became prominent, television advertising was the way most companies with an expansive budget chose to advertise their wares. Nowadays, however, social media has begun to dominate the marketing landscape and businesses are adapting their marketing strategies accordingly, reflecting the new demands presented to them by an interactive and vocal audience. The great news is that this new advertising opportunity is open on an equal basis to small and medium scale businesses as well as to their competitors, which are often much larger organisations.
Top social media retailers
IKEA is right up there at the top of the list of those retailers who make the most of their online presence – the largest retailer of home furnishings in the world, they were early adopters of digital marketing techniques and use their social media campaigns to expert advantage, as well as coming up with imaginative new ideas to improve street presence.
From the central hub webpage, online visitors can gain access to IKEA’s extensive catalogue in the language and the country of their choice; in 2014, the latest catalogue included 59 editions. As well as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, IKEA has an ideal outlet in Pinterest, visually presenting its extensive stock of merchandise to markets around the globe. The UK site has about 11,760 followers and there are other areas and boards for IKEA on Pinterest where contributions can be ‘pinned’ from public sources. As a result it’s possible to find and then repin some fascinating examples of repurposed IKEA items and creative approaches people have taken with how and where they use specific pieces of the company’s furniture. In this way members of the Pinterest community are acting as brand ambassadors for the company.
The English Cheesecake Company
A Facebook campaign by The English Cheesecake Company is a great example of how smaller businesses can improve their reach and grow their customer base. This enterprising company realised that with the advent of social media came the chance to expand – in fact, in just 12 months the number of Facebook fans increased from 2,000 to 23,000 and has since expanded to more than 38,000.
Using sponsored stories as a key part of the campaign gained 4,500 ‘likes’ and almost one third of new customers were attracted via Facebook. By engaging with its community to discuss the products it makes, The English Cheesecake Company has encouraged fans to become brand ambassadors – just as Pinterest members are for IKEA – and they often respond to other fans who have posed questions about flavours or specific cakes. The company also has a presence on Twitter (6,000 followers) and Pinterest (235 followers) as well as a fledgling site on Google+ (9 followers).
The annual Internet Retailing Awards has an impressive shortlist, with several online retailers vying for top position. Argos is nominated in four different categories, as is House of Fraser, however, Topshop has consistently run the most successful social media campaigns, outstripping its rivals on both Facebook and Twitter where it has 3.8million ‘likes’ and 870,000 followers respectively.
Like many online retailers, Topshop uses its Twitter feed to respond to customer queries, it is also clever enough to take these customer service conversations, particularly complaints, out of the public domain by requesting that customers send a direct message together with their email address and order number. Not all Twitter mentions are complaints by any means and Topshop excels at responding to questions about its clothing stock, supplying product information and even fashion advice.
Posting on Twitter approximately five times per day, the company supplies links to various products, but escapes the trap of being viewed as generating an excess of spam because replies to customer queries by far outnumber the marketing tweets.
Best of the rest
We find it interesting that online retailers using social media adopt strategies to suit their brand image and market – for example Harrods takes a very conservative approach, formally greeting customers on Twitter with good morning and wishing them goodnight, whereas Topshop and ASOS are much more informal and, of course, their customer base has a younger demographic.
Have you seen an online retailer really nailing it with social media? Use the comments to tell us about your experiences – we’d love to know.