The internet and social media has revolutionized the way brands – specifically – retailers, interact with their audience.

What was once a monologue finally turned into a conversation between brands and their target audience, which is a massive shift for brands. 

Retailers are now able to engage with their customers openly by asking them questions and getting their feedback on different topics.

However, whether it’s due to cost, resources or time, many retail brands are using social media mainly to blast promotional content instead of interacting with their audience in a meaningful way.

These businesses are missing the mark as they aren’t taking advantage of the best part of the internet: being able to listen in on online conversations.

In fact, media monitoring has numerous benefits for retailers: whether you’re a brick and mortar or an e-commerce store. In this blog post, I’ll share 6 actionable ways retail brands can leverage media monitoring to boost their performance online.

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1. Engage with your customer base

86% of businesses are using monitoring tools to attend to the questions and concerns their customers have.

This is good news, as it aligns with exactly what consumers now expect from retails brands. Indeed, they expect the brands to listen to their needs and engage with them in a relevant way. Here are some ways that you can go about this.

Listen and insert yourself into relevant conversations

There are two scenarios.

Scenario 1: People @mentioning your brand

When someone @mentions your twitter handle on social media and expects you to answer, don’t wait.

In fact, a recent study says that 42% of consumers complaining on social media expect brands to answer within 60 minutes.

So if you’re a retail brand, you won’t be able to avoid this – respond to people mentioning you directly, as quickly as possible.

Scenario 2: People not mentioning you directly, but talking about your brand

This is what happens in 31% of social messages.

Just because someone doesn’t directly mention you – it doesn’t mean that the conversation isn’t relevant to you.

What’s more is that if you jump in those conversations proactively, you’ll surprise your customer in a good way – it’s always nice to know when brands are paying attention.

This is something Best Buy’s community managers do really well:

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Besides, when customers are happy, they also like to share it with their friends!

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Bottom line: if you care for your customers, they won’t let you down.

2. Control the conversations about your brand

Social media is can be a bit of a PR jungle. In this day and age, there’s no brand in the world that has total control of conversations about them online.

It’s impossible.

What you can do, however, is to be aware and react quickly by staying informed in real-time.

Monitor the conversations about specific stores or topics

If you’re a large retailer, chances are you have hundreds of locations. As much as you’d like to listen to conversations about each of them, it wouldn’t be easy.

Instead, what you could do is pay attention to specific locations (using keywords) where there are special events happening.

As an example, Target is opening a new store in Brooklyn. Using a monitoring tool, they could listen to all that’s said about the grand opening and jump into the conversations if and when relevant.

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This would allow you to track the success of the opening event, and see how it’s being received online.

Monitor what your employees have to say

A healthy business relies both on its customers and its employees. So it’s essential that your brand’s employees feel valued by their own organization.

This is another area media monitoring can help you with.

Here’s how best Best Buy engages with their employees. One of them shared a very positive message about how proud he is to work for the brand. Without @mentioning them directly, Best Buy still got the message and responded.

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It’s a very simple gesture and yet, it means so much.

Monitor the campaigns you run

Media monitoring can bring something to your attention before it’s gets in front of everyone else.

This is very important when a case of the ‘fake news’ hits your brand, or in this case, fake campaigns.

Here’s how one iconic UK retailer handled it. Each year, John Lewis releases a beautiful and emotional Christmas ad that is watched millions of times on YouTube.retail brands online monitoring mention amazon john lewis gif

At the beginning of November, a fake teaser “leaked” across social media platforms and was picked up by many news channels.

It generated a lot of noise and raised many questions among the fans. As soon as the prankster – Chris Moyles – revealed the joke, John Lewis jumped in to confirm it was not coming from them.

retail brands online monitoring mention amazon john lewis fake

Fortunately, the fake campaign didn’t impact John Lewis negatively and they were able track the source quickly, avoiding any massive PR scandal.

Sometimes, there’s no way you can prevent PR fires from happening. But you can always try to reduce the potential damages to your brand.

3. Defuse PR crises before they escalate

Most retailers deal with thousands, or even millions of customers on a daily basis.

All the more opportunities for a  PR crisis to strike .

But then again, you also know that most PR crises can be avoided early on – if the source is identified and dealt with properly.

Anticipate PR crises

Media monitoring will help you see and avoid most of the obstacles coming your way.

Listen to your customers’ complaints carefully

Have you heard of the epic Amazon pillowcase fail? It happened at the end of 2017. Many Amazon clients started to complain about a pillowcase they bought from the platform.

They purchased this item:

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And received … this item:

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One can’t help but laugh (it sure gave me a good one) – and it’s not even a joke.

