Augmenting a Social Media Advertising Strategy for Retailers

The new retail advertising has taken the catalog social–and made it actionable with a click. In the last year, we’ve seen the introduction of “shoppable” social media options, like the Twitter “Buy Now” button and Pinterest’s buyable pins–moving beyond promoted accounts and posts to customer experiences. Instagram and Snapchat also introduced “Stories” features and Pinterest launched promoted videos – all of which promote visual and strategic storytelling.

The nearly universal use of social media platforms in retailers’ marketing strategies is a reflection of the evolution of social media advertising since the early days of MySpace and Facebook. According to our annual Retail Compass Survey of CMOs, for example, in 2009 just over half of CMOs said they included social media as part of their holiday marketing strategies, compared to roughly four in five who did in 2014 and 2015.
Social media advertising can be relatively inexpensive and, in some cases, delivers greater returns–making it the apple of both the CMO and CFO’s eye. So, what should retailers keep in mind when conducting a social media advertising strategy?

Know the Platforms

Retailers should take advantage of platforms where customers are already engaging regularly. It’s much easier to break into an existing community than to start one from scratch. Building out a retailer’s brand presence on Twitter, partnering with influential brand ambassadors on Instagram and initiating promotions or contests via Snapchat are all strategies that retailers can use to connect with their target audiences in real time.

With photo-first platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, retailers should think about how best to visually showcase their brands. For instance, what values does their brand stand for and how can they consistently and simply communicate these values to the consumer through images? Retailers should also consider how social media promotions can best engage the customer at hand and provide a customized experience to make the customer feel special. Some intriguing campaigns of late have taken advantage of user engagement and featured customer stories, photos and/or videos on retailers’ social media pages and websites.

Personalization is Key

Personalize your social media advertising strategy based on your brand, goals and who you’re trying to reach. Are you promoting a specific product, looking to raise brand visibility or building loyalty with current and potential fans? Do you already have an invested fan base on a specific platform?

Of course, there are general truisms about each social platform that should inform the strategy and can allow retailers to delve deeper into personalization for specific audiences. Facebook has the largest audience and the broadest reach, so retailers should craft a message that is applicable to a wider range of audiences. Pinterest appeals to a more niche audience of primarily women, making it the platform of choice for many home dcor and apparel retailers, also partly due to its visual nature. Instagram and Snapchat tend to capture the coveted millennial/Generation Z audience, so retailers should be sure to customize their visuals and language for a more youthful user base. It’s early days for Snapchat, but the platform is also gaining traction among younger audiences, which should inform the messages used. Snapchat is generally less intuitive as an advertising platform, but the recent rollout of Snap Ads Between Stories may provide a clearer opportunity for retail brands.

Ultimately, retailers should choose where they concentrate advertising dollars based on their target audience and where they’re active, keeping in mind that many online shoppers are active on multiple social channels.

Data Delivers

There is no universal approach to measuring the ROI of marketing strategies, but it’s imperative to take a holistic look at all the data available. For example, the reach of social media was previously measured simply by the number of impressions, and now metrics can narrow in on engagements, click-throughs and conversions per post or ad, as well as the relevance of the audience reached. Retailers can also analyze social media data for key insights on the behaviors and interests of shoppers to better understand what will resonate—not only on social media but in the store.

More sophisticated data analytics and advanced user database targeting tools are fueling increased interest and experimentation in new forms of social media marketing. With these new tools, retailers are shifting from reactive to proactive customer targeting, going beyond basic demographic data.

For more on augmenting a social media strategy, be sure to read my insights in Retail TouchPoints, and follow us on Twitter @BDOConsumer.