Is social media relevant to my small retail business? By @PennyPower #IndieRetail

This blog is written by Penny Power, Founder of Ecademy, International Speaker, best selling author, and the force behind Manifesto for Digital Business Britain… 

Is social media relevant to all businesses?

A continual debate manifests itself whenever I am among small businesses and we discuss social media…. ‘Is relevant to all businesses?’. Recently a local analogy was created in a meeting ‘the plumber’ and we all constantly referred to ‘the plumber’ as a way of generically grouping people who mostly focus on ‘local’ trade, I guess like most Independent Retailers? I believe that we all need to build our social presence and I hope this Blog goes some way to motivating those who don’t currently…

The world is shifting in a massive way, enabled by the internet and other technology

The world is shifting in a massive way. I have felt the rumblings since 1997 when I first became aware of the Internet and considered how it would enter all our households. I was intrigued by the transactional opportunities that were emerging and I knew that the Internet would not be ‘just another till point’, it would in fact be a revolutionary way of doing business, far reaching in it’s opportunities and threats to the high street and to anyone who was not a ‘connector’ or ‘networker’.

In the early days, 1998-2000 Thomas (husband and business partner) and I were working within the Ecommerce space, we observed those that made a decision to see the Internet revolution as just another way of taking an order, compared to those that saw it as a completely new way of building a business model and therefore built their brand accordingly. NEXT for example, they added an ecommerce facility, while ASOS grew and became a strong contender from nowhere.

Recently we have seen the banks ‘save’ HMV Stores, with bank lending. The online discussions around this are that they are just protecting 30,000 jobs for as long as they can. A worthy cause, but I sincerely hope that they are using some of this money to innovate very fast or they are taking a Corporate Social Responsibility decision to give their staff ‘social capital skills’ so that when they ultimately do lose their jobs they will know how to build their own ‘social networking presence’ and be known as a great freelance or part-time worker…

The internet has changed consumer buying behaviours too..

Jobs are changing, in line with the promise of the Internet, people now trade globally, buy online and look for advice and skills across all nations. So where does this leave the Independent retailer? We have to realize that if jobs are changing then perhaps so are buying habits.

I live in a market town; I have lived there for 21 years and have brought our 3 children up there. I love ‘local’ it is my sanity and gives me peace, calm and a feeling of belonging. I feel like I am part of an ecosystem of business and people. Do I spend all my money locally though? Well, some of it. I shop for food every Saturday morning, Thomas and I have our ritual coffee in the same place every Saturday, I buy gifts there and I occasionally buy some clothes. I am a typical working mother, life is hectic, so much of what I do is based on convenience.  For this reason I want to buy many of my items based on how easy it is to buy.

Recently my husband was researching where to buy our 17 year old son his car. He researched the types of cars online and had several tick boxes for features, around fuel consumption, zero tax and low insurance. Apart from that he was open minded about the make. He went to a Car Retail park and this is what he based his decision on asking the salesman “can I communicate about this purchase via text?’. Not email, not phone calls, pure and simply text. He went to Ford, Toyata and VW. A flexible and technically with-it young guy who saw the communication choice as the clients won the order.  Ross now has a VW Polo. Thomas and he built up a strong relationship via text, it was seamless as a task for Thomas, no stress and we happily collected the car 8 days later. This relationship has continued with Thomas now passing his mobile number to friends who have also since bought.

The key is allowing the consumer to buy from you the way that they want to buy

Social Media, Digital, are they technologies or are they new forms of doing business with people allowing the consumer to chose how they want to buy?

I use social media to build trust with potential clients. I never seek and order, I only seek ‘followers’. I am supportive, not transactional. My clients come from the networks that they chose to be on, I am available on FaceBook, LinkedIn, Ecademy, YouTube, and Twitter. I publish my mobile number and I am here to help. I do not fear connections, this is what the new world is about.

I my Manifesto for Digital Business Britain, I talk about a need for British Business to understand what it means to have a Digital Mindset. Not be driven by their processes and desire for an order but for businesses to understand that a change in Mindset is required, from the CEO through to all the staff. The CEO must lead this change. This is not a departmental task, based in Marketing; this is a change in Mindset that needs to be led from the top.

The last 13 years have taught me many great lessons, the greatest of all is that we have to act like a friend to everyone we are in contact with. A friend is Open, Random and Supportive © (ORS) and seeks to turn strangers into friends and friends into followers. When we have been traditionally trained in a more transactional set of values seeking Suspects, Prospects and Customers – this is quite a mind-shift, but one that I am dedicated to achieving within businesses across the world.

About Digital Britain Manifesto

I support:
Digital Business Britain Manifesto

For more information about how we help businesses evolve and adapt please contact or you can Tweet her on @pennypower. Penny can advise you on her Business Coaching program and put you in touch with an Ecademy Digital Coach.


About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
This entry was posted in Blog-a-day for Indie Retail, Consumer Trends, Independent Retailer Month 2011, Retail Strategy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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