Code Worldwide

Your Retail Network is a Social Network

22.03.2012
Matt McNeany

Matt McNeany

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

‘Enterprise Social Networking’. Now there’s an overused phrase. But how can subtle, simple and inexpensive Social Networking tools transform retail marketing – improving performance and reducing stress levels for everyone involved?

Time and again, and particularly this year, clients are asking Code to create ‘retail marketing platforms’. The brief tends to start out as an efficiency play – stop us using spreadsheets, replace a clunky FTP site, make us more dynamic, enable us to tailor in-store (or branch, or restaurant etc) messages by location, day-part, demographic and so on. After that, the brief becomes about retail marketing effectiveness.

Being able to optimise activity by closing the loop i.e. tracking what a store does vs. peaks and troughs in sales, footfall, click-through etc. This creates smarter and faster decision-making, which is easily shared across the retail network.

Improving the dynamic between stakeholders

What also tends to become clear very early on is that the dynamic between retailers, other stakeholders and the brand owner can also be revolutionized by a retail marketing platform, particularly if it features Social functionality.

These stakeholders are very much a social network. Whether the client has a network of retailers, of agencies, or of global offices, there is by definition a 'community'. A community of people who are deeply engaged with the brand, who spend the best part of their days working with it and who have a strong desire to talk about it. This is a great opportunity to use Social Networking tools within the client's retail marketing platform to channel this engagement.

Harness the passion from the bar

Think about it another way. At the retailer / stakeholder annual conference, what happens at the end of the day? The participants get in the bar and talk about the brand and the company. There is the occasional complaint, but there is also a huge amount of interest in the brand, opinions on what works and what doesn't (which should be listened to) and a lot of swapping stories between peers (i.e. laterally, not just down from central Marketing and occasionally back up).

How human connections improve marketing performance

We're encouraging our clients to leverage this very human desire for connection and realise it within our MRM platforms:

  • Don't just provide the ability to locate an asset or build an ad or piece of POS; tell stories – about the brand, the advertising and the people who make them
  • Create spaces for listening – encourage feedback on Marketing content, create opportunities for stakeholders to talk to each other (like they do in the bar)
  • Promote the good stuff – highlight the successes of the local offices: use case studies (video, ideally) but also display league tables of who has the most successful banner/event/awards/cost per sale etc (nothing like a bit of friendly rivalry – sorry, we have to say gamification now – to raise everyone's standards).

These are cheap, simple techniques to implement, yet they demonstrate that you care about your network and think of them as people. Sure, you will expose yourself to a bit of criticism, but that sentiment is there anyway and by allowing personal contact with you, you will build up your brand.

Happier, more productive people

You also give yourself the opportunity to change the day-to-day relationships of the people involved. Your average trade marketing manager or retail agency account manager gets dozens of repetitive emails a day, often with the same sentiments or questions. For example:

  • What date does xyz go live?
  • Where’s that thing that was, you know, like, really good? You know the one...
  • You brand guys don’t understand what works at retail, I need to create my own retail comms
  • Send me some bespoke POS for some end-of-line stock

A retail marketing platform can make these questions redundant – either by containing easily digestible information (like best practice or learning new skills), automating processes (such as ordering, tailoring or deploying marcoms), or simply by enabling people to communicate peer-to-peer.

Driving engagement and compliance

Through Social, we have learnt that brands are built by what they do, not what they say. You need and want your network to be engaged and on-strategy, so do the simple things and create value. And don’t be surprised when your stakeholder relationships improve, productivity increases and the people involved start smiling instead of grinding their teeth.