In fact, it’s slightly less funny when you picture how much this blunder can cost in terms of returning all the goods…

This unfortunate – yet funny – event proves one thing. Amazon works with so many retailers that they cannot control everything that’s sold on their website.

Out of curiosity, I used Mention to monitor to potential bad buzz  around the Amazon brand. And in less than a minute, I found a tweet making waves:

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At the time of writing this blog post, it had almost reached 350 retweets and accumulated over 500 likes.

If not dealt with quickly, it could escalate into something very big and costly for Amazon.

What’s interesting is that the person tweeting here is not an influencer, but a average social media user with something relevant to say.

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Yet another example proving PR crises can come from anywhere, anyone, and at anytime.

It took a couple of days, but Amazon did pick it up (phew).

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Well done, Amazon.

Other than helping you manage potential PR crises, another major use case of media monitoring is to monitor your competition.

4. Monitor your competition (and learn from it)

77% of businesses rely on media monitoring it to keep an eye on their competitors, in real-time.

This means that your competition is likely watching each and every single step you take.

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And you should be doing the same.

Compare your performance to your competitors’

There’s so much you can learn from competition.

  • What are they great at?
  • Where are they failing?
  • Which conversations are they taking part in?
  • How are they interacting with their audience?
  • Which trends are they jumping on?

When it comes to the retail industry, you can also “spy” on your competition to anticipate their next move.

As an example, some of our retailer clients use media monitoring to anticipate which locations their competition will open stores in next.

They pay particularly attention to increasing conversations with local partners or influencers in specific areas they’re not present in yet.

5. Improve the overall experience you provide

Paying attention to what clients and prospects say about your products, services (or even your competition’s) is key to improving the experience you offer to your customers.

Listening to targeted conversations about your services will tell you:

  • What you’re good at: so you can keep investing in it
  • What you lack: so you can add functionalities/improve it
  • What you should drop: people can be very critical regarding a service your provide or a new process you set up. In some cases, depending on what they have to say, you could consider dropping it to keep them happy.

The bottom line is: always assume your clients know best.

After all, they come to your stores and live through the experience you create for them.

If they like something, they’ll most likely share it on social media In fact, 28% of shoppers says they like to review something after they had a positive experience.

If something went wrong during their shopping experience, you can just as likely count on them to spread the word online.

Hearing complaints is never fun, but it’s a great opportunity to understand how to improve what you offer already. Here are some things you can do if you receive constructive criticism about some common topics:

  • Your customers complain about your online checkout experience: Run A/B tests to improve it
  • People complain about waiting times at the cash register: Rethink your queuing system? Should you invest in self-checkout? Escalate the information to the person in charge

Last but not least, retail brands should try using media monitoring to identify relevant influencers to work with to boost their various campaigns’ performance.

6. Work with influencers to promote your brand

The way most brands have been advertising in the past doesn’t work anymore today. And there’s a simple reason to that.

People don’t like, nor trust ads anymore.

Instead, they want genuine content that is relevant to their interests. This is something media monitoring will help you with.

Work with influencers to push targeted messages

Influencers are called influencers because they have power over their followers.

In fact, 1 in 2 consumers usually believes anything an influencer will say on social media.

This means they have the ability to make a real difference for your brand.

Here’s an example of a retail brand working with an influencers to create a buzz around tech products:

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If you’re trying to generate awareness around your brand, you can also work with influencers to create PR campaigns.

Organize PR campaigns

Let’s take a look at a campaign run by GoSport, a sport retailer in France.

They worked on a surprising campaign with PSG (Paris Saint Germain) football players.

They set up a fake photo booth in one of their shops in which two players were hiding…

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42Jd6GllKnU&feature=youtu.be

It turned out to be a massive success for the brand.

In fact, when the average YouTube video from GoSport gets less than a thousand views, this campaign generated more than 300 000 views. If they hadn’t enlisted the help of these influencers, it would have likely had to invest a lot more time to get this type of publicity.

One tool to rule them all

Knowledge is Power” – Sir Francis Bacon

More than 400 years later, this quote has never been so meaningful. There’s so much noise online that it’s getting harder and harder to identify the signals and insights that actually matter to you and your brand.

This is were media monitoring comes in. It helps marketers and PR professionals to separate the sheep from the goats and to make sense out of the noise online.

In short, media monitoring is no longer a nice-to-have  – retailers cannot afford to be left out in the dark.

What about you? What’s your opinion on the matter? Do you have experiences to share related to using an media monitoring tool for a retail brand?

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Clément is Content Marketer for Mention. He creates content to help brands manage their online reputation strategy. If not behind a screen, you can find him reading books in Parisian cafés or exploring the city with his dog.