By Raghav Sood
The economic turbulence spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating impact on the retail sector. The retail industry, the second largest employer of the country, provides bread and butter to a massive chunk of the population. While retailers are trying to stay afloat during the crisis, the store restrictions, stricter curbs, early store closures, and weekend lockdowns have affected them even more adversely. The challenges posed by the pandemic made retailers find ways to engage customers and operate their business by adapting to the trends and sustaining their business and investments.
Why is social media important for the retail sector?
The world has moved on to online purchases due to the many reasons posed by the pandemic. Last year the e-commerce sector saw an upward graph of 94% volume growth compared to the previous year. The reason for this is many users converting digital. The number of internet users in India increased by 47 million (+8.2%) between 2020 and 2021, while the number of social media users in India increased by 78 million (+21%) during the same period. This number constitutes 32.3% of the total population in January 2021.
With many people converting to digital shopping, it is high time for brick-and-mortar stores to leverage social media for sustaining their business. Brick-and-mortar structure combined with social media has the incredible power to uphold the retail sector. While brick-and-mortar structures take care of logistics, communication, provision, and stocking, stores can leverage social media to engage customers and pave the way towards business growth through increased visibility and brand recognition in the market.
Social media presence doesn’t just increase the online customers but also helps establish the brand name. Social media affects the purchase decisions of 34% of shoppers, say the stats. Today with users hooked on social media, a social media campaign on marketing these retail stores can help reach their targeted audience in no time.
Additionally, social media marketing drives traffic for retail stores. Retailers use social media for awareness, purchase, loyalty and advocacy of their brand.
Here are a few reasons why the retail sector should leverage social media to revive the industry:
Social media gives the retail sector scope for expansion. It also helps reach more target customers and understand their buying behaviour. Brick-and-mortar stores can additionally promote new products and gauge their reach among the masses.
Social listening to improve consumer experience
Customer engagement is the key to keep the momentum of any business running. Social listening tools enable businesses to understand their customers better and strategize accordingly. Responding to queries, communicating, and addressing issues helps promote the store in the long run.
Understand emerging market trends
Social media enables brands to determine the ongoing trends based on customer preferences, tracking industry key terms via hashtags, and leveraging focus groups in different geographical areas. Therefore, it enables brands to strategize their position in the market accordingly.
Promote brand image
Social media makes a brand familiar due to constant visibility regardless of the location, which is comparatively impossible in a brick-and-mortar store. Additionally, identifying key influencers that align with brands’ principles is integral to drive sales and endorse brand image.
The real opportunity lies in response to the change and focusing on speedy adaptation to social media. The digital habits of customers have changed drastically since the onset of the pandemic. People rely on social media to make their purchases as well as communicate with brands. Having a social presence will open up a two-way communication channel with customers by understanding their requirements and engaging them positively. Social media is giving brick and mortar stores the desired reach when customers cannot reach them physically.
The author is co-founder, Skin Elements. Views expressed are personal.
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