In a new opinion column on Retail Times, Stephen Dunnigan, country manager, UK and Ireland, at business intelligence firm, MicroStrategy, claims retailers can make more effective use of Facebook with a data-driven approach
Facebook has been a key marketing tool in retail for years. It gives a retailer an alternative online presence, the chance to communicate directly with customers and raise the profile and perception of their brand. Stores of all sizes, types and geographies will more than likely have a significant presence on Facebook, not to mention Twitter, YouTube, Pintertest and Google+, using them to engage and interact with consumers.
But of all the social networks outlined above (and there are lots of other more niche networks to be considered too), Facebook has by far the highest number of active users – around 900m at the last estimate – and also the richest data available to retailers. People are willing to share all manner of information about their preferences, which offer retail brands enormous potential for targeted and relevant marketing. But too few retailers are using the available intelligence to better understand their customers – why is this and how can they up their game?
How many followers have you got?
Facebook appears to be a numbers game for many retailers that use it – the greater the number of fans the more successful the Facebook marketing strategy. At industry events it is not uncommon to hear a digital marketing manager drop into conversation how many Facebook fans their brand has, but this is to an extent, irrelevant. What is more important is how engaged that audience is. There is more value in having 10,000 active followers than 1,000,000 that never engage or interact with a brand.
Another common failing is in how brands use Facebook to communicate with their fans. Far too many seem content to ‘target’ those followers using just a facebook.com/retailer approach. Include that url on print and TV advertising, direct people to the Facebook Page and there is a successful campaign. The problem with this approach is that many such Facebook Pages do not have the means to offer targeted communication, relevant content that takes into account that users’ personal preferences and interests. A Facebook Page does not provide a sufficient channel for interesting interactions between consumers and a brand. Personalised access to intriguing offers, deals, and services only becomes possible when sufficient customer intelligence is available and applied.
Personalised marketing remains key
When digital marketing first came into existence, much was made of the ability for individualisation and personalisation of message. This is even more important today, yet with Facebook it seems to have been overlooked somewhat. Facebook is the world΄s most comprehensive and up-to-date database of people’s demographic information and interests, with each user on average connected to 130 other people and having 10 favourite brands or companies. Yet retailers choose to use their Facebook Page to broadcast content rather than use this information to target users based on their preferences. This is more understandable if you are a small independent store with a limited audience but for large chains or online retailers this type of marketing is a step backwards.
Facebook Pages provide news and dialogue with consumers, but cannot be targeted. Facebook Advertising allows targeted messages, but offers very limited dialogue. Neither Pages nor Advertising offer rich interactivity. Only Facebook applications let retailers bring targeted, personalised content and rich interactivity directly to consumers – why are there not more retail Facebook apps?
For example, MicroStrategy works with global fashion retailer, Guess. Guess recently launched a mobile app which rewards loyalty card members with offers based on their Facebook Likes. Guess is using MicroStrategy to link data, gleaned from Facebook’s API, with its own proprietary data via its 4m loyalty card scheme. The fashion brand will then send its loyalty card members deals and offers based on what they have Liked on Facebook, as well as their location – effective and targeted Facebook marketing.
The data residing within Facebook is incredibly powerful and all retailers need to do is know how to unlock it. This will involve marketing and IT working together – the analysis and mining of such data is very much an IT domain with the execution and targeting carried out by marketing. Powerful social intelligence tools exist that mean users can be segmented based interests, psychographics, demographics, preferences and likes. Segments can be targeted with personalised content, special offers, and recommendations based on who they are, where they come from, and what they like.
A retailer can even dig deeper into each segment to find people with common interests and personality traits, and compare segments side by side. It is possible to view top-trending and most-liked movies, music, sports, celebrities, and much more. Diving into all this level of detail means data can be used to provide even more compelling content to encourage engagement and ultimately monetise a retail Facebook presence.
Privacy and service go hand-in-hand
Facebook is about so much more than numbers and how a retailer targets its fans is far more important than sheer volume. Using apps allows personalised targeting, based on existing Facebook data, then marketing and IT must work together using the right social intelligence and analytics tools. Consumers are increasingly receptive to the idea privacy and service go hand-in-hand and are receptive to well-thought out and targeted marketing.
No-one wants to be spammed with irrelevant content broadcast to millions of others at the same time, but something personal and tailored to their preferences from a retailer they like and trust will generally be welcomed and encouraged.
MicroStrategy is one of the world’s foremost business intelligence software firms, utilising powerful analytics to provide intelligence and insight from a companies’ data. The company has a range of tools to apply social intelligence to a brand and works with a variety of retailers, including Tesco, Lloyd’s Pharmacy, Starbucks and McDonald’s.
MicroStrategy contact details:
Tel: 0208 396 0000
(A Retail Times’ sponsored article)