Can social media help reinvent the High Street and are there any lessons corporates can learn?

1 October 2013 By Northern Lights

Can social media help reinvent the High Street and are there any lessons corporates can learn? image

Tree, social media platformsSocial media has long since gone beyond the realms of chatting with friends, to being a key tool in business. And recently the Daily Telegraph said it could play a vital role in boosting retail sales.

Most shops have Facebook pages and Twitter, but how many are actually using them to effectively engage with their consumers to try and boost sales?

And is there any real difference to using social media in the B2B market to that of using it in retail?  After all, the aim of both is to connect with consumers and clients and increase business.

  1. How is social media used to boost retail?

Social media is all about engagement and blogging, Twitter and Linkedin can all help build relationships with existing and potential new clients. To find out more, read our blog 12 reasons why blogging is good for business.

John Lewis Twitter feed

If you look at the Twitter pages of our High Street stores  they, like that of John Lewis above, seem to be engaging reasonably well with their customers.

And there are plenty of examples of the smaller, niche boutiques doing Twitter well – see Cotswold Trading.

Cotswold Trading Twitter feed

The concern is for the smaller independents where they struggle to understand and use social media and may be missing out on engagement opportunities.

But in retail, when times are tough, social media can be an effective way to increase footfall as well as a good way of encouraging shop staff to build local relationships and increase sales.

A reasonably good example of using social media to engage with customers is independent branded clothes store, Great Clothes, based in Leeds.

Great Clothes Twitter feed

Great Clothes Twitter feed 1

2. Why do retailers need to embrace social media more than ever?

Even though Chancellor George Osborne has said the UK economy is “turning a corner”, there are still shops being forced to close due to the economic conditions.

The pace does seem to be reducing and last week,  PwC and the Local Data Company announced that during the first half of 2013, 18 shops closed each day compared to 20 a day a year ago.

But retailers still need to take action. Mary Portas and Bill Grimsey may have put together proposals to rejuvenate town centres but the onus must be on the retailer to do more as well.

3. What do retailers need to do?

According to Pete Doyle, who runs e-commerce agency and works with independent retailers, the future of the web is local. This means shops need to create what he calls a “distinctive offline experience.”

For instance, a project he was involved with was independent book shop Chapter One, near Reading, which is in a neighbourhood shopping area but with limited footfall.

Its margins on books were small and the owner was thinking of setting up an online ordering operation, but on Pete’s advice set up Twitter to engage with the local community instead. Now Chapter One tweets regularly about events taking place in the shop and books that both customers and staff enjoyed. Footfall has increased.

A recent study by the Internet Advertising Bureau UK found that nearly 80% of consumers would be more inclined to buy more often in the future because of a brand’s presence on social media.

4. Can this be applied to B2B?

Social media can be an opportunity for most businesses, not just retailers.  But only when it is both strategic and engaging.

compass, successThe key to success is to  research your customers and their use of social media

Then you need to think about your social media strategy and use it effectively to engage customers. Once this is in place you need to translate it into sales and development for your business.

If used successfully, Twitter, can be used as a great tool to reach out to people. To find how to set up a Twitter account for business engagement, read our blog.

Can social media realistically save our High Street? What tips can corporates pass on to retailers?

At Northern Lights PR we can help your business to understand social media and where it could add value to your business, as well as training for your senior management, sales teams and individuals. Please contact us for further information on 01423 562400.

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Written by Northern Lights


  • I think social media has to help reinvent the high street. This is a rare moment for us because nothing has been established, it’s in our hands to come up with new solutions and incorporate social media to everyday high-street buying. Or it’ll be the end of the high-street.

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