Canadian Retailers Using Social Channels to Build Customer Acquisition and Retention

PHOTO: EAGLE EYE

PHOTO: EAGLE EYE

By Tim Mason, Chief Executive Officer at Eagle Eye

Technological capability, business strategy and consumer expectations are coming together to fuel a truly unprecedented rate of change. Right now, the confluence of consumer tech adoption, retailers’ need to meet and market to customers in the “now,” and Canadian consumers’ willingness to share and engage via digital channels is creating new customer acquisition and retention opportunities.

Canadian retailers might once have embraced analogue, paper-based coupons and loyalty cards for their ability to cross and upsell to a ready-made customer base, but now they have a new—and much more effective—channel for identifying, accessing and targeting the right customers. Between the customer data generated by their stores and social, ecommerce and other digital channels, retailers have the necessary tools to meaningfully engage them.

We are at the dawn of a golden age of customer engagement. To seize the day, retailers need to shift their digital transformation up a gear. This includes social media, where one survey found 58% of customers say social media has influenced a purchasing decision1.

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The Shift in Social

Many retailers are fast learning how to use mobile as a channel for promotions, loyalty program interaction, and direct marketing. This is true in sectors other than retail as well; 86% of Canadian food and beverage operators, for instance, rank social media outreach as a “very” or “extremely” important strategy to implement in the next year. But retailers and restauranteurs alike have historically treated social media as an advertising-only zone: good for broadcast and targeted messaging, even for fleshing out buyer personas; but, not really viable for true customer acquisition.

But the market is changing. The major social media players – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snap – are now positioning their platforms as customer acquisition channels for retailers. In fact, Instagram recently announced it’s testing the ability to shop, check out and manage orders within the app.

This is a huge turning point for the industry, and as these companies pivot hard toward lobbying retailers, the time is ripe for exploring these possibilities. By using social channels to engage, understand and capture data on current customers, retailers can execute full customer acquisition strategies informed by the treasure trove of customer insight available and the targeted advertising capabilities social media networks already offer.

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It’s also an opportunity for retailers to identify new audiences and capture new data sets to inform future views as well as loyalty and marketing efforts. Social media gives retailers a high degree of specificity in terms of defining and identifying audiences.  Social media is also a platform for those audiences to talk back to retailers, particularly in relation to loyalty.  Research shows that 23% of Canadian Millennials have shared loyalty experiences on social media, and 51% of all Canadians would share an exciting reward on social media.

There’s also a cross-platform aspect to social customer acquisition that impacts the effectiveness and financial return on such efforts. Understanding which customers are on what social platform and what they are doing when they look to engage with your brand or category not only makes acquisition more probable, it also optimizes marketing spend by eliminating redundancies.

The retailers that put social acquisition at the heart of digitally enabled and data-driven marketing strategies will increase their chances of winning with today’s consumer.

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Making Connections

Social customer acquisition strategies work best if retailers can capture and aggregate potential customer data from every social touchpoint to better understand who individual customers are, how they prefer to engage, and what motivates them.

All of the major social media platforms expose their APIs to make this data collection possible, but retailers need to have the technology to connect those data points to create a complete picture of consumer activity.

Importantly, it’s not just data from the social channels themselves that needs to be connected. To get a true and full picture of prospective through to loyal customers, retailers also need to connect this social analysis with data from their “owned” touchpoints too – store and ecommerce, point of sale, promotions and loyalty.

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Connecting cross-channel customer data also makes it possible for Canadian retailers to derive insight on how to offer value to existing and newly acquired customers, by enabling analysis of behaviors and preferences that can reveal what, where and why they are motivated to buy.

Over time, social media has transitioned from an awareness tool to become a viable customer acquisition channel. The winning retail businesses moving forward will be those that harness the data generated from these platforms and connect it with their other marketing channels: to better understand their customers while also fostering greater sales, frequency and loyalty.

1 SumoHeavy Social Commerce Revisited survey, conducted in May 2018, of 1,046 US consumers, aged 18+.

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