Social Snapshot: UK retail and social media (Part 1: Casual Outdoor Fashion)

This marks the inauguration of our sector-by-sector examination of how well businesses are really performing in terms of social media.

With high street retailers closing down at an alarming rate, we felt the time was right to examine how some of the major players are performing in terms of social media. In the first of our snapshots, we look at the casual outdoor fashion sector, namely Fat Face, White Stuff, Joules, Superdry and Crew Clothing.

OVERVIEW:

The first thing we learnt was that not one retailer in our sample had what we would define as a complete social media strategy – one that joins up and efficiently covers off owned, paid and earned media. But credit where credit’s due, each company has made a significant effort to try and make a success out of social media.

To get a general picture of the social media performance of the chosen retailers we looked at audience size, engagement, customer service, information and promotion techniques. We’ve also had a greater look at how Facebook is being used, and with Google+ now in the mix, we’ve also had a look at its impact.

AUDIENCE SIZE:

The size of your social media audience, although not the defining metric of success, is a good indication of whether activities are working or not. Superdry, the only true international retailer in our sample, managed a following of over 323,000 Facebook fans and over 17,000 Twitter followers. Fat Face and Joules can also feel proud, with over 33,800 and 83,000 Facebook fans and over 6,000 and 8,000 Twitter followers respectively.

Crew Clothing, on the other hand, has achieved just shy of 4,000 Facebook fans and White Stuff, which has only just refreshed its social media strategy, has just over 1,000 fans. On Twitter, both these retailers have around 1,000 Twitter followers. That’s surprising for a sector which appeals to a wide audience of active and enthusiastic consumers.

ENGAGEMENT:

Our retailers performed well when it comes to engagement, with all brands active on walls and having genuine consumer dialogue through Tweets. It’s crucial to get the tone right by striking a balance between being promotional and personable. Happily, the retailers in this study are, in our view, managing this.

With the exception of Crew Clothing, each of our brands had also taken the plunge with YouTube channels and has achieved a respectable level of video views.

CUSTOMER SERVICE:

Our sample group is generally quick to respond to customer questions and issues, but there is a mixed approach in resolving these issues. On Twitter, for example, Fat Face is the only brand to have a separate handle (@FatFaceCrew) to reply to customer issues. Without this, the other brands have their customer service responses diluting the positive dialogue they are having with their wider following.

Likewise, on Facebook there is also a need to smooth out the issue resolution process. There should be the realisation that customers are often reluctant to give their personal details online and that it is important to ensure that it doesn’t become a public slagging match. By providing an email address for customers to take it off line, retailers can look to resolve any customer gripe away from prying eyes.

INFORMATION AND PROMOTION TECHNIQUES:

In general the retailers in the study communicate their propositions via the information sections provided. However there are some missed opportunities. Fat Face and White Stuff are not promoting their other channels on Facebook. And, surprisingly, Superdry hasn’t included an ‘About’ summary on its Facebook page. Similarly, none of our sample brands used their Twitter account skins to convey information… a common oversight.

To our surprise, Fat Face, Joules and Superdry aren’t promoting their YouTube properties via their homepages. This highlights an over-arching lack of cross-platform integration and wider business social media promotion. Social assets are often promoted too subtly on websites. Retailers also need to ask themselves whether they are doing enough to improve visibility of their social media properties through their in-store, email and catalogue activities.

FACEBOOK:

Facebook apps and tabs, combined with advertising to drive “Likes” and interaction, are a solid way of developing more engaging environments that help drive interest towards a brand. Joules did a top job here by hosting a competition to win a photo shoot for your dog. It also included other tabs – one which highlights its Twitter account and another offering simple instructions on how to shop.

There are other good examples. Facebook was also being used by White Stuff to promote its charity efforts and Crew Clothing has gone as far as opening an F-commerce shop. All retailers should, however, ensure that they maintain a number of active tabs. Some are out of date and even redundant.

Away from the confines of Facebook’s platform and relating to integration with retailers’ websites, it is a shame that our sample’s use of Facebook didn’t stretch much further than the obvious ‘Like’ button. These retailers are missing a trick by not fully exploiting other opportunities like the Facebook login.

GOOGLE+:

Perhaps top marks should go to Superdry, Fat Face and Joules for being early adopters of Google+ brand pages. With these, they need to make sure pages offer the same level of content offered on other social platforms and are populated with relevant profile information… after all, although it is early days for mass engagement, Google+ is already a super way of influencing search results. More can also certainly be done around the wider social media/business promotion of Google+ efforts, including integration of the Google +1 button.

CONCLUSION:

In taking an overview, it is obvious these brands realise social media is a powerful tool. But all of them are missing out on the final ‘spit n polish’ that makes all the difference. So below is a handy list of recommendations.  They are, of course, also relevant to other retailers and businesses trying to make sense out of how to use social media to achieve a respectable return on investment.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Reflect best practice in social CRM.
  2. Ensure Facebook apps deliver interaction, an ability to share and most importantly a call to action.
  3. Advertise to your Facebook customer demographic to deliver the audience that will interact with your page.
  4. Provide succinct profile information and links between your different social media properties.
  5. Ensure greater promotion of social media across all customer communications channels.
  6. Reflect the latest innovations in social media sharing.
  7. Build up your Google+ presence to influence search results and enhance customer engagement.
  8. Consider further Facebook plugins and Open Graph functionality to integrate your website with your social media strategy.

Jonny Rosemont, head of social media at search and social media agency, DBD Media – www.dbdmedia.co.uk]