Manufacturers and retailers are constantly talking about finding new ways to drive traffic, thus added sales. First, we all have to understand that the shifting consumer shopping behavior, from how they show across different retail channels, between departments and categories across the store, to how they shop differently for brands, is a fact. It is not some esoteric thesis from a professor in a college speaking on conditions of today in business. This disruption has left both manufacturers and retails struggling to adapt. But first we have to understand through experience and research, where dollars are being spent and how to tap into changing shopping habits in order to drive growth. Consumer dollars haven’t vanished from brick & mortar. As Nielsen has stated, ‘The automation behind digital retail is changing how consumers shop Across channels, particularly online, consumers are buying less each time they shop.’ They say it is an action called ‘not filling the basket’. They further stated, ‘Their (customers) primary goal is to simply get what they want quickly and without any friction.’

That is all well and good, but how can you get them to prefer your store…get them to come into your store?

In a world where budgets in retail have decreased, primarily because sales have declined, one cannot live by what we did before…what our fathers did before us…what their fathers did before them. We live in a completely different world. Only a few things of commonality blend over the generations. Radio is still in the cars…television sets are still in the homes…and something on print is occasionally seen as we go by the place where you buy water in the airport terminal.

Remember, digital didn’t really come into fashion until the late ‘90s. And, the smartphone didn’t arrive until some 12 years ago.

Social media?

Fact: social media has replaced radio, television and print for the majority of the world today.

And, if you are not using it to advance your awareness (Yes. Potential customers still have to know who you are in order for them to buy from you.), push in brick & mortar traffic and/or eCommerce traffic to drive sales, you are living in the past.

The noise about social media not being able to convert into traffic and sales on behalf of retail has been finally put to rest.

Recently, CNA|SOPHIS completed a two year project titled RetailPositive™ which produced not only an answer to the question: ‘Can social media create brand awareness?’ but also the question: ‘Can social media create increased traffic and sales?’ at the retail level.

For comparative accuracy, both projects were measured during their first thirteen (13) weeks of their campaigns.

Working within two different industries, the firm created a strategic plan for one that had virtually no awareness at all (For nearly 40 years, one firm did no advertising nor public relations. It was built strictly via word of mouth.) The other firm had awareness but was struggling in driving traffic through its brick & mortar facilities. The two projects covered fourteen (14) locations in ten (10) States.

Project To Create Brand Awareness

This project covered eight (8) States, all of which were located within larger metro areas. With little or no brand awareness and working on an extremely small budget which dictated the use of social media as a remedy platform, after thirteen (13) weeks, the firm reached 300,000 people with over 700,000 impressions at an average cost of approximately $2.01/thousand. Twenty-five (25%) percent were reached via viral postings using public relations techniques. The key to the success of this milestone was that the strategy called for no outright advertising on social media but rather, using public relations posts to initiate all activity and boost one post per designated weeks to push brand awareness even further.

The boosting technique was critical to the brand awareness success. Within the next eleven (11) weeks, the brand will reach its goal of achieving one-half million reached with over one million impressions reached in less than one-half of a year (24 weeks).

It is important to note that five (5) social media platforms were used to achieve the brand awareness goal.

Project To Create Increased Traffic & Increase Sales

This thirteen (13) week campaign covered two (2) states and four (4) separate locations. It was supported with advertising but the cost of the project fit inside of the existing marketing budget. There were no additional costs to the creation and execution of this project.

Within five (5) weeks, not only had one location increase its traffic and sales, but also its ROI. And it remained that way throughout the remaining eight (8) weeks. Overall, it registered an increase of between five and one-half (5.5%) percent and thirteen (13%) percent for all four locations.

To be accurate, it took the remaining three (3) locations six (6) to eight (8) additional weeks to reach their goals.

The social media program was based not only on public relations posts but also paid advertising on certain social media sites. In all, paid advertising was used only on one site. All the rest were public relations driven to provide added viral exposure and reinforcement.

It is important to note that six (6) social media platforms were used to achieve the increased traffic and sales growth.

Does social media work in building brand awareness? The answer is yes.

Does social media work in building traffic and sales within the retail environment? The answer is yes.