With the internet in their pocket, today’s retail customer stands before you, ready to share, review, like, check-in or otherwise communicate their physical experience to who knows how many friends or followers in the virtual realm. Mobile devices are increasingly enabling retail customers to be in two places at once. On the other side of the counter however, there is a different reality; one that has only ever been concerned about meeting the needs of that person directly in front of you.
This new reality in retail is quickly disrupting the customer service models we have used for years. While customers go sit down and go online, those at the counter simply get to deal with the next customer.
Add to this the reality that many of these empowered consumers will say things online that they may not say face to face. With many more businesses starting to engage in these new realms, expectations around customer service are increasing and accountability at the local level will continue to rise as well.
Clearly we should be concerned about what is happening in the virtual realm. Search engines love this kind of hyper-local content and done right, engaging in meaningful ways can yield great benefits for brick-and-mortar businesses. Figuring out a strategy that will work best for your business is going to be the trick.
For starters, here are 5 ways to retailers can stay relevant online:
- Understand the big picture and the impact that the use of these technologies is having around expectations and accountability. Your opportunity to extend the good conversation also needs to be understood. Impart that understanding to those on the front lines, those in the C-suite and everyone in between.
- Be an active listener. Getting visibility to the content being created online is critical if you have any interest in being relevant within those communities. Awareness and listening are just the beginning. If there is one comment or customer service issue voiced online, you can bet there are others that aren’t being communicated. Google alerts are just the low hanging fruit. Real-time Twitter searches for brand names and mentions are a good place to start. Many great (and free) tools are available to help with monitoring and engagement.
- Play the game. Download, signup and at least start to understand the mechanics and the dynamics involved with the social and mobile applications your customers are using. Don’t know? Ask them. Step 2 above will help identify what communities your customers are using.
- Be a curator. Brand stewardship means collecting and distributing the stories and experiences customers are sharing about your product or service. Impart those stories to the rest of the organization. This will help reinforce item 1 above.
- Be a creator. Understand the long term benefit of consistently creating relevant and valuable content for your audience. Be a leader and authority in your industry online and be helpful. Then you’ll have the awareness, affinity and purchase consideration when the time comes. This kind of investment online will protect you in several ways. Start with answering questions about your brand before someone else does.
For more pointers and actionable strategies, consider The Tasti D-Lite Way: Social Media Strategy Lessons for Building Loyalty and a Brand Customers Crave.
BJ Emerson is a LBMA member and the VP of Technology at Tasti D-Lite as well as co-author of The Tasti D-Lite Way; Social Media Marketing Lessons for Building Loyalty and a Brand Customers Crave.
Considered a social loyalty pioneer in the industry, in 2010 he led the deployment of the first ever loyalty platform to feature an integration with Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare which has been recognized with a variety of industry awards. His projects were featured as case studies in 7 different books published in 2011 and he provided the foreword to Location Based Marketing for Dummies.
BJ speaks throughout the United States as well as internationally on a regular basis on the topics of social media, technology and customer loyalty. His passion for being an ambassador and empowering others with technology can be seen through the innovative solutions and campaigns he manages.