The supermarket selling space is fiercer than ever; particularly with the rise of comparison sites that are directly pitting supermarkets against one another. To be a cut above the rest, retailers are turning to social media to reach out and gain custom from potential shoppers far and wide, with every major supermarket in the British marketplace having an established Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account. For a retailer, every platform represents an opportunity to push sales and brand awareness, and this has introduced social shopping, with supermarkets turning to their online accounts to employ a tactic that has come to be known as social selling.
What Is Social Selling?
Not to be confused with social media marketing or social media advertising, the practice of social selling involves using social networks to find, connect, understand and nurture sales prospects. It’s an online way to develop meaningful relationships with potential shoppers, meaning your business is naturally the first port of call when the prospect is looking to commit to a purchase.
Social selling is a byproduct of social shopping – ‘out the box’ compared to traditional sales methods – so the practice is still facing doubts and judgements from long-standing marketers. Speaking to Marketing Week, Morrisons’ marketing boss, Andy Atkinson, stated that “brands using social media to sell are making a mistake”. Despite this, other retailers such as Lidl have embraced the opportunities social media offers, helping the budget grocers become the UK’s fastest-growing supermarket. So exactly how useful is social selling to a supermarket?
Social selling doesn’t mean littering your audience with unsolicited private messages or a spiel of sales messages to clutter their timelines. Spam is not what social selling is about. Rather, social selling is about positioning your business to join conversations at the right moment, providing a solution to a problem or query that a social media user is actively going through. This could mean proactively responding to Tweets of ‘I have no idea what to make for dinner tonight…’ with dinner options and a link to the recipe on your site, or if someone asks where they can find a certain product, your brand could tune in and provide a link to exactly what they were looking for.
Social media, for the most part, is a relaxed and chatty sphere. Despite being dubbed ‘social selling’, it’s important to not come across as too salesy. Social thrives on purposeful relationships, so actually offering something useful and of value to a customer will be better received than an uninspired picture of burgers that are currently on sale. Serving something more than just promotional posts, such as a step-by-step guide to making a certain dish (which hones in on Instagram’s ability to share a series of photos) lays out to the consumer exactly what they need and how to achieve it; leading them down the sales funnel in a much more smooth and natural way.
Social Selling for Supermarkets
The Retail Feedback Report from August found that 32% of shoppers are willing to purchase a new food based on what they’ve seen on social media, while 25% of shoppers said they are connected through social with a supermarket online. With digital media becoming ‘the media’, it’s important for supermarkets to have a mixed portfolio of communications. 25 years ago, Sainsbury’s debuted a magazine to distribute recipes and sales offers, aimed at reaching customers outside of the aisles. Glossy print publications have been in circulation ever since, with Tesco and Waitrose quickly following Sainsbury’s lead.
Fast forward to 2012, Morrisons was the first brand to take its magazine to the iPad, with Waitrose becoming the first major UK grocery chain that same year to launch a YouTube channel. Now, in 2017, glossy magazines are almost obsolete, valuable only for the small number of shoppers without access to the internet or social sites. Digital is where the focus is and this year alone, Snapchat hit 10 billion daily video views and Instagram added 100 million new users across a 6 month period. Social media has been adopted at a rapid rate globally, with content reaching more eyes than a print magazine ever could – so isn’t this an ample opportunity to weave sales into the everyday lives of shoppers?
Looking at Tesco, a supermarket which has been celebrated for its social media usage before, it’s clear to see an aspect of social selling on all of the supermarket’s posts. The below image, for example, depicts a short video Tesco made of a ‘chocolate slime tart.’ It’s received nearly 14,000 views, and looking closely at the caption, you’ll notice how it tells shoppers exactly what to search for on the Tesco eCommerce website.
If the convenience of being able to find and purchase the products needed at a single click wasn’t enough, Tesco also provides conversational encouragement to gently lead shoppers down the sales funnel. “Do you think you’ll give it a go?” and “Do it, we want to see pics when you do!” are all remarks that essentially egg-on consumers to take on the product. What’s important in these comment exchanges between Tesco and its shoppers is how informal and casual they are – completely in line with the tone of voice that’s expected over social media.
Social selling provides an opportunity for supermarkets to try a different sales tactic. Rather than relying solely on discounts, offers and promotions, it allows stores to build more meaningful and loyal relationships with shoppers, whilst not being too ‘in their face’ with what’s on the table. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all part of modern day-to-day life, so with the right content, supermarkets can serve social selling content without the consumer even noticing they’re being sold to.
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