The retail market is going through extraordinary change and transformation. The rise of social media is one of the drivers for this. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others have significantly changed the retail industry. Polly Barnfield OBE, the Founder and CEO of Maybe, joins Oliver Banks on the Retail Transformation Show. Together, they explore how and why this is happening and Polly highlights some excellent retail based social media case studies. If you’re interested in social media in retail, then this is the episode for you!

Introducing Polly Barnfield OBE

Polly Barnfield is the Founder and CEO of Maybe*.

Maybe* is an AI powered platform that helps you to benchmark your social media results and performance. It works across multiple social media platforms and can collate key messages and highlight important opportunities.

Maybe* also set up and run the #WDYT (What Do You Think) campaign which is designed to get high street retailers engaging customers online and through social media. One of the goals is to help retailers start to create conversations and content to pull people back into stores.

Recently, Polly has been invited onto the UK government’s High Street Task Force. She has a very clear idea of social media in retail and will be looking to transform the fortune of the industry with this.

Before Maybe*, Polly founded and ran Everyclick Ltd and was a board member of the UK government’s Entrepreneur’s Forum.

Find out more about Polly and Maybe* at or follow her on Twitter (@pollybarnfield). Maybe are also on Twitter (@maybetech)

Social media has risen and evolved rapidly

Only 15 years ago, social media was not on our radar and we could never have imagined the huge impact it would have on our lives.

Facebook was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg whilst he was at university. Of course, that story has been publicised through the film “The Social Network”. At this stage, how to use social media in retail was not on anyone’s agenda. Two years later, Twitter began life, in 2006. Then in 2010, Instagram was born. Originally as an app with fancy photo filters, it quickly caught the eye of Facebook. So, in 2012, Instagram was acquired by Facebook for $1billion.

Platforms have evolved and go through cycles. Remember sites like MySpace or Friends Reunited?

We now are using social media for 2 hours a day on average. However, for those aged 16 to 24, that increased to 3 hours a day. All that time scrolling through the feed.

Social media in retail has driven fundamental change

There are great retailers who are good examples of using social media well. In the episode, Polly points out some excellent examples of companies who are doing social media well.

You don’t need to do ecommerce to do social media in retail well

Companies like Primark and B&M Bargains are doing very well on social media. However, they don’t do ecommerce at all. But what this essentially does it focus them on driving their social traffic to their stores.

This is a good example with high quality photograph and looking to drive customers into store. The call to action is very clear and they’re appealing to that urgency to act quickly before they’re gone. I also like how they are suggesting to their following how to feel – and those same emoticons show up in how people react. This is a great example of how to do social media in retail well.

B&M on Facebook looking to drive people into their nearest store

Here’s an example from Primark too, showing a less professional photo and looking to engage people with the story behind the product. They’re looking to connect with people in their everyday lives.

Primark looking to drive customers into store

You can run successful social media campaigns with a local feel

Some companies let their stores run social media profiles. This gives the social feed a very local feel which helps to engage the local community.

For example, Hobbycraft. Their products are highly tactile and appeal to a particular niche. They use social media to promote activities in store. Here’s an example from their main Facebook page where they are looking to encourage customers to check out events happening in stores.

Hobbycraft on Facebook - promoting upcoming events in store

Stores also run their own accounts which will appeal to their local customers. For example, here is a local based post from their Solihull store which is getting support and engagement from their community.

Hobbycraft Solihull engaging with their local customers

Also, Lush look to drive people into stores where they can make Interestingly, Lush stopped their corporate, head office run accounts recently, but encouraged their stores to stay active on the platform.

Both Lush and Hobbycraft do run ecommerce but look to drive people to stores rather than to their websites.

Engaging people with what they’re interested in

Polly Barnfield also shared some other businesses that do a great job in engaging people with what they’re interested in. By not just posting sales or product based posts, these brands can engage people and earn loyalty from followers and customers.

Gymshark and Boohoo are examples of people who do this well.

Here is Gymshark, where they’re looking to engage their audience with relevant posts to what they enjoy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s gym and fitness based. They’re looking to ask their audience to join in the conversation.

Gymshark looking to inspire their followers by sharing posts that will appeal to their attitude

Meanwhile, this is an example by Boohoo. They’re looking to share the mindset of their target audience with this post. It’s funny and it appeals to people who want to comment or like the post. Of course, in turn, this shares the post with their network.

Boohoo looking to engage customers based on content that would interest, inspire or amuse their following

The key to this of course is to know your customers. You should start with identifying your ideal customers and look to really understand their lives. From their, you can craft a social media strategy that aligns with your retail business and values. You can then create content and engage in ways that are meaningful for your target customers.

If you recognise this challenge, or want to understand more, then you should check out episode 40 about five big challenges facing retailers.

Poor social media is when you use it as a broadcast channel only

One of the big mistakes for using social media in retail is to use it as a broadcast channel only. It’s not like TV. Or radio. Or billboards. Instead, you must think of social media as a channel for conversation and engagement.

This is especially true with paid posts too. In the podcast, Polly Barnfield points out that there are some brilliant comments that get made on paid ads but these can get lost and ignored.

There are more examples of things to avoid if you’re doing social media in retail. But you’ll have to listen to the episode in full to find out more.

Let’s connect – on social media!

If we’re not connected on LinkedIn, then we should be. Here’s my profile. Please remember to personalise your invite and share how you found me though. I’m regularly starting conversations over on LinkedIn and I’d love to hear what you think.

You can also find me on Twitter where I use the handle @ollie_banks.

If you enjoyed this episode, you must remember to tune in again for episode 43. This will be a follow on conversation with Polly Barnfied and we’ll be exploring how to use social media in retail stores and much more.

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