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21.02.2018 | Альбина Весина

Social networks: a lifeline or a millstone?

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The role of social networks in retail should be discussed only in the context of the development of the entire retail, which irreversibly moves from the function of a point of purchase to a point of interaction, Irina Chernobrovkina, partner of Q&A in Russia, project manager of the public award "Best Store of the Year in Russia", is sure . "Based on extensive Q&A research in Europe about the future of retail, we can say that the role of social networks depends on how your customer will shop, on what kind of interaction with a particular brand he expects," lists Ms. Chernobrovkina. To answer this question, we conducted a voluminous study among buyers who will be the most active consumers in 2030, namely schoolchildren aged 14 to 17 years, asking them to describe in their own words how they imagine stores in the future and shopping. We analyzed 600 essays and came to very interesting conclusions: 69% say that offline is important and they will come to retail stores. But here the most interesting thing begins: why exactly will they come? And they will come to experiment, try, test, get an impression. The store is a playground for brands and products, a place to spend time. Fusion is the trend of the future. A fusion of a variety of formats and functions, for example, a meeting place and events, a cafe and a shop.


Based on research, the company has derived a model of buyer behavior in the future - Customer Journey ("Buyer's Path"). Each step of making a purchase was arbitrarily and spontaneously mentioned in these descriptions, and in addition, the expectations and desires that future buyers have at this stage. The resulting model was divided into three parts: Search, Shop, Share (Search – Purchase – Post on the web). «Recommendations, personal experience, the history of the brand itself – the most effective marketing today, – lists Irina Chernobrovkina. – And social media is one of the most used channels for this ».

The company calls the phone the main tool influencing the successful inclusion of social networks in marketing, service and sales channels in retail. "The next factor is the snapchat generation. The ability to change and adapt to reality "on the go". And this, among other things, is a new style of management in which an employee gets more independence, explains Irina Chernobrovkina. – Well, big data «rules »: data collection and analysis allows you to adapt prices, supply and business processes in real time. Of course, there is also the boom of "smart" marketing: the power of synchronous CRM, email marketing based on the analysis of user behavior and his personal profile. Then – chatbots: The use of smartphone apps continues to decline, and the time in messengers exceeds the time on social media pages. As a result, there will be more and more chatbots that are trained to communicate using artificial intelligence. It is worth remembering that loyalty is worth its weight in gold today. In the world of big data, it is important for retail to distinguish loyal customers who return and recommend the brand to others. It is loyal customers who have the greatest value for social media marketing. But in Russia, the buyer is traditional, when choosing a store, the price and assortment are most important to him. The service component, including in social networks, is not so important yet.



However, the company notes that, despite such a "sober" approach, according to the results of the All-Russian public survey within the framework of the "Best Store of the Year 2017"2018" award, today customers go to retail stores for quality, and to online stores; for the assortment. Another contradiction that gives out the same trends of the future, – the Russian buyer chooses a store at prices, and becomes a loyal buyer only of those brands where he highly appreciates comfort and atmosphere. "Retailers can only carefully monitor the changing preferences of their customers, know their opinion and be able to quickly adapt to the new reality," explains Irina Chernobrovkina. – For some «purely online brands » this means going to retail, for others – fusion formats or even creating meeting places for their community offline in brand spaces ».


Sergey Gudkov, Managing Partner of Initium, agrees: despite the fact that Russia always goes its own way, the general global trend is also true for domestic retail. "The future has already come, and one of the main trends is to combine information about user behavior on the web and in the real world," Mr. Gudkov shares. – It remains a matter of time for the full coverage of the audience, its full «transparency ». I think there will be new, unpredictable services that will also contribute to the economy and life of the city of the future. As for social networks, almost all well-known brands actively use them, the only question is how effectively they do it. Sometimes it seems that the page in the social network appeared to be "no worse than others". But taking care of your client is the basis of loyalty, and the main task of using SMM for the brand is to start communicating with the client directly, without intermediaries, not trying to sell anything, but rather increasing the value of the product/service for the client. This can be done only by creating professional, high-quality content. Unfortunately, many people believe that it is enough to publish information about discounts and promotions in social networks. Brands in social networks should remember the main thing: people are used to trust someone they know. Following the advice of a friend, it is easier to choose a product, a service, go to a place proven by another, than to be a pioneer. And in this, the possibilities of social services have great prospects – users may not even know each other in the real world, but interact through a virtual one.


Evgenia Klimkova, PR director of the brands Pablosky, Superfit, Imac, Legero, however, is convinced that customers have become more trusting of the brands from Instagram. "Social media is in active development, and in the first place, of course, Instagram," the expert shares. – Next – Vkontakte and Facebook. Some brands have brought their sales to Telegram. Designer brands, Korean and Chinese are the most successful in social networks. The rest use them only to support retail sales.


To be continued.


Author: Ekaterina Reutskaya

Photo: shutterstock