Why it’s important to stay in regular communication with your customers via email and social media

I recently was asked to contribute to a feature for the magazine published by Avon for their extensive network of independent Avon representatives. The questions they posed focused on the reasons why it is important for their reps (who are essentially each independent retailers) to use email and social media to stay in contact with their known customers, and, to reach out to more. I thought it would be useful if I shared some of the thoughts I shared with Avon with you too…

Q1: Why are facebook and email marketing important? How will these increase sales?

My answer was: Email and facebook are actually quite different. Regular emails are what could be called “broadcast communications” – these share information that you believe will be of interest to all your customers – such as new ranges, special offers and any other relevant news. Facebook on the other hand invites a conversation, so you can post articles, information, news in a number of “status updates” which your customers (those who “like” your facebook page and who “follow” your updates) can chose to remark on. With facebook you need to be prepared to enter into a dialogue; but of course this is great for loyalty and for answering any questions they may have prior to purchasing. With email you are simply providing information. Of course in both situations what you share, regardless of the media, should be engaging and encourage customers to consider browsing your products and thus make a purchase.

Q2: Do you think more people are choosing to shop online now? Are people researching products online through social networking? Is this why so important to harness?

My answer was: There is no disputing that online is still growing where as many aspects of traditional retail (visiting the shops) are in decline. In addition consumers are increasingly turning to “peer group review” to understand the quality / benefits of products from the perspective of people like them. Peer group review is an important influencer in the decision to purchase an item – so remember to encourage happy customers to leave good reviews about your products (as this will influence new customers) as well as to address any negative feedback swiftly and appropriately; to avoid it having a knock-on effect…

Social media is a personal, brand-to-consumer communication. Consumers like to feel that if they are parting with their hard earned cash that they are doing so with a brand / business they can trust and that they can communicate with. Think about your own experiences of online shopping – when you’re considering a purchase of a item what research do you do? Ask your customers, see what they say – it’s surprising how social media has infiltrated our lives – but it’s not really a behavioural change, it’s not that different to asking your friends in person, it’s just more instantaneous and wider reaching!

Q3: How should you present information? A news bulletin? Tailored to individuals? Part of a series of articles? How can a brand engage consumers to drive sales?

My answer was: It’s always worth using a mix of different approaches initially to see which generates the best response from your customer group. News bulletins are a good way to communicate information relevant to all customers – such as new ranges being launched or special offers in the sale. Tailored marketing is great if you know things about your customers, based on information they have provided to you or from past purchasing behaviour – e.g. age specific information, gender specific or even location specific – you wouldn’t tell a customer living in Manchester about a great event that is taking place in London next week for instance – chances are it’s not relevant to them!

In a nutshell I’d suggest the following:

  1. Use email bulletins to share information relevant to ALL customers… that can be a regular newsletter with links to blog articles, perhaps about new products or new events OR it could be “hot news” – perhaps to announce pre-view of sale items – something that has a sense of urgency around it!
  2. Use a blog to educate and inform customers about the products, the qualities, uses, as well as other “expert advice” – topics that are probably of interest to your customers – skin care, diet, health and fitness, fashion etc – but not directly connected to your products. These features offer a wider interest and establish you as a brand who shares useful information with customers, not just sales messages. This will help increase consumers’ trust. A blog would usually be written in a conversational or magazine article style, so it’s interesting to read – and you can then drive traffic to the blog from other forms of communication,  it’s a great way to share a lot of information in a relatively informal style
  3. Use social media to engage in a 2-way conversation with customers / interested parties – pepper sharing information, such as your blog or indeed other useful articles, with comments about what activities you are up to that would interest customers – events, product launches etc – the key is to be ready to respond to customers… so if you don’t have the means to be online and able to answer questions, reply to feedback, or simply thank them for sharing their product review with you, then you might need to reconsider getting to embroiled in social media. Customers do expect you to be there to respond – that’s possibly the only draw back!

Q4: Should you adapt your language or tone for internet communication? If so how?

And my answer was: Some people think they should change their entire personality online. The key to successful communications is to be authentic – communicate in the same way you would if you met a customer face to face – if you try to change your style then should they speak to you in person or over the phone then the level of “familiarity” they will feel as a result of social media engagement will not “fit” with their current interaction. You should also always be mindful that what you publish can be copied, shared and distributed around the internet – so always think twice, and double check, before you send!

Q5: Are videos and pictures good? If so why?

And my answer was: If you can use a mix of visual and written content it will engage more people – some of us respond to sound, some to images, and some to the written word. If you use a mix of images, written word and video you will catch the attention of more people. Video doesn’t have to be professionally produced – often it is enough to use an ordinary digital video camera, placed on a steady surface, and to take a short 30-40 second piece of you speaking to camera – it makes you more “real” and of course includes both audio and images, so capturing 2/3 of the audience more readily.

What has your experience been with using social media?

I hope the readers of the Avon representative publication find the tips I shared useful; I hope you do too!

My question for you is… what has your experience been with using social media for customer communications and engagement? I’d be interested to know what you’ve tried and what the results have been. Please feel free to share your comments / thoughts here on this blog, or, if you’d rather share 1-2-1 feel free to drop me an email!

Thanks for reading!

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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 champion@retailchampion.co.uk.
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One Response to Why it’s important to stay in regular communication with your customers via email and social media

  1. Aly says:

    Hi Clare – I work for a fairly small label and in-store supplies supplier here in Houston, Texas (USA). Your post about social media and e-commerce caught my eye because our company has invested in our online presence in the last couple of years. We’ve focused on our website and e-commerce business through a website marketing and search engine optimization company. They’ve helped us to increase our website visitors and online orders! Our SEO company helps us manage our social media presence – if you find the right company to partner with, the results can be great!

    Anyways, thanks for sharing! – Aly

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