#1 Social media’s amplifying power is going to further stretch consumer power over brands
Tofugear’s own research into the connected consumer in Asia Pacific (stay tuned for more on that!) has revealed that 55% of Gen Z consumers in Hong Kong have made purchases because of social media influencers, while half of all millennials admit that they shop directly through social media – for instance with personal sellers.
Many brands have already turned to influencers to reach their customers. In China alone, the influencer economy is estimated to be equivalent to $17.6 billion in 2018, doubling in size since 2016 (CBNData). Challenges lie ahead for retailers and brands that want to build direct relationships with milliennials and Gen Z customers just like in the good old days.
#2 Social buzz could heavily impact your product price, and even more
Social media is bringing the impact of customers’ word-of-mouth to a whole new level, the giant network of 1.8 billion social media users in Asia alone can make your sales rocket or tarnish your brand overnight.
The vast amount of honest comments and product reviews is pushing retailers to be fully transparent and to communicate in the language of their customers. Social listening and resolution are becoming the key to maintain a genuine relationship with social influencers, as well as consumers.
This is backed up by Tofugear’s own research. For instance, over 40% of consumers in Hong Kong turn to social media to share a poor customer experience. On the other hand, half of consumers say they will have a positive opinion of a retailer that has addressed or resolved a poor customer experience. So it is very important for retailers to remain in a dialogue with consumers through social media.
#3 A “Customer First” experience starts with social media
Social media is expected to be a powerful tool to achieve “Customer Experience Excellence”, a new model introduced by KPMG’S Isabel Zisselsberger. The 6 pillars (Personalisation, Integrity, Expectations, Resolution, Time and Effort, Empathy) of the CEE model focus on exceeding customer expectations through a personalised, seamless journey without sacrificing the human touch.
Social media has becomes an excellent tool for retailers to achieve each individual pillar with its unique nature to flex between mass communications and ‘one2one’ relationships, which best serve the purpose of personalisation and resolution.
The quick spreading of comments and influencer reviews greatly minimises consumers’ efforts in product research. By being a giant network of connected individuals, social listening means retailers can understand their customers more easily. The future is expected to be social media dominant, and retailers must master social media to build an intimate relationship with their customers.
#4 Rebuilding the “Status Sandcastle” will become a priority for retailers
The explosive growth of rising economies in China and Asia has made luxury purchases mainstream, but as a result traditional bonding between customers and luxury retail brands is weakening as product ownership no longer brings a unique status.
“Experience is the new form of status” becomes the new norm for retailers, as admitted by trendwatcher Nathania Christy. Retailers need to continuously infiltrate into the experiences of consumers, and in a seamless, incentive-driven manner.
To maintain their status, retailers now need to plan, strategise, transform and innovate to connect with share-every-moment consumers. Smart retail brands like TOD’s, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton are rebuilding their ties with young generations through fashion bloggers like Mr.Bags in China, who frequently share unique perspectives around the background of brands on his social media channel.
#5 Consumers will take a leading role in future retail marketing campaigns
Most of the social buzz around brands and products does not occur on brands’ own channels and trying to gain back control will often backfire. However, the best brand campaigns actually put the power in the hands of consumers and inspire them along the stages of their purchasing journey.
This resulted in more than 30,000 posts on Instagram in 2 weeks. Nike achieved these numbers by giving away autonomy to consumers to drive the contents of the campaign. Indeed, new posts kept coming after the campaign ended as thrilled consumers were eager to share their purchases with friends on Instagram. Yet this is just one example of how social media can tie into the retail purchase journey and build emotional attachment between a brand and her customers.
Can the traditional retail model play a role?
Traditional brick-and-mortar stores give retailers a big advantage to create a unique and location-based experience for their customers. Retailers need to rethink every stage of the customer journey and how their stores can attract customers, whether by personalized in-store workshops, an insta-worthy setting or even a seamless process from social media discovery to in-store purchase. (Read more on “3 Things you need to create the perfect millennial store”).
The successful retailers of today are likely to be those who are able to leverage insights from active social listening to bridge the online and offline experience across all customer touchpoints, thus building a seamless experience and unique relationship with their customers.