The Social Transformation of the Retail Business

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Hootsuite is the Official Social Relationship Platform of ICSC RECon, the global convention for the shopping center industry, happening May 17-20, 2015 in Las Vegas. ICSC is a Hootsuite Partner.

Anyone who has ever researched an item, compared prices, or made a purchase online knows firsthand how much technology has dramatically shaped and changed the retail industry.

Understanding that the consumer life cycle exists in many different forms across multiple devices, industry leaders are developing innovative omni channel marketing and sales strategies to reach them at every stage.

As reported by Forbes contributor Edmund Ingham, “the shopping centre that can provide the most immersive, exciting and attentive services are the ones that will thrive. Mall operators are realising that what ends with an in store purchase, begins online, and that they can have involvement on every step of the purchaser’s journey.”

ICSC LogoThe International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) outlined eight bold statements about the future of the retail shopping industry in their “Envision 2020” report. One of the major trends they’re forecasting is a significant increase of support for social media, including additional financial and managerial resources, to highlight retail and shopping center brands and engage the customer on both fronts.

ICSC is putting this philosophy into practice by using social media to connect an offline event with their online presence. Here are some of the lessons in social selling we can learn from the best practices they’ll be using at RECon 2015, their upcoming global convention for the shopping center industry.

Connect with consumers at every stage

As the line between the online and offline customer experience continues to blur, the retail and shopping center industries have the opportunity to connect with their audiences at each touchpoint along the way.

“The key for us is to use technology to engage with our guests at a human level before, during and after each visit”, Mall of America told Edmund Ingham from Forbes.

The experience of attending a convention begins long before an attendee steps foot in the venue. Much like the consumer buying process within the retail industry, research and price comparison often happens online before the decision to purchase a ticket is made.

Using a customized Hootsuite Command Center, ICSC will be engaging their attendees before, during, and after RECon by consistently monitoring the conversation around the convention, publishing rich content across all of their social media platforms, and acting as a virtual guest service, available to answer any questions attendees may have.

Turn offline behavior into an online experience

 Image by Startup Stock used under CC0
Image by Startup Stock used under CC0

An easy way to encourage engagement with your social media campaign is to design it around the existing behavior of your audience. Since large conventions typically involve copious amounts of walking, ICSC will be integrating this universal behavior into a social and digital campaign.

During the convention, ICSC will be tracking the steps of all RECon attendees who download the #MyStepsCount app. The top ten attendees with the most steps will be displayed on a leaderboard within the app, and three winners will be receiving prizes.

Encourage and reward social media activity

Running a contest is one of the most effective ways of building and rewarding your community while amplifying the presence of your brand on social media. Tying a social contest to an offline event can also help add an extra layer of engagement for those in attendance.

ICSC has teamed up with Hootsuite to run a contest that will reward attendees for posting about RECon on Twitter. Since it’s part of their mission to help improve and advance the skills of the shopping center industry, they will be giving away passes to Hootsuite’s Advanced Social Media Strategy course to five attendees who post to Twitter and use the #RECon15 hastag.

Entries to this contest will be showcased on a customized microsite powered by Hootsuite Campaigns, allowing them to curate a branded feed of social media activity.

Create content from social media activity

ICSC will be summing up the day’s activities through a collection of social media posts and insights from keynote speakers and popular sessions, delivered to attendees via regular blog posts and emails.

Showcasing social media activity from your community can help demonstrate that you’re actively listening to what your audience has to say, and for event attendees, it can help encourage them to continue sharing their experiences on social media.

Measure the effectiveness of your social media campaigns

The retail industry needs to ensure that the time and resources they spend implementing social media initiatives are producing measurable results.

Social data can help provide insight into consumer drivers, quantitative data that shows the business value of campaigns, and continual feedback to better organize new initiatives around the voice of the consumer.

At RECon this year, ICSC will be using uberVU via Hootsuite to gather analytics from relevant conversations happening across the web in real-time, and create actionable insights around them that will guide their campaign moving forward.

RECon 2015Recon Logo runs from May 17-20, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. To schedule a consultation with the Hootsuite team at #RECon15 email andrew.b@hootsuite.com or tweet @hootsuite using the hashtag #RECon15.