Social networks have become an integral part of retailing say KPMG

It’s incredible how the internet has developed so quickly to become integral part of everyday life.

The KPMG Retail Think Tank’s latest paper discusses web marketing techniques and concluded they form an integral part of UK retailing.

There are 10 million (and rising) Twitter users. China’s social network explosion is led by teen-targeted website QZone which has over 200 million registered users. The power of social networking starts to become clearer.

Social Network Marketing

Social Network Marketing

Beyond being a channel for transactions, the internet has created a powerful marketing tool and a huge “shop window” for products, provides valuable brand-building opportunities, increased profile through third party tie-ups and most importantly a new, constantly evolving and different communication mechanism.

As the power of social networking and online communities’ increases, consumers are sharing thoughts and ideas, particularly within fast moving sectors such as fashion, meaning that we are seeing a fundamental shift in the way people shop and the consumer being increasingly complex for retailers to understand.

From the forward thinking retailer’s perspective, this environment presents a number of challenges. However, it is clear that if they are to stay ahead of the game they need to invest now, before the rest of the retailing world catches on. It’s a bit like the days of the Wild West – we are experiencing a massive grab for real estate – on the web. Those business that get their organic search engine optimisation (SEO) in sync with their blog and social network marketing will ensure that their websites are at the top of the search engines for the longer-term. There are short-term wins to be had, however, the real rewards will be reaped once generation Y start to get their wallets out.

At the moment it is forward thinking SME’s are leading the way. Make International sell bespoke Pottery Mugs and have used Social Media to enhance the power of their organic search engine optimisation work. Amazingly this work has pushed them onto to page 1 of Google for the keyword “pottery” in the whole world!

Plan-it Interiors, an office storage furniture supplier use Instant Messaging technology embedded on their website to provide live, real-time support to their customers.

Blindsinabox, a Dragons Den winning company backed by James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne make use of a YouTube channel to showcase their range of blackout blinds as well as to provide useful instruction video’s for would-be consumers.

As well as these types of benefits, the strongest retailers will spot the less obvious opportunities to develop their offer through the customer insight the new data brings. A report by the Chief Marketing Officer Council found that of 500 senior marketeers surveyed, only 16 percent review online sources for comments, complaints and suggestions, despite almost 58 percent agreeing that online media – such as blogs, Twitter and other social networking outlets – have a major influence on customer expectations and buying attitudes.

So yes, the platforms might be changing but the fundamentals of retail remain unchanged – understanding the consumer and giving them what they want will always be the winning strategy.

Helen Dickinson is Head of Retail at KPMG

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