Viewpoint from Paul Grinsell. Following the bira conference
‘Reports of retail’s death are grossly exaggerated. Yes, it’s changing, but for the better and we’re excited about the future of retail.’ This was the main message to come out of the bira (British Independent Retailers Association) conference in May 2018. This positive event appealing to all independent retailers had lots of advice to offer and inevitably one of the biggest topics was the impact of the digital age.
For many bricks and mortar tool shops, digital communications – in the form of the internet – is seen as one of the biggest threats. The bira conference acknowledged how an inability to change and adapt to the new age of technology could indeed be fatal, but there was also plenty of information available about how to turn today’s technology to positive advantage. One of the key areas was using social media for serious business development.
For some tools retailers (and suppliers), the barrier to making the most of social media for business is still the technology itself. For many others, however, it’s about understanding how social media can contribute and, if it can, how that contribution can be measured. Think back fifteen years or so and there were companies saying much the same about their website – we need one because our competitor has one, but we’re not entirely sure what it will do…. Nowadays the website comment probably seems outdated, but the acknowledgment of need, without really knowing what can be achieved is still current. It all comes down to the question of if and how being active on social media platforms can help to drive sales. And if it can, how that can be quantified in terms of return on investment. The good news for sceptics in our industry, whether retail or supplier is that it can, it does, and it can be measured.
For most businesses the overriding objective is sales and / or profit growth, achievable by some combination of new customers and more sales / profitability from existing customers. To make social media work measurably, it’s vital to know the goals. Like any other facet of sales and marketing, if you don’t know what’s good and special about your business, if you don’t know who your end customers are and what motivates them to purchase, then embarking on a campaign of any kind is likely to result in failure. So, before you try and evaluate every tweet, photo and Facebook comment, be sure you know what you want to achieve, what’s a realistic timeframe and what you can reasonably invest.
Broadly, you can use social media to do four things: improve brand awareness / profile, gain new customers, drive more purchases from existing and new customers and develop loyalty to the point where customers themselves become advocates and thereby recruit more customers like themselves. Ideally you need to learn the costs associated with these four routes so you can invest appropriate amounts in each of the four. You also need to know which platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, Google etc – deliver in which particular ways against which particular types of audience.
Research done, there are lots of measurement possibilities depending on the objectives. If the focus is awareness, then use measures like volume, reach, exposure, and amplification. If you want engagement, then look for metrics around retweets, comments, replies, and participants. If the goal is traffic to the website, then track URL shares, clicks and conversions. If you’re after advocates, then track contributors and influence. If the goal is an increased share of voice, then track volume relative to competitors. And so on. All of the above can be evaluated as long are objectives are clear and the initial benchmarks are established against which to measure.
Given an awareness of the cost and return of different platforms against different audiences and different motivations, exposure on the best performing and most cost-effective platforms for the individual business profile can be boosted with paid for techniques. The most successful social media campaigns are often a combination of owned, paid for and earned coverage.
Overall, ongoing analytics are necessary for keeping up with the overall exposure for your brand and company. Campaign-focused measurement helps understand the impact of particular marketing initiatives. Many social analytics tools work in real-time, so it’s important to plan ahead and set up measurement early. Accessing activity after the event can be expensive and unreliable. It’s also the case that useful, meaningful measurement will take time so again, plan ahead and revisit data before drawing conclusions.
For more information, contact BHETA member services on 0121 237 1130
Source: BHETA / bira May 2018