Retailers: How To Use Social Media To Gain Customers

Whether you’re socially savvy or still trying to navigate the murky waters of social media, there are always things you can do to increase your conversions. If you are a retailer and you’re not on the social boat yet, you’re missing out on a key tool. It won’t happen overnight but trust me: it will happen.

For example, I started the social media accounts for the company that I work for six months ago. We have surpassed all of our competitors in terms of Twitter followers (4,171 and counting) and over this past week achieved more than a 12% conversion rate from social media. Some of these conversions were on our website, while others were new customers in our local area who found us through social media. Imagine what these stats will look like in a year’s time!

Brick and mortar stores often claim that social media is not applicable to them, but it is. It really is, but knowing how to use the tools in your box is what matters most. Here are a few of my favourite tips:

Choose Your Platforms 

You can think of social media sites as having different personalities.

LinkedIn is the professional at work. Don’t get me wrong: it doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be a robot, but you should keep the memes to a minimum. It is great for people who want to sell business to business, but for the majority of retailers, it is less useful. Unless, of course, you are selling products for professionals — in which case you’ll want to try it out.

Twitter is mixed. It rocks for business to business selling and is excellent for business to consumer too. As long as you can learn to master your #hashtags and you are willing to keep finding new people to follow, you’ll do well.

Facebook is you when you are at home with your legs up on the sofa and a cup of tea in hand. It is more relaxed and best suited to those who would like to sell business to consumer.

Pinterest is the creative you. It is when you want some ideas and inspiration and is perfect for retailers who want to attract fashionistas. It is less good for someone who would like to sell drills. Although, that said, if you can think outside the box and pin photos of products that can be made using your tools, you may be onto a winner.

Instagram is photos, photos, photos. You will struggle a little to get people to click through links on Instagram because when you write the caption, Instagram wipes out the URL and makes them plain text and un-clickable. But, if you get smart with your hashtags, you can attract plenty of people to your physical store. And that’s what you want, right?

Use Your Photos & Use Them Wisely

Photos are the way to attract attention. Photos get an average of 87% interaction, whereas links, albums and plain statuses get less than 3%. Even if you are looking to convey a message, try and turn it into an image or use something like a white letter board in front of your products to spell out what’s media for business

It’s partly because people like to skim-read (You might be doing it right now!). It’s also partly just human nature. As a retailer, you know all about merchandising and you are well aware that colour makes a lot of difference to how eye-catching things are.

Use this and your merchandising knowledge to your advantage. Use an image of your new window display, combined with a graphic or some information on your new offer to call customers into your store.

Combine your photos with some local hashtags (#fareham) and some further reaching ones (#fashion) and you will attract a wide net of attention. Not all of the people you attract will be local, but that’s okay because they will be liking and sharing your images, too. This will extend your reach and also help to create some hype. It will just add to your credibility, so go for it.

Also, consider sharing your customers’ photos. Ones that are taken in your store or showing off your merchandise are the perfect sort of images to be showing others.

While your photos should have personality and should inject some fun into your social profiles, always make sure to not overstep the mark. Ask yourself:

  • Is it clear what is in the photo?
  • Does the photo match my message?
  • Does the photo complement my brand?
  • Is it cool?
  • Is everything clean? (And for fashion retailers: is everything ironed?)
  • Is there anything in the background that shouldn’t be there?


Hold some events. By events, I mean things like asking your customers to participate in a catwalk, getting a local public figure to give a demonstration, or getting a DJ in for the day to create a buzz. Get creative with it and plug it hard in the build-up. Consumers are shifting their spending to experiences over products, so don’t make them choose. Bring the experience into your store and reap the rewards of extra sales.

Don’t forget that social is supposed to be just that. Share your event information and ask local businesses to join in. Suggest share-for-shares or even ask them if they would like to also contribute to your event.

Collaboration can be a wonderful way to build your social reach and pull people into your store. Have you got any bloggers local to you? They make excellent promoters, so hold a blogger event. Invite the bloggers to your store; persuade them with a free item and the offer of a blogger networking afternoon. In exchange, ask them to post about your store, about events you have coming up — all of it. They take great photos, they understand social and they love to be invited.

 New Arrivals? Post, post, post! 

Everyone likes to think there is a low chance that they are going to bump into someone else in the same outfit. In a day and age where clothes are hugely mass produced and patterns are recycled over and over, boutiques offer something a little different. Customers love that there is a good chance that they will get something unique.

Capitalise on this by posting about new arrivals. Use marketer tools such as talking about “limited edition” products. Even if customers visit your store and end up buying something else, you have increased your revenue.

Once you have built your social media following, you could even consider forming an exclusive members group who get access to extra lines, or get the first look.

Follow Back 

A lot of people seem to assume that the name of the game on social media is to follow as few people as possible and to have as many followers as possible. Unless you are a retail giant, you are going to struggle to achieve this —  and even if you do, it isn’t ideal.

Marketing has moved on. We no longer live in a world where brands spout messengers onto their followers without recompense. The conversation is now a lot more open. Customers can tweet or message a brand when they are unhappy, and it is important that brands respond to these messages.

It is important that boutiques and small chains allow customers to interact with them on a two-way street. Ask them how their day was or what their favourite product in-store is at the moment. Engage them. After all, social is meant to be social, and you will find that the more people you follow, the more people follow you back. If you don’t follow anyone back, you will lose followers and eventually your account will become stagnant.

Integrate them 

When you sell to a customer over the till, tell them about your social! Make them aware of upcoming special offers and updates. Why? Because you have the chance to remarket your company time and time again. Whether they come back every week, month or year, it’s extra revenue. Their post-purchase engagement is hugely beneficial, too, as long as it’s positive.

For example, if they like your photo on Facebook, their friends will see it, too. The average Facebook user has 338 friends. So if 40 people “like” your photo, you will increase your reach by over 10,000 people.

These are just a few things to help you on your retail-social-conversion quest. Always remember: there should be a call to action and it should be clear what you are selling. Let your personality come across, but do not let it completely loose. Demonstrate why your customers should love you, and keep your feed positive.


Ali Newton is the Marketing Executive for the The Display Centre, where a team of creative experts provide shop fittings and display equipment, including bespoke items. Ali combines her fine art and fashion qualifications with her market research experience and psychology degree to help retailers drive their sales.