While the economy has changed the way consumers shop, and how they spend, what has not changed is that consumers trust the opinions of friends and family, as well as people they do not know, usually more than anything the retailer has to say about the company or their products. Galeotti and Goyal (2009) purport that companies who use social media networking see higher sales and greater profits. Furthermore, Harridge-March and Quinton (2009) suggest that not only does social media networking allow for communications between consumers, but also allow retailers to develop a relationship with their customers, and therefore reduce churn. According to Mark Brohan (2009), while the economic downturn showed that online retailers were not immune to slumping sales, online sales grew by only a single digit rate last year. However, consumers remain loyal to online shopping, and as such, social media marketing provides an opportunity for retailers to develop a communication mix that is less costly, and reach consumers via a channel they want. The challenge for retailers is to identify how this digital word of mouth influences, as well as who the influencers are(Bernoff, 2010), while another 4 percent are considered to be lurkers. More importantly, a significant proportion (95%) of Tweeters are members of other social networks such as Facebook.Primarily usage of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. participation in multiple social networks by most of the retailers. It is predicted that marketers will move away from just garnering followers, fans, and tweeters, to generating sales via online social media marketing strategies and tactics. There is a fine line or balance in order successfully entice online consumers, without making they feel they are being “sold to” on the social network. To do this successfully, new metrics will need to be used to determine the appropriate segmentation strategies to deliver relevant promotions to consumers. The key is to then monitor not just the “buzz” of pass-along messages, but to analyze the content of the discussion: what consumers liked, disliked, etc. This type of information provides a simply opportunity for the retailer to capture consumer sentiment and adjust promotions. While Dell and BestBuy have used Twitter effectively to improve customer service and offer especially hard-hitting deals and promotions, it appears that Twitter may be more effective for up-and-coming brands/companies, rather than well-established corporations. An even more complicating factor: different platforms often require different software to post to individual social media networks. Retailers will need to plan across promotions as well as channels to effectively implement social media marketing programs that garner consumer engagement and generate sales in the coming year. Effective timing and coordination across multiple social network platforms and other online and interactive media will be a challenge in the coming year.
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