FOCUS: Gems of advice to boost your social media

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Tips to help jewellery retailers boost their digital profile.

New research suggests retailers are lagging behind big brands in terms of social media, with a third admitting Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest aren’t creating any positive business benefits. Sarah Louise Jordan catches up with ChannelAdvisor’s EMEA marketing director Zoe Ripley, who explains how jewellery retailers can boost their online profiles and what they should be doing to excel in the social sphere.

In May 2014, a ChannelAdvisor report discovered just 66% of e-retailers are using social media, and of those only one third are experiencing any positive business benefits or spikes in customer engagement.

ChannelAdvisor – a provider of cloud based e-commerce solutions – also discovered that the most popular platform is Twitter, closely followed by Facebook, but neither of these is having a perceived impact on sales.

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According to the company, Pinterest is the real social media star of the moment, even though the majority of retailers aren’t capitalising on its benefits. The photo scrapbooking service has been shown to increase e-sales, with customers 10% more likely to follow through with a purchase when they’ve clicked through from Pinterest compared to other social media sites. As a result, ChannelAdvisor’s EMEA marketing director Zoe Ripley recommends “using a ‘Pin It’ button” on website product pages, which “enable shoppers to share products on Pinterest without leaving the retail website”.

One e-retailer that has experienced the Pinterest-effect first hand is Boticca, which conducted extensive research into effective social media strategy in 2012. The company discovered that Pinterest delivers a higher average spend from customers and attracts more new business than other social media sites. According to Boticca’s research, customers were spending £115 on average via Pinterest compared to £55 after clicking through from Facebook. But it’s not all good, as users visiting from Pinterest were shown to spend 65% less time on the site than those visiting from Facebook. Boticca visitors from Pinterest also looked at 44% fewer pages overall. Conversion rates (from clicks to sales) were also shown to be 51% lower than Facebook – so even though Pinterest makes Boticca customers spend more, they don’t spend as often.

Word of mouth, returning customers and organic traffic from search engines are still deemed to be the most reliable (if unpredictable) ways of securing the volume of traffic likely to promote sales growth. Some critics even claim the concept of ‘social commerce’ is a myth that can never be truly harnessed.

Although ChannelAdvisor’s Ripley isn’t quite this pessimistic, she does agree that social media isn’t something that will result in immediate success: “Social media requires a clear strategy and dedication; success should not be assumed. Take the time to find out what your customers want, how they tend to interact with their favourite brands and where they go before making a purchasing decision. Analyse your own top-performing social posts and learn from these. Test and iterate, and you’ll find that you may capture a larger share of consumer attention.”

All the evidence points to retailers struggling to capitalise on social media; seeing Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as diversions from more important daily activities, rather than an integral part of customer relationship building and e-retail. But for big brands like Tiffany & Co. and Swarovski, social media was implemented early on with great success. When subscription-based business intelligence service L2 released its Digital IQ Index in October 2013, it discovered that out of 35 jewellery and watch brands Tiffany & Co., Swarovski and Cartier are the most innovative and wide reaching in terms of digital strategy. Additionally more than a quarter of jewellery brands were rated ‘gifted’ or above, signalling increasing competence in social media.

As part of the report, Tiffany was commended for its m-commerce capabilities (commercial transactions via mobile phones) and its flare for cross-platform programming. Swarovski, on the other hand, was praised for its Facebook community and digital marketing strategy. So, why is there such a disparity between brands and retailers?

Multiple store retailer and e-retailer Mococo is trying to buck this trend by investing heavily in its social media training and strategy. Area manager Jo Makant explains: “We highlight key products and trends to our online followers via imagery, celebrity endorsements, blogs and videos.” Overall social media is proving effective for Mococo which has recorded a “steady increase in conversions and an even greater uplift in traffic,” according to Makant. She adds: “We would prefer that conversions be higher and match the good traffic we receive, there’s no way of telling how many conversions we get directly from social media posts.”

When asked for her opinion as to why brands are beating retailers in the social media stakes, Makant remarks: “A big brand like Swarovski will have a dedicated social team to promote its collections on social media channels. Retailers may not have the same resources as a big brand, but that’s not to say that social media can’t become an integral part of a retailer business. Having an eye on the ball and finding ways to link jewellery to trending topics and events is working well for us.”

According to ChannelAdvisor expert Zoe Ripley: “While there is no clear, one-size-fits-all strategy, we notice that retailers who post regularly, converse with customers by asking open-ended questions, run competitions and post images or videos tend to generate the most interaction and enthusiasm.”

She adds: “Savvy retailers realise that social channels are just that: social. Websites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter should not be treated as just another marketing channel, but as outlets for interacting with customers and showcasing your brand’s personality. It’s important not to talk at people, but initiate a conversation and build brand awareness via these platforms.”

But the advent of social media isn’t without risks. 47% of respondents to an L2 survey admit social media is the aspect of marketing most likely to damage their brand’s reputation in the long term. Ripley admits: “Social media can be an intimidating channel for retailers, but with a growing number of consumers using a variety of platforms to engage with brands, these are powerful tools that businesses of all sizes can’t afford to ignore.”

Learning new social media skills isn’t something that’s gone unnoticed by training course providers. UK Trade & Investment was inundated with requests from retailers who wanted to attend its Website Optimisation for International Trade course on June 17 — a day-long conference designed to help businesses develop a social strategy, create an optimised site for search engines, boost traffic and encourage more conversion from clicks to sales.

In conclusion, Ripley explains: “Overall, the key is to recognise that social media is not isolated from marketing, advertising or digital strategy — look at it as a tool that can significantly complement these traditional tools.

Zoe Ripley’s Quick-Fire Social Media Advice

1. Be Captivating
Be creative and interesting with your social strategy. Images and video content are great as they’re especially shareable.

2. Encourage Shoppers to Share
Integrate social sharing buttons on your website to make it easier for shoppers to share items via email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest without leaving your site.

3. Keep Your Audience Coming Back for More
Reward your social fans and followers with exclusive content or deals to encourage brand loyalty and spur repeat purchases.

4. Talk About It
Appoint a social media employee to manage the conversations happening on your platforms. This gives retailers the power to influence brand perception.

5. Give Customers What They’re Asking For
Interact with your audience and find out what they want. Offer guidance, make suggestions and be personal.
 

This Hot Topic was taken from the July issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.
 

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