Social Snapshot: UK retail and social media: (Part 3: beauty)

Welcome our third examination of the social media performance of UK retailers. Our analysis of the casual outdoor fashion and toy retail sectors generated some interesting results, so we thought we’d take a good look at high street players in the health and beauty space.

With spring now in the air, there’s increasing pressure for UK consumers to get “body beautiful” in the lead up to summer. Plus, of course, the nation continues to be obsessed with celebrity culture and image. But are UK retailers effectively capitalising on social media channels as a way of exploiting these themes? Are they using social media to encourage their target audiences to invest in products that realise their desire to look good?

Social media represents a superb channel to foster a craving around individual products. It’s also a great way to communicate specific product features and benefits. There’s an opportunity to be really descriptive and supportive around people’s health and beauty needs.

The health and beauty high street marketplace in the UK is fairly saturated. Retailers in our snapshot are those that are most likely to be household names. We looked at Boots, Superdrug, The Body Shop, Lush, Neal’s Yard Remedies, L’Occitaine, Lloydspharmacy and Crabtree & Evelyn.

As with our previous two studies, we examined a number of different aspects of each retailer’s social media strategy including their audience size, engagement activities, how they implement customer service and whether they use the right promotional techniques.

For this snapshot we decided to take a ‘Top of the Pops’ approach by ranking the retailers in order, saving the best social media strategy for last.

Ranked 8th – Crabtree & Evelyn

Of all the retailers in our snapshot Crabtree & Evelyn had the least developed social media strategy in place. There is little in terms of activity, aside from a corporate blog and some simple social bookmarking implementation on its website. The retailer currently has no Facebook or Twitter presence. Crabtree & Evelyn customer demographic is increasingly on social media and such sites are very much relevant to them.  At present they are lagging behind the competition, and missing out on superb opportunities to engage with their customers, as proven by the other retailers in this study.

Ranked 7th – Lloydspharmacy

Lloydspharmacy has made a concerted effort to make sense out of social media and has built up a dedicated branded presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Despite this, we handed them 7th place because there is no real sense of community engagement. Lloydspharmacy’s audience is small compared to others in this snapshot and the tone of language is rather serious, doing little to encourage conversation from its audience. The pharmacy could boost engagement by reflecting the language used by its community and by being a bit more personable. Lloydspharmacy should also think about how social media can be better incorporated within its wider business strategy; for example, right now it doesn’t promote its social media channels via its website, something that is normally one of the first steps to take.

Ranked 6th – L’Occitaine

L’Occitaine has grown a solid social media following of 43,330 Facebook fans and 1,743 Twitter followers. The retailer is also one of only two retailers in our snapshot (the other being Lush) to have implemented the new Facebook page Timeline functionality. Whilst this audience size is good, the campaign is not without its flaws. For example, there are a number of customer service complaints across Facebook and Twitter that remain unanswered. At the time of our study the retailer’s website was promoting its previous Twitter handle, rather than the current one, and by changing to a new identity it is likely that some of its audience was lost.  It would be interesting to understand the thinking behind the change. L’Occitaine should also investigate opportunities such as social media advertising to drive further growth.

Ranked 5th – Boots

You would expect Boots, the largest retailer in this snapshot, to have the most comprehensive social media strategy in place. This is certainly true of its Facebook presence – the retailer has built up a thorough brand page that effectively uses tabs. And its community of over 200,000 fans is highly engaged on the wall. The retailer also has a significant presence on YouTube, having achieved over 1.5 million views of its useful ‘how to’ videos. However, we rank Boots only 5th because there is – surprisingly – no Twitter presence. This is (a) a wasted opportunity for customer engagement and (b) means that customer service issues may not being answered in the way that the market increasingly is coming to expect. Twitter is so central to a retailer’s online reputation management activity, and it’s surprising to see this omission from some such an established brand.

Ranked 4rd – Neal’s Yard Remedies

With just over 10,000 Facebook fans and 3,000 Twitter followers, Neal’s Yard has a relatively small audience. That said, the company is certainly going about social media in the right manner – there is a good level of brand activity and customer engagement, plus product pushes do not seem overbearing. For the company to move its strategy to the next level we recommend that Neal’s Yard looks at developing more creative Facebook marketing campaigns as well as introduce Timeline and interesting video content to bring an extra degree of engagement.

Ranked 3nd – Lush

We were impressed by Lush’s move into the social media space. Of all the retailers in this snapshot Lush has the biggest audience, with 188,000+ Facebook fans and 51,000+ Twitter followers. It has implemented Facebook Timeline, has various Facebook and Twitter accounts for individual shops, and has achieved a significant 5.3 million video views on YouTube. There is a great level of engagement around the retailer which makes up a small but key part of the dialogue. The retailer’s use of video goes down extremely well with the audience. However, some improvements can still be made to Lush’s strategy. For example, Facebook tabs are under-utilised. The company could also use its Twitter skin to communicate its offering and promote its wider social media efforts.

Ranked 2nd – Superdrug

Superdrug is going about social media in the right way. It has a dedicated presence on Facebook (150,000 fans), Twitter (13,000 followers), YouTube (150,000 video views) and has even launched a Google+ page (although there is little activity or engagement on it yet). The retailer seems to really understand its audience’s wants and desires, as proven by the reaction to its wall updates and Tweets. Superdrug is also extremely responsive to any customer gripes. On its website, social media takes pride of place – the properties are effectively promoted and the retailer has implemented the most recent forms of social sharing buttons on product pages including the Facebook ‘Like’ and the Google +1 buttons. The only thing preventing Superdrug from taking pole position is the fact that it has only used basic Facebook page functionality to engage its audience. It should fully utilise the new Facebook Timeline. If Superdrug decides to invest in interesting content and applications to promote individual campaigns, whilst combining these with targeted advertising, it will soon generate even greater engagement with its growing audience to really reap the rewards from what is a great effort.

Ranked 1st – The Body Shop

Of all the retailers in our snapshot, The Body Shop has the most comprehensive social media strategy in place. Not only has the retailer built up an impressive social media audience of 79,000 Facebook fans and 15,000 Twitter followers, it also implements its strategy extremely effectively. There is a great sense of community across its activities: it is fully utilising functionalities such as Facebook tabs and its social media properties are also promoted sufficiently via the company’s website. That said, there are certainly opportunities to grow its audience further by developing marketing campaigns and content that would encourage greater engagement with a wider audience. It’s also great to see The Body Shop keeping ahead of social media trends by developing a presence on Pinterest… an ideal space to appeal visually to a female audience. No doubt The Body Shop has some great plans around the new Facebook Pages Timeline functionality.

In summary, there is very much a mixed bag when it comes to the social media success of UK health and beauty retailers. What is completely evident is that the more effort you put into your strategy, the more you get out and the more customers will respond positively. Social media marketing is not rocket science for this space. Each retailer is trying to appeal to UK consumers so it is important to utilise all the popular social media channels. This means getting the basics right on Facebook (including implementing the new Timeline functionality), Twitter and YouTube. Once satisfied with the activity on these platforms, it’s then time to consider new and exciting social media channels such as Google+ and Pinterest. Finally, social media should be an integral part of how business is done – it should be visible for people to see across retail websites and even in-store. As with all retail sectors, health and beauty need to think multi-channel.

Jonny Rosemont is head of social media at search and social media agency, DBD Media (www.dbdmedia.co.uk)