Social media has become an integral part of consumers’ everyday lives over the past decade, encouraging unprecedented interaction between shoppers and brands.
Digital communication platforms like Twitter and Facebook are more than just cost-effective channels for driving revenue and boosting brand awareness. Consumers wield more power and influence than ever, and retailers that listen and engage can find opportunities for business growth.
“Customers are faced with more choices than ever and we have to constantly prove we’re worth their time and hard-earned money,” says Sleep Number Senior Manager of Social and SEO Sarah Panus. At Retail’s BIG Show in January, Panus will join Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Brown on stage to share how the company has used digital insights from social media to change the way they do business.
The State of Retailing Online 2016, an annual study conducted by NRF and Forrester Research, found that 92 percent of retailers are investing in social media marketing to some degree and looking for ways to update content to stay on top of trends. About 55 percent of retailers surveyed also said they are increasing their online merchandising budgets, a portion of which is clearly earmarked for social media activities that engage consumers to promote two-way interaction.
Many retailers are already using channels like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter to advertise, respond to customer service questions and drive sales with social commerce “buy” buttons. And social media analytics can be combined with other data to gauge consumer perceptions and buying behavior. But tapping into the true power of social media means turning active listening into actionable results.
When it comes to using social media for customer engagement and strategic decision-making, Sleep Number is making the right moves. Panus says the company uses social media as more than just a basic marketing and customer service tool — it’s a way to collect and analyze the massive amount of data. “We view social as the ‘reality department.’ It’s not information you can make up. There’s complete transparency because the customer is telling us what they think in real time every day,” she says.
Panus and her team are successfully using this information to make better decisions. “We use it as a marketing, customer service and consumer insights tool. In order to take advantage of all these things, we created an in-house Social Command Center with a variety of paid and free listening devices — including evolve24 — to help collect information,” she says, noting that an analysis of emotional drivers among consumers have correlated to rising or declining sales.
Social listening, or tracking conversations about the brand, has been one of the company’s most valuable tactics. “It helps shape our content strategy and is used in conjunction with other internal brand health data,” Panus says.
“If you’re looking at social listening stats alone, you’re missing holistic opportunities to observe trends and inform cross-functional strategies. For example, we know about the top themes people are talking about and we are diligent about creating content that addresses those topics,” Panus says. “We understand, through social listening, which issues are gaining importance among consumers.”
Explore more sessions on customer engagement and consumer behavior: Register to attend Retail’s BIG Show in New York.