According to the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, the total number of global social media users is estimated to reach 3.29 billion in 2022 — comprising just under half of the world’s population. This enormous growth makes social media an essential part of any retailer’s marketing toolkit. However, it is important to understand the unique nature of this platform in order to realize the rewards that are possible.

Social media is immediate, present and sharable. This immediacy makes it possible for retailers to interact with and build relationships with customers. In fact, some retailers have increased sales conversions 10-15 percent by customizing their social media content based on customers’ purchase history. For the launch of its new phone, a leading smartphone manufacturer ran a month-long Facebook campaign – starting with mass promotion through videos, followed by targeted advertisements based on consumer engagement and purchase history. The company received 500 percent return on investment through the campaign and attracted nearly 2000 new customers.

Another important aspect is the ease with which social media posts can be shared – creating an instant community of like-minded consumers who can quickly define the brand if it’s not already defined. These consumers can swiftly become ‘brand advocates.’ Advocacy marketing helps attract new customers while increasing revenue at a significantly low cost.

A leading global technology company converted its fan base into brand advocates to promote a key feature of its smartphone – the camera. The company used selfies taken by its customers across the globe in videos, billboards and other promotional campaigns. As the spotlight was on ‘real’ customers, the campaigns had a certain ‘authenticity’ to it, and, in turn, exponentially increased the brand’s popularity.

But perhaps the greatest power of social media is its ability to influence purchase decisions. Social media influences the purchases of about 61 percent of consumers, through positive reviews or even as mere inspiration. More than 50 percent of customers reject brands with a rating of less than four stars. However, on an average, consumers generally require a minimum of 40 reviews before trusting the overall rating as well as the brand in question.

Another facet of social media that is extremely valuable to businesses is sentiment monitoring and analysis. This process enables companies to observe what customers are saying about them in real-time, giving them an opportunity to address concerns and defuse potentially negative situations. Sentiment analytics enabled a global media and entertainment company to identify and track the ‘true’ engagement of its established artists with their fan base.

As technology and social media evolve hand-in-hand, retailers should look into tapping into the full potential of this channel to build and offer unparalleled customer experiences and services.

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