Driving recommendations and organic social sharing has become imperative for forward-thinking retail marketers. Over 14% of retail sales were online in 2022, representing over one trillion in total sales. That’s a massive market that’s only growing every year. Your retail company can greatly accelerate its growth by giving your more passionate customers the tools they need to share content about your brand quickly and easily.
This article will explore 6 proven tactics to facilitate digital and social sharing that accelerates awareness, consideration, and sales.
Conduct Social Listening Research
It’s vital that you understand the online conversations happening around and about your retail brand. Here’s a few important considerations:
- Monitoring social conversations for motivators like unique products, quality, brand affinity and customer service. Both positive and negative brand mentions should be escalated to the appropriate team and given a response ASAP. Don’t simply react to negative comments and ignore positive ones. Just as negative comments need a quick response, so do positive comments from customers. The quicker your brand can respond appropriately to a positive account, the more likely that customer is to create MORE positive content around and about your brand.
- Tracking patterns in sharing by geography, demographics and other factors. Look for trends that indicate customer behavior. Once you’ve identified behavior patterns, it will become even easier to respond quickly and appropriately to customer feedback.
- Identifying brand advocates and influencers driving significant word-of-mouth. These are your MVP customers. They are the customers who are consistently driving positive word of mouth, and you want to create and build a relationship with them. We’ll talk more about how to do this throughout this article.
These insights inform a targeted approach to activating consumers.
Incentivize Customers with Loyalty Program Perks
Loyalty programs present a prime mechanism to directly motivate social sharing and recommendations. Here’s some mechanisms to keep in mind:
- Award points or discounts for shares, UGC, tags, and reviews. Prioritize which behavior is most beneficial to your brand and structure your customer incentives to encourage that outcome.
- Develop tiered rewards based on volume and authenticity of advocacy. Structure rewards so the best rewards are given to customers for engaging in the behavior that’s most beneficial to your brand.
- Recognize top brand ambassadors and evangelists through VIP badges and perks. I’ve talked before about rewarding the behavior you want to encourage. Identify your best advocates and loyalty participants, and put the spotlight on them. Think of it as modeling to your other customers what the ideal behavior is that you want them to engage in.
- Promote social sharing pathways and benefits clearly across program touchpoints. Focus on encouraging social sharing via the channels that are most beneficial to your brand.
Leveraging loyalty initiatives turns customers into promoters and salespeople for your brand.
Launch User-Generated Content Campaigns
User-generated visuals like product photos or videos, store experience captures, and creative use cases provide customers the opportunity to sell your brand directly. Prompt UGC creation through:
- Branded hashtags – Encourage customers to tag posts with your campaign hashtag. This helps with monitoring and attribution to track ROI.
- Integration in on-site experiences – Provide signs, props and tools to make sharing in-store fun. Place prompts in high traffic areas and around products that are driving organic excitement and attention.
- Contests – Build UGC volume through prize incentives tied to creative challenges. Lean on your existing loyalty program for implementation and ideas.
- Spotlights – Repurpose compelling user content across your social channels when permissions allow. Use the most effective UGC to not only drive awareness but to also serve as an example for other customers of the type of UGC you would like to see them create as well.
UGC activates customers while expanding your original content library.
Simplify Social Sharing
The easier you make sharing, the more it will be embraced. Best practices include:
- Add social sharing buttons prominently on product pages, blog articles, in-store and across all platforms. Make sure that sharing buttons are attached to the content that you want to see shared. Low-hanging fruit should always be taken advantage of.
- Give customers examples of content they could create, such as example tweets or posts. This helps simplify the content creation process for customers.
- Develop shortlinks, custom URLs and QR codes to make links highly shareable and trackable. This gives you a better sense of what content from which customers is generating more or less traction.
Seamless social functionality entices more participation.
Partner With Micro-Influencers
Work with real customers with engaged niche followings rather than celebrities. Micro influencers have smaller followings, but typically are far more engaged with their networks. Ideal alliances:
- Offer free product and insider access in return for organic promotion to their networks. Never overlook the value of special access. True fans of your brand will see the value in getting special access that the average customer does not have. For example, bring customers on-site to engage directly with key executives involved in product marketing, design and rollout. Fans will see this access as a true perk, and view it as compensation.
- Develop exclusive collaborations and products with unique codes for them to share. Whenever possible, always make sure every piece of content that every influencer you work with creates has tracking attached to it. Unique codes are perfect to attribute shares and traction to a specific influencer.
- Seek advocates who genuinely know and love your brand over one-off sponsors. Multi-touch relationships amplify impact. If an influencer already loves your brand, they will likely already be working to help you build your brand via their content creation. On the other hand, if an influencer has no affinity toward your brand, then that influencer will be working to build their personal brand, not your company’s brand.
When followers view an influencer as a peer, their advocacy drives action. Micro-influencers have a smaller following, but that allows them to have tighter connections with that smaller following. They reach fewer people, but they can more easily have an impact on each individual person as a result.
Analyze and Continuously Optimize Social Sharing Among Your Retail Customers
A data-driven approach ensures social activation delivers measurable impact. Track:
- Share of voice vs competitors on digital and social channels. Compare and contrast your results versus those of other companies in your space. Identify what’s working for the competition, then determine WHY it’s working, and decide if you can apply the same or similar principles to improve your own efforts.
- Web referral traffic, account creation and sales derived from shares. It’s vital to know which channels and which customers/influencers are driving shares and ultimately sales. Address laggards as well as your best performers. Identify what’s working and attempt to replicate those results across all channels and shares.
- UGC content engagement rates and user sentiment. Track content creation volume as well as engagement rates and response rate. Track the types of engagement and prioritize the types of response that are most desired.
- If sharing incentives lead to a boost in participation rates among customers. Track which incentives lead to changes in behavior that are beneficial to your bramd.
Continuous optimization and creativity sustains momentum as tactics mature.
Activate Advocates Authentically
Channel the influence of delighted customers and brand advocates through innovation and ingenuity. A comprehensive plan to encourage social sharing will lead to customers driving online word of mouth, and sales. Prioritizing one high-potential tactic builds foundation for a scalable sharing ecosystem.