Social Media Works for Retail — Here's Why

Buy_More__Stuff_Day_1_42.jpg

Why does social media work so well for consumer goods?

Think of your favorite social media projects and some well-known consumer brands will likely come to mind. Sharpie, Best Buy and DunkinDonuts spring to my mind, along with countless others. Consumer brands and products like the iPhone, XBOX, Disney and Starbucks are among the Top 10 most talked about brands in social media.

One reason consumer brands are so memorable in the social media space is that their projects are usually wrapped with bright, shiny logos. Brand managers and graphic designers must drool at the chance to slap the corporate colors all over a blog or a branded social network.

But consumer goods’ saturation in the socialsphere is about more than logos. To understand why social media works so well for consumer goods, look no further than your neighborhood WalMart. The retail experience is a perfect incubator for social interaction. Let’s break it down:

Retail is easy. Social media works best when the subject matter is accessible, and no topic is easier for Americans to comprehend than buying stuff. You pick something off a shelf, you pay for it, you take it home and use it. Simple. 

Retail is universal. Love the new Sugar Bits cereal? So does your neighbor, the CEO of Wizbang Enterprises, and a pop star in Tokyo. Buying and consuming stuff is the global lowest common denominator — a universally shared experience — and social media is the ultimate social barrier dissolver.

Retail is a fast transaction. The short sales cycle of retail means a new brand story is created every few minutes, and for some brands, every few seconds. The quick sales cycle keeps the conversation dynamic and fresh.

Retail is a volume business. Critical mass is vital to a rich, vibrant customer community. Millions of consumers of Product X equals an infinite number of conversation points. Given enough consumers, a brand can enjoy self-sustaining, organic conversation. And, with a large consumer base comes a wider, deeper array of storytelling formats.

Retail is a lonely experience. In retail (as opposed to restaurants, say), you consume/use your product in your home. You don’t get to bring that friendly, helpful Best Buy staffer home with you. It’s just you and your new toy…alone. Social media dissipates the loneliness. Connect with a brand spokesperson on Twitter. Read blogs by other brand enthusiasts or gripe with brand detractors on Facebook. Social media = happy hour for shoppers.

I have some other thoughts, but what do you think?

  • Are consumer goods the ultimate fit for social media? Or is B2B better poised for long-term social success?
  • Are their consumer products that don’t work for social media?
  • How does e-commerce shape the social media landscape?
  • Should brick-and-mortar stores have an in-store social media element?
  • Where are retailers falling short with their social media tactics?

 


  • http://www.unitedlinen.com Scott Townsend

    I like your take on Retail being a lonely experience and that social media can help fill that void. If the product or service is supported with social media tools, the customer can prolong their experience (whether good or bad) by connecting to someone associated with the product/service. Someone who is wating on the other end of Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, etc to help share in your joy or adress a problem and fix it fast. This is where it gets fun and you realize, as a business, that all the work going into reaching out to customers, is more than worth it.

    Great article. Two thumbs way up.
    Scott

  • http://www.unitedlinen.com Scott Townsend

    I like your take on Retail being a lonely experience and that social media can help fill that void. If the product or service is supported with social media tools, the customer can prolong their experience (whether good or bad) by connecting to someone associated with the product/service. Someone who is wating on the other end of Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, etc to help share in your joy or adress a problem and fix it fast. This is where it gets fun and you realize, as a business, that all the work going into reaching out to customers, is more than worth it.

    Great article. Two thumbs way up.
    Scott

  • http://www.unitedlinen.com Scott Townsend

    I like your take on Retail being a lonely experience and that social media can help fill that void. If the product or service is supported with social media tools, the customer can prolong their experience (whether good or bad) by connecting to someone associated with the product/service. Someone who is wating on the other end of Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, etc to help share in your joy or adress a problem and fix it fast. This is where it gets fun and you realize, as a business, that all the work going into reaching out to customers, is more than worth it.

    Great article. Two thumbs way up.
    Scott