Effective online marketing strategy for retail businesses

Social networking websites have been very successful over the internet. They have appealed to the masses with the ability to connect with family and friends, share pictures, videos and Internet links.

Facebook, Twitter and similar sites have a huge user base. Sharing of information is becoming easy and in this scenario businesses should be all set to leverage the communication channels in their benefit to increase credibility and sales.

Online marketing

Retailers have understood that recommendations on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter play an important role in buying decisions of their consumers. Potential customers are relying on comments, suggestions and communication streams on social media sites and blogs more and more. Effectiveness of one way communication in forms of brochures, catalogs and even online newsletters is decreasing.

Many retail business owners have realized the power of social media channels to influence buyer decisions. While many are still suspicious, all would agree that monitoring the social media communications and influencing them should become a part of their online marketing strategy.

Also, one has to be creative enough to create conversations on these sites just as it is required to throw in a few free goodies to a package tied elegantly with a red ribbon.

While there are still unanswered questions regarding the value and ROI of social commerce initiatives; retailers are prepared to make use of 2010 for the initiatives irrespective of whether they have to tolerate the vagueness that surrounds ROI.

Here are a few tips that could help retailers increase their sales indirectly if they adapt themselves to leverage social networking.

1. Defining the social networking strategy.

a. Getting on to a right social media channel is very important. There are various social media channels available – social networking sites (such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter), blogs, wikis, etc. It is very important that retailers find out which social channels are most visited by their potential customers and make the best use of them. While the idea of social commerce is still emerging, the impact of social media channels on people’s buying decisions is increasing day by day.

Also, it is a wrong notion to believe that social media channels can only attract young cloud. Research proves that two third of Facebook users are adults – already passed out from their college and the user base which is growing more is in the age group of 35 and above.

b. As any conventional marketing person would tell you – allocating a very low amount of resources to a particular campaign is worse than doing no campaign at all. The social media marketing initiative should be a strategic initiative and should have a dedicated team of professionals working towards a common goal – influencing social media communications in favor of the company.

2. Build relationships by communicating with customers through social media.

a. By nature, the social media channels are ‘interactive’ in nature. Best use of the channels can be done to interact directly with your current and potential customers – provide information, resolve grievances, communicate offers and more.

b. One more interesting use of utilizing social networking sites would be to gather customer reviews and suggestions. A simple yet effective way to know what your customers are thinking, what they really want and why they prefer you or your competitor. Perceptions become clear when you run a defined and monitored campaign which can be useful for your overall marketing strategy. Discussion Forums, Ratings, Blog Entries, Surveys, Polls and Reviews are some ways to get to know your customer and your product reach better added with new idea suggestion areas and a place to leave comments would help make the retailer communicate effectively.

c. As a cliché but correct marketing thought goes – “In today’s digital world, you do not find your customers but your customers find you”. Reviews, comments and interactions on social media sites increase your visibility in eyes of your potential customers.

3. Social Networking needs to be used as a Marketing Tool.

a. Effectively allow Customer’s networks to become viral through word of mouth, share conversations about latest offers, Gift coupons and use every possible way to relate to your customer.

For example, your Facebook page can be filled with pictures of your product, customers giving feedbacks not only about the product but also about their experience shopping with you or suggestion to improvise and make your product better.

Your Twitter account should send updates on a regular basis that announce sales, product updates etc. Also, customers can post their comments, suggestions and grievances on twitter to get a fast resolution.

Interesting you tube videos can be marketed. And all these channels can be linked on to your website.

b. A gift coupon, a freebie or exclusive promotions for members of your online channels. This would encourage participation and increase your influence.

4. Targeting the right audience

a. Social networking sites have a wealth of information about your customers. Now you know where you customer lives, what he does daily and what plans he has in the coming months.

All this opens up huge potential for targeting the right consumers in a right way. If you have a right strategy – the world is yours.