If you were a retailer in the pre-social media world, then you would know how impossible it was to reach newer audiences or sell to a wider range of people.
If anything, all the customers you had were folks living within your immediate locality, and a few from beyond that know you. Even if you run an online retail business, you were still limited to the little traffic the internet sends your way.
To be honest, retailing wasn’t all that rosy back then. But since we didn’t know better, we never had a reason to complain.
However, ever since social media came into the fray, there’s been a significant and noticeable change in the fortunes of retailers – both online and offline. And some experts even predict social media will have a greater influence in the future.
While we wait for that, this article wants to explore just how great the influence of social media has been in the retail industry up until now.
Selling: Social media has changed the way retailers sell
In the years before social media, retailers only had two options for selling their goods. One was the brick-and-mortar store option, and the other was the eCommerce store option.
Thanks to social media, there is now a third option, which is the possibility of selling directly on social networks. From Instagram to Facebook, Twitter to Pinterest, Whatsapp to YouTube, retailers are spoilt with a wealth of options as far as displaying and selling their goods go.
This new possibility makes it easy for anyone anywhere to join the retail business. If you don’t have the money to rent or own a brick-and-mortar store, and you also don’t have the finances to sponsor the operation of an eCommerce store, you can easily bring your wares to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and the likes to sell.
It is easy, free, and straightforward.
Marketing: Social media has changed the way retailers market their goods
It is no secret that social media makes marketing easier and more purposeful. With social media, retailers can now put their goods directly in the faces of those who truly need them.
For example, if you’re a Nike sneakers retailer, you can easily buy Instagram likes to get your products in front of ready-to-buy or you can run a custom-tailored Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram ad campaign that sends your products directly into the feeds of people who have been searching for them.
Alternatively, you can build a huge following for your brand on social media using all the available social media tech tools and strategies. With these tactics, you would attract organic followers and views to your content on social media, thereby exposing yourself and what you sell to a greater audience.
Additionally, social media also gives retailers the possibility of using influencers to market their products. All you have to do is ensure you’re picking the right influencer for your brand. Once you do, the guy would send ready-to-buy customers your way.
Never in the history of retailing has customer targeting been this easier and direct.
No more wasting of time, no more trial and errors, no more guesswork. If 50 year-olds are what your retail business needs to thrive, then that’s exactly what social media will help you get.
Targeting: Social media has increased the number of prospects retailers can target
As you know, old-time retailers only had their local audiences to target. Even with the advent of eCommerce, retailers were still limited to targeting only those people that visited their sites.
With the entrance of social media, the game has changed.
Now, retailers can target as many prospects as their marketing efforts can carry them.
Take Instagram, for instance; the network currently has nearly 1 billion monthly active users. Facebook has 2.8 billion people, and YouTube has approximately 2 billion users.
That’s a lot of prospects to target – a lot of people waiting to be converted into customers.
Communication: Social media has changed the way retailers communicate with customers
Retail businesses no longer have to answer customers’ queries via expensive telephone calls, emails, or in-store enquires. Social media helps construct FAQs and live chatbots, which any customer can access when they have questions. In the event that customers can’t find answers to their queries in the FAQ or chatbot sections, social media offers the possibility of private messaging, which affected customers can use to reach out.
Additionally, retailers can now use social media to sensitize, teach, and guide their customers. This has come to replace traditional flyers and handbills methods. Or even the email newsletter approach of eCommerce.
As you can see, social media is changing all the technology involved in the retail business.
Reputation: Social media has forced an improvement in customer service in the retail business
In the times past, when customers were displeased with the services they received from a retailer, they usually lodge their complaints via emails and calls. But since this feedbacks weren’t public, other customers wouldn’t know about them.
This gave leeway to retailers and their customer care agents to act the way they like.
Ever since the advent of technology, this has ceased to be the case.
Retailers know that consumers can use social media (especially Twitter and Instagram) to post bad reviews about them, which might ruin their reputation. As such, they strive to constantly deliver the best service to all of their customers. And when they fall short, they don’t hesitate to come on social media to apologize immediately.
Before social media, I don’t remember seeing or hearing a retailer come on air to apologize for messing up.
So, a big up to social media for this one.
Supplier reach: Social media has changed the way retailers find products
Traditionally, retailers used to rely on their existing networks to find suppliers who would supply them with the products to sell.
Social media has changed this.
Irrespective of the types of products you sell, there’s bound to be a reputable supplier advertising somewhere on your favorite social network. With the aid of extensive hashtag research, retailers can find and connect with suppliers who will supply the products.
Another advantage of this is that you can easily find new products to sell since you would be exposed to a multitude of potential suppliers.
Dropshipping: Social media has changed the way retailers handle inventory
Traditional retail businesses required store owners to have at hand the products they’re selling. With the arrival of social media, these retailers can easily advertise products they don’t own or have in stock.
This way, retailers no longer need to hold goods based on the assumption that someone might come looking for them soon. Instead, they can always advertise any product they desire, and if someone comes asking for the product on their page, they can easily reach out to their supplier to get the product and deliver it.
This gives flexibility to retailers, as they can sell as many products as they like and also target as many prospects as they like.