Smart retailers have begun to realise that they need to change their strategy for engaging with customers.

Smart retailers have begun to realise that they need to change their strategy for engaging with customers.

It is no longer enough to use traditional marketing and advertising channels alone.

Social media has revolutionised the way in which brands can engage with consumers. It is no longer about simply broadcasting messages, but far more about creating a conversation.

One retailer that has really embedded this philosophy in its business strategy is Primark. The retailer has a social media site called Primania, which has around 300,000 visitors a week.

Here, shoppers can post photographs of themselves wearing their new purchases – and showing off their bargains – and thereby promoting the retailer in the process.

With the popularity of Primania, Primark has even made the decision to forego traditional advertising with the launch of its first store in the US and rely solely on its social media site to spread the word.

And it’s not just Primark that is changing the way it engages with customers. Asos has a site called Fashion Finder which provides trends and tips as well as photos where shoppers can share their fashion ideas.

The online retailer also has a magazine with a circulation of 470,000 – outstripping well-established fashion publications such as Grazia and Glamour.

Waitrose has also branched out of traditional marketing by providing a dedicated cooking TV channel on its website.

By engaging with consumers in such clever ways, retailers like these are managing to become part of their customers’ daily life and engage in relevant conversation with them, rather than just broadcasting messages at them.

So is it likely that all retailers will eventually move to this social, shareable, conversational strategy? Quite possibly.

However, it is key that retailers find the right channels for their own particular audience. For example, part of Primania’s appeal is that shoppers post photos of their purchases with the price tags clearly visible, so that they can flag any notable bargains to other users.

It is unlikely that this same method would work for a luxury brand, however, whose high price tag would be unattainable for the masses and therefore less shareable. For this group, a luxury lifestyle magazine would probably fit the bill much better.

Forward-thinking retailers such as Primark and Asos are leading the way by showing how to create meaningful and sustainable relationships with customers.

Other retailers will need to follow suit by finding the best way to achieve this goal for their own particular brand, and then embracing this new world of digital sharing with gusto.

  • Dan Coen, director, Zolfo Cooper