Social media is changing retail

Almost everyday we hear about the struggling retail sector. Despite weathering the GFC far better than most of the developed world, here in Australia our bricks and mortar stores can’t seem to get people to part with their money.

What’s actually happening is quite profound. There is a cultural shift happening at the moment that every retailer needs to come to grips with – or risk fading into obscurity.

During the late eighties, through the nineties and into the new millennium, the progression of technologies touted as ‘bringing everyone together’ have actually had the reverse effect. This, partnered with the increasing pace of globalisation, has resulted in a decline in local community sentiment. Many social sub-groups have begun to feel disenfranchised.

By the time social media platforms like MySpace and Facebook entered the scene, there was already a groundswell focussing on our the human desire to feel more socially connected. The technology that underpinned social platforms had already been around for a very long time. Facebook and the like did not create the ‘social’ craze, they essentially capitalised on a social movement that was well under way.

This new connectivity has evolved quickly, driven in the most part by innovation meeting demand. The space is now beginning to mature. Many of the social interactions are somewhat superficial, but this too will evolve.

By contrast, traditional retail has become dominated by chain stores with highly impersonal brand experiences – exactly what people have been moving away from.

Online stores can gather data about users and demonstrate an understanding of them as people. Your name is displayed, your preferences can be stored, and you can connect and communicate with people directly from the online store – people you know, or even people you don’t know but share similar interests with.

The offline retail industry needs to learn how to provide this level of connectivity. There is a need to blend social media and mobile technology into everything the retailer does. The data generated by the customers should be viewed as the most valuable asset retailers have, as the best online brands do. Online sales and offline sales need to be viewed as a single brand experience – because this is how your customers see it.

Social media is not going away. The brands, platforms and tools will change, but the culture of online connectivity and social sharing is here to stay – and is only going to gather momentum. The time to understand social media, and utilise it as a strategic growth tool, is right now. Your customers are looking for a connection with your brand, and it is possible to make that connection more meaningful both online and in-store.

In this new world order, where experience is everything, not changing means the end. The evolution of retail is not about foot traffic – it’s about social traffic.

One Response to “Social media is changing retail”

  1. Smart Media Technologies
    November 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

    Keep on working, great job!

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