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Retail trends: How to use social media to stay on top

As we all emerge from the pandemic, those retailers that have survived this difficult period are focusing on new ways to attract consumers online and tempt them back into stores. Social commerce, personalisation and experiential shopping have a huge impact on how retailers create their social media campaigns. These trends could be the key to capturing consumers online and also getting them back through the door. 

Let’s take a look at the trends that are having the greatest impact on retailers right now: 

Trend 1: Retailers will need to adapt to the rise of mindful shopping 

Mindful shopping is on the rise. 

The pandemic highlighted how much human activity impacts the environment. People are worried and they want to do their part – and know that the brands they support share their values. They’ll avoid retailers with a poor environmental record and opt for those who share their priorities for sustainability and strong environmental practices. 

In the UK, consumer interest in sustainable shopping started before the pandemic hit. Searches for “plastic-free shops near me” grew by 1,774,900% over the past three years.

It’s also worth noting that consumers – particularly Gen Z and Millennials – are continuing to be increasingly concerned about sustainability.

As retailers start thinking about their post-pandemic campaigns, it’s definitely worth considering how they can use social media to promote their sustainability efforts, taking them off static pages on the corporate website and bringing them alive on social media in order to engage with a new generation of shoppers. 

Trend 2: Social-first 

Digitisation has been a huge factor in determining which retailers did well and which failed during the pandemic. Ecommerce grew 2-5x faster (on average) during the pandemic than before (that figure was 4.5x faster in the UK and 3.3x faster in the US). Many people who started shopping online during the pandemic will continue to do so after it’s over.

Retailers are already thinking digital-first, and adopting emerging technology to support the increase in online and social shopping. (McKinsey predicts that the retail sector will have a “pandemic-related productivity acceleration” of 1 to 2.4%, thanks mainly to ecommerce and supportive processes like warehouse automation and advanced analytics, for example.)

Social selling is growing.

2020 saw the launch of both Snapchat brand profiles that act as a hub for users and feature native stores and Facebook Shops on Facebook and Instagram. TikTok entered the social shopping arena after it partnered with Shopify in late 2020. Social-first marketing for your brand will be the key and now is the time to jump on these ecommerce trends. 

Get your guide for all things social commerce right here

Trend 3: In the long-term, brands will embrace experiential retail – with social media at the heart of it 

As more consumers realised the convenience of online shopping during the pandemic, some will need a little extra to be tempted back to offline shopping. A study by Epson found that 75% of European shoppers (80% of Gen Z and Millennials) would change their shopping behaviour if retailers introduced experiential elements into their stores.

With the rise in retailers adopting emerging technologies and the increasingly omnichannel nature of retail, providing an entertainment and personalised experience in physical stores will become a crucial competitive advantage. 

Destination stores – like Nike in Times Square – are almost tourist attractions and act as another way to market the brand as shoppers share their in-store experiences over social media, and in turn, attract others into the store. 

Trend 4: Hyper-localisation and personalisation will help retailers remain competitive

Retailers are already using emerging technologies – like AI and machine learning – to develop hyper-localised and hyper-personalised content and services. Come to me Retail, for example, is a service where a concierge delivers clothes to try on and then waits to take back any returns. It’s a great example of innovation during the pandemic. 

Both the UK and US have seen a shift to local shopping during the pandemic. As consumers adhered to stay-at-home guidelines, local communities and stores have become more important – and those relationships are likely to stay after the pandemic. Seventy-five percent of US shoppers say that they plan to shop more locally over the next year rather than go back to large malls, for example.

Hyper-localisation is boosting hyper-personalisation as shoppers, and local store owners get to know each other on a first-name basis. 

Larger brands have the data to try and replicate that style of personalisation online, on social and through omnichannel in stores. We are seeing big brands investing more in localising social and digital content and offers as a result.

Trend 5: Purposeful marketing will help retailers stand out from the crowd

Consumers enjoy ethical shopping. Depop, the online fashion marketplace, surveyed its Gen Z users and found that ethical business practices were at the top of their mind when making purchase decisions. 70% cited fair wages and employee safety as priorities, while 60% said that diversity and inclusion, and the retailer reducing its ecological footprint, influenced them.

Many also want to shop with retailers they identify with. Forty-one percent of US consumers say that they prefer to buy from brands that share their social, environmental and political ideals

As we slowly come out of the pandemic, social media creates great opportunities for retailers to develop meaningful connections with consumers on social media to boost online sales, communicate their purpose and build loyalty. Let’s not forget that having the right social media campaign can help boost footfall in stores also. The key is to find the right balance for both on social media so your brand can unlock all of the potential. 

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