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9 steps for retailers to better connect social media with in-store promotions

A good website is still incredibly valuable, but Facebook and Instagram are key tools to get the word out about products and promotions. Three experts tell you how.

Now that social media is one of the foremost ways the world communicates, Facebook, Instagram and other channels have become excellent tools for independent retailers. Social media can give your store extra exposure and more connection points to both loyal and potential customers. And when used smartly, creatively and effectively, it can really boost in-store promotions. Here are nine tips, tricks and strategies for better aligning social media with your promos so you can drive more sales.

Digital retail consultant

Solidify your entire digital platform. The first thing we should talk about is the importance of building strong digital connections overall. For retailers, I think the cornerstone of—and precursor to—an effective social media program is a good website and digital newsletter. In the early days of watching this play out in traditional supermarkets, companies learned they had to develop nice websites that people could come to routinely, mainly to check ads. A good website is still very valuable. Or at an absolute minimum, a natural retailer should send out a digital newsletter to encourage engagement on Facebook, ensuring they have the opportunity to share promotions there.

Lean on vendors for content. It’s important for retailers to look to their suppliers to help with social media content. A promotional offer that’s communicated by a local retailer has more credibility among consumers than a promo communicated by some remote brand. Therefore, content from manufacturers that is delivered through one of the retailer’s media forms, such as Facebook, tends to be much more effective. From a supplier’s point of view, they are trying to boost awareness and build energy around them within retail stores. So it makes sense for them to provide retailers with content.

Ensure staff is aware of social media promos. There is nothing worse than when a shopper goes into a store and asks a question and the employees don’t know the answer. Also, very often with social media, you are striving to create conversations in-store. Using it to introduce staff members who have expertise in certain areas can be a really cool engagement-building communication.

—Bill Bishop, co-founder and chief architect of Brick Meets Click based in Barrington, Illinois


Retailer

Start conversations and offer rewards. Social media is integral to our in-store promos. Right now, for example, we’re promoting Eat Local Month to highlight all the local products we carry. We do four giveaways throughout the month and ask a question for each, such as what is your favorite local product, why and how do you use it? We also ask people to post a picture of that item—and we don’t limit it to products in our stores. Then one winner each week receives $100 in local products. We make local items easy to find throughout our stores, and these posts also inspire people to think about what they’d pick as their favorite while they are shopping.

Show how to find even more deals in-store. Even if we have a sale on an endcap, it can still get missed with everything going on in our stores, so we like to highlight deals on social media to give them an extra boost. We have perpendicular signs calling out on-sale products throughout our stores, so we’ll post a picture of a sale item along with this sign. Besides driving shoppers into our stores and improving price perception by showing we have great deals, this also familiarizes people with the sign. That way, they start clueing into it while shopping so they can find other deals not promoted on social media.

Tout new offerings interactively. When we debut a new menu or, say, offer holiday pies, we’ll post the list of options on social media and ask people to tell us their favorite, which enters them to win that item. Asking them to look over our new options on social media works great because it might make them realize, “Oh, I didn’t know Willy Street Co-op had this kind of sandwich!” Or, “Wow! Vegan, gluten-free pumpkin pie? I didn’t know anyone offered that!” This method also shows us which items really interest people so we can know what to ramp up.

—Brendon Smith, director of communications at Willy Street Co-op in Madison, Wisconsin

 

Natural products public relations expert

Encourage snapping and sharing. Shoppers, especially health-conscious types, especially women and mothers, have a desire to share products and ideas. That’s why in high-end specialty stores, you’ll often notice people with their phones in hand, reading, swiping or snapping photos. Retailers can benefit from encouraging this even more. You could have in-store signage prompting people to snap and share. Or print this same call to action on your grocery bags so that customers who order through Instacart will still see it. Also, if you look on Instagram for #groceryhaul, there are tons of people sharing what they just purchased. Vegans, vegetarians and the paleo crowd are all really into this, but I haven’t seen many retailers encouraging it yet. They should!

Know your channels and use each wisely. Usually, my first and foremost channel is Facebook, but lately I’m hearing that Instagram is very effective for retailers. It had been much easier to drill down to a specific audience with Facebook, but this has gotten easier on Instagram now that it’s integrated with Facebook. Plus, Instagram has become the main way many people learn about new products. Some retailers do a great job of utilizing Instagram Stories to promote new or on-sale products. I still see many using Twitter, but honestly, it seems to be waste of time for reaching shoppers. Twitter is more of a space to engage with influencers.

Don’t go promo loco. It’s extremely annoying when I look at a Facebook page and see blatant promotion. Yes, consumers want to know about your sales, but they also want to be inspired. People follow brands and retailers for a healthy balance of what’s in season, what you can make with those items and what is currently on sale. They want to get ideas for making life easier—and save some money along the way.

—Lisa Mabe-Konstantopoulos founder and CEO of Green Purse PR in Washington, D.C.

 

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