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Comment: Getting social media right for the Games


In my previous article “Building trust online”, I looked at what lengths retailers go to build and maintain trust online. This month, I would like to discuss how retailers can use social media during the 2012 Olympics to not only maximise profits, but form long-term relationships with international customers for the future.

The event is now upon us and the 2012 Games have begun after a seven-year build up. The event is estimated to attract up to 600,000 foreign visitors to London, with a global audience of 4 billion.

With visitors comes money – UK retailers are hoping that the Olympics will contribute to a multi-billion pound boost in sales. Visitor spending and associated economic output will rise on the back of the UK’s high profile as a desirable destination in coming years. Visa Europe predicts the event will create a £3.54bn impact in long-term visitor spending and the total stimulus to the economy will be £5.33bn, made up largely of £4.12bn between 2012 and 2015. High-street retailers are set to enjoy a £210m uplift, while grocers are forecast to increase their income by £88m. Westfield Stratford City, for example, is expected to have a 30 percent increase in trading hours during the Games alone.

The 2012 Games holds big opportunities for those retailers that get things right. Between July 7 and September 9, the world’s attention will be on the UK, and it’s up to retailers to take a proactive approach – both in attracting the attention of foreign visitors, and in cultivating a celebratory mood. But how can retailers take advantage of the opportunity to increase sales and branch out to the rest of the world?

The Olympics provides retailers with a once in a lifetime opportunity to secure legions of international customers – they need to make sure they are prepared to capitalise on it. British high-street brands will be visited by millions of tourists in a few weeks, many of which will return home with a very good impression – are our retailers geared up to make the most of it? Instead of just a souvenir, foreign visitors could be returning home with a lifelong relationship with British brands.

During the run up to the Games, retailers were busy reviewing their in-store and online offering to ensure it meets the demands of Olympic shoppers. While social media and mobile may currently be considered a less important feature to UK digital shoppers, it does play a major role in the shopping experience in other countries – in particular, those from Asia.

Retailers must understand where Olympic visitors come from, and deliver a service they expect – both in-store and online – to maximise sales. Visitors from China, for example, provide the biggest opportunities for fashion and luxury sectors. Drawn from findings from Capgemini’s ‘Digital Shopper Relevancy’ study, which surveyed 16,000 digital shoppers in 16 mature and developing markets, social media and mobile are the preferred methods of online retail for the Chinese population – therefore, it’s crucial that retailers have an online strategy in place to meet these needs.

Social media provides remarkable opportunities for cross border growth in regions where e-commerce is experiencing a different evolution to that in Europe. According to the same study, social media plays a major role in the shopping experience in emerging markets – in particular those from Asia. The medium will therefore provide a gateway to drive products to these shoppers during the Games, offering a seamless customer experience across various sales channels.

The Olympic shopper will likely be the most technologically advanced customers ever experienced by the British high-street. They are likely to be comfortable with multichannel sales and will expect and in fact, demand the same level of service online as offline. They will also be familiar with m-commerce, using their iPhones and Blackberrys to browse online stores and make purchases.

British retailers must utilise their position supported by the right categories and propositions to interact, engage and form close bonds with international shoppers in-store, while taking advantage of online and social media to drive sales and awareness. We’ve seen Debenhams launch a German site recently and this is just the type of innovation we need.

Stores need to embrace multichannel to bring the digital and physical sides of their businesses together during the Games, to maximise profits and form long-term relationships with foreign shoppers. The winners over the Olympics will keep their finger on the pulse, and make their decisions based on the demands of their customers – including domestic and international shoppers.

The 2012 Games are a once in a lifetime opportunity – retailers need to grab it with both hands!

Published on Monday 06 August by Editorial Assistant

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