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Australian retailers finally get started with Social Media

Australian retailers are finally leaving the shores of social media apathy and are attempting to navigate the treacherous waters of consumer engagement. No doubt spurred on by the negative PR associated with non-engagement, retailers are also sensing the hidden treasure to be found with consumer loyalty. The social media wave started several years ago, and it still baffles me why has it taken retailers so long to take social media seriously?

Listening to social media requires a process to understand the conversations and also to action the insights. Consumers want to be heard, and in many cases offer valuable insights that actually deliver profitable changes in retailing.

It’s pleasing to see the big retailers starting to invest resources in managing their social media channels. Long time participant Telstra who abandoned their “Nowwearetalking” initiative, and have recently established a dedicated team of 10 staff to monitor and respond to problems posted on social media. Last week, David Jones announced that it would be launching Facebook and Twitter accounts setup to report on fashion style trends. Myer is working on a platform for Facebook. This platform will allow click-through purchasing supporting customised offers based on prior shopping habits delivered from their loyalty card scheme. Woolworths have one of the best initiatives with their “everydaymatters” site that engages with consumers to get and rank ideas on what they should be doing better.

Social media engagement is about learning, which I can sum up with the statement “DO FAIL, to LEARN; and Don’t Fail to LEARN!” Retailers should expect failures, but rather than seek refuge on the shore of apathy, they should identify these experiences as warning beacons for potential future endeavours.

Now that the big retailers have taken the plunge, they are going to have to swim a lot faster if they want to stem the reductions in consumer loyalty. Brands are diverting more of their marketing spend to directly connect and engage with consumers effectively by-passing an important role previously held by the retailer. The stronghold for large retailers is the ability to understand consumer wants and satisfy them with a range of competing brands. For the moment, most brands still rely on retailers to do most of their sales fulfilment, however accessibility to daily deals and the growing maturity of recommendation engines may erode more of the retailer’s role. The big opportunity for large retailers is to leverage their existing loyalty schemes such as Coles Flybuys, Woolworths Everyday Rewards to become facilitators of group deals for major consumer packaged goods companies. The action is a variation of an old marketing rule. Participation Participation Participation, is the new Location Location Location, and retailers need to understand this as they chart a course across the Social oceans of consumer demands. There is much to gain for those companies that participate in social media engagement, and the key is adding value with the engagement. Whilst they are fickle and at times lacking in loyalty, consumers are more than happy to reward with their wallets those retailers who participate in social media.

this article was first published in Adnews