“You are what you share” ― Charles W. Leadbeater

A few weeks ago Mark Zuckerberg announced that one in seven people on Earth use Facebook to connect with their friends and family, after the site hit an incredible milestone of having  1 billion people log into the site on a single day. With statistics such as this, there is no doubt that digital has disrupted not just retail but how we live our lives.

This week I spoke at the Future of Retail Forum, hosted by the National Retail Association (NRA) on The Great Debate of Digital Disruption.

Nearly 80% of consumers interact with brands or products through digital before arriving at the physical stores and so are making digitally-influenced decisions much earlier in the process.

It’s not just about the moment the shopper makes a buying decision. It’s about a much broader spectrum of ‘moments that matter’ along the journey.

The customer path to purchase has moved to a journey to purchase. Have you considered at which decision points on your customer’s journey they may be interacting with your brand? Does your social media offering cater to this?

According to a recent Deloittes paper, to succeed in capturing the sale retailers need to find ways to compete for a position to be considered earlier in the customer journey.

They should focus on designing and building customer experiences that play to how their customers are shopping for their products – not just pointing consumers to purchase if what customers really seek is inspiration or information.

With consumers using mobile more for inspiration and idea generation, they will most likely be arriving at your stores with a knowledge and awareness of your retail offer and the product they may be after. Shoppers are 29% more likely to make a purchase the same day when they use social media, so the social journey to store cannot be underestimated.

When it comes to converging your social media channel into your overall brand experience and customer journey, there are seven key principles for retail fitness:

  1. Understand if the social media channel is both suited to your brand and inhabited by your customers. If you’re a small business, start on one channel and make it stand out. Don’t exhaust yourself on multiple channels from the start, build your communities and grow with them.
  2. Build brand pages that surprise and delight your customers and the larger community of users so that they’ll share their experience.
  3. Create a voice that marries to your brand and an experience that draws customers in.
  4. Start with the customers you already know and build from there.
  5. Listen to what your customers are saying.  You’ll find incredible insights into your product and business.  Then, act accordingly and tell them what you’re doing!
  6. Encourage and join the conversation, but be relevant and only add value, thereby giving people a reason to interact with you.
  7. Encourage staff to participate in conversation.

Then comes the question of can this social journey to purchase continue within your store? Do you offer free Wi-Fi?

Almost one-third of consumers say they spend more due to their use of digital during the shopping process. Most often, these shoppers end up spending more because they perform product research (leading to the purchase of a complementary or high-priced item or take advantage of a discount or coupon found online) which causes them to buy more overall.

Bringing this social journey into your store is pivotal for building the organic omni-channel retail experience that succeeds in ‘fit’ retail businesses today.

First published on Smart Company, 9th September 2015.