Digital channels can help you reach customers and create a more personalized shopping experience
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, consumer buying behaviors are continuing their prepandemic shift to digital channels. Consumers are using these digital channels to research products, connect with companies and make purchases.
Retailers can rethink their use of digital channels to improve their access to customers and to create a more personalized shopping experience. Social selling is one way that companies can more effectively leverage technology and engage customers during the shopping process. There are four steps to starting a social selling initiative:
1. Choose your channel. Several social media platforms boast about their extensive user base. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat all have impressive user counts. However, an essential step in creating your primary social strategy is to know where your customers spend their time. If your customer base is active on Facebook, then start there. It can be overwhelming when deciding where to focus, and the key is to start small. Choose the one channel where your customers are most active and commit to being active on that channel several days a week.
2. Create a digital profile. Every social platform has profile standards built into its technology. When building your profile, take advantage of each section to present your brand. It all starts with a professional photo that represents you and the image you want to portray. After updating the visuals of your profile, take the time to write a customer-centric bio. Your bio should be written in a way that describes the value you provide to others. The goal is to help consumers understand how you can help them make the right buying decision.
3. Build your network. A professional network is not the same as a personal network. On personal social media accounts, you want to know people you are connecting with and have some base-level relationship before accepting an invitation. When building a professional network, you are focused on connecting with potential customers and category influencers to create value for everyone. For example, a mattress retail sales associate can connect with local real estate agents, home builders, interior designers and neighborhood resource groups. You have an opportunity to add value for them because of the work you do, and they have the potential to add value for you because of their network of connections.
4. Engage with insights. Many people set up profiles on social pages but fail to engage with the platforms. It’s like signing up for Netflix and never watching anything: There is zero value coming from the platform. Being active involves sharing information and insights that would help someone looking to purchase the mattresses and sleep accessories you sell. However, beware that social platforms are not for direct selling. The key is to inform and educate and to position yourself as an expert. Sharing a useful article, posting a helpful how-to video or commenting on something someone has posted is the way to be active.
Online to offline
The ultimate goal of the online social activity is to transition to an offline connection. As you build your network and actively participate in posting, sharing and commenting, you will come across people who are ready to talk to a mattress professional. One of the best ways to enable the shift is to make your contact information easy to find. Preparing a well-written and personalized email is another way to help turn an online connection into a selling opportunity.
Social selling is here to stay. Consumers are more comfortable with the power technology provides, and retailers who are actively part of these digital channels will see their business grow.
Craig McAndrews is a Professor in the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. He teaches a variety of courses as part of the Sales Excellence Institute, including Advanced Professional Selling and Digital Sales. McAndrews recently was recognized with the Wayne and Kathryn Payne Award for teaching excellence. Prior to joining the University of Houston, he was at Mattress Firm where he served in a variety of sales and leadership roles including chief learning officer and chief merchandising officer. In addition to teaching, McAndrews also operates CMAC Advisory Group (www.cmacadvisorygroup.com), a consulting and executive coaching firm. He lives in Friendswood, Texas, with his wife, April, and their two boys, Ben and Nate.