Consumers are driving the retail market more than ever before. A significant portion of this power is due to their ability to have a voice that is heard in our busy digital world. Essentially, social media is the megaphone that amplifies one person’s voice to be heard by global companies. In this episode of the Retail Transformation Show, Polly Barnfield, OBE, continues the conversation with Oliver Banks and explores how physical stores can use social media effectively.

This is part 2 of the conversation with Polly Barnfield. Listen to part 1 of this conversation now in episode 42.

Listen to part 1

Introducing Polly Barnfield, OBE

Polly Barnfield HeadshotPolly Barnfield is the Founder and CEO of Maybe*, an AI powered platform to help you listen to social media. It will help you and your company understand social media results and performance.

In addition, Polly and her Maybe* tean also set up and run the #WDYT (What Do You Think) campaign. This is designed to get high street retailers engaging customers online and through social media. In fact, one of the goals is to help retailers start to create conversations and content to pull people back into stores. Something that is extremely relevant for this podcast episode.

You can find out more about Maybe* at or follow Polly on Twitter (@pollybarnfield).

A huge social media opportunity for retailers

Social media can be an excellent way for retailers to engage customers and potential customers. Whilst social media can be so personal, many brands only use it to direct people to their website. They don’t use it to direct people to visit stores.

This is true both for the well known brands as well as smaller independent retailers. Too many retail companies never talk about their physical presence on social media.

We must recognise that consumer behaviour has significantly changed. Increasingly, we live on our phones. And when we’re on our phones, we tend to be looking at social media.

However, as local people are looking at a local retailer’s content, they’re being directed online. They’re not being talked to directly or personally. So, this is the huge opportunity that retailers must reconsider and put into action.

How are store associates supporting social media

Many retailers control social media from a “social media team” in the head office or HQ. Whilst some retailers empower store teams to do social media under the company brand, Polly mentions that many retailers recoil in horror.

However, there is an unusual balance right now. Retailers allow and encourage store teams to engage customers face to face. But at the very same time, they do not allow them to engage on social media.

Some retailers have a store posting strategy but very few encourage store teams to engage customers and talk to people on social media. When you localise a conversation, people get engaged. If you talk about something exciting, people turn up and engage with the brand. However, the opposite is also true. If you don’t talk about it, people won’t come.

Is social media the right direction and strategy?

I played devils advocate and asked Polly Barnfield if social media was right or not.

Polly replied back with a simple solution – just look at the financials. Companies doing social media well tend to be doing well financially.

If you just use social media to say “buy my thing” then it won’t work. But, if you use it to engage with people then you’ll build a reputation in their eyes. They’ll be more likely to visit. They’ll be more likely to convert into a sale. Finally, assuming a positive experience, they’ll then be more likely to tell people about it and more likely to come back.

A case study: Boohoo vs Topshop

These 2 companies are in direct competition with each other. They target the same ideal customer but have different backgrounds. Topshop has been around since 1964 while Boohoo was founded in 2006.Topshop are in a difficult financial situation and Boohoo are booming right now.

When it comes to social media, Polly Barnfield and the Maybe* team have found some remarkable results.

To start with, Boohoo create more than 4 times the amount of content that Topshop creates.

Then, on average Boohoo get 1000 people engaging with each post. Meanwhile, Topshop have, on average, only 4 people engaging with each post.

So, Boohoo are creating more content than Topshop and they’re generating loads more engagement for each of these bits of content.

Boohoo have 4000 people engaging with their brand in the same time that Topshop can find 4 people to engage with their brand.

Not only do Boohoo have more engagement, but because Boohoo also reach more people too through the network of their fans.

Boohoo’s audience is amplifying their message a thousand-fold.

The financial results of the two companies are also at different ends of the spectrum. Coincidence? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

They are just the popular people in the room because they are amplifying the love the whole time - Polly Barnfield quote

How will social media continue to evolve?

Essentially – it’s too tough to call. It’s changing at such a fast pace, it’s difficult to predict what the next 12 months will look like. One certainty is that it will evolve. It will transform from what we know today.

Younger generations will continue to drive change on social media. It’s changing so quickly and the whole “viral” element means that new trends and apps can quickly escalate and spread.

So, it will be critically important to be flexible and adaptable as the inevitable change continues.

TikTok’s phenomenal growth

Polly references the astronomical growth of the new social media starlet, TikTok. TikTok has grown outrageously quickly in the 3 short years since it started. In that time, the platform has already been renamed twice. And now, it is the 9th most used app… In the world. Already, it has overtaken social media giants like Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat and LinkedIn.

How long will it be until it overtakes Instagram? Not long perhaps as it’s growing at a much faster rate than Facebook’s smaller sibling. Wait and see perhaps… 

Statista data on what apps social media users across the world use regularly

Data from Statista

Now is the time to focus on social media

The customer has evolved. They’ve adopted the digital world and social media faster than businesses have. Now, communication and marketing must move with the customer

Polly tells us to spot what works and continue to move with the customer. All brands must learn to adapt to these changes.

Social media is more than just a marketing broadcast channel for companies. It should be more than a customer complaint channel too. Social media should not be a responsibility that is assigned to just a team. Instead, it should be something that is understood from board level down to shop floor teams.

So, if you work for a retailer and your financial results are not where they need to be right now, you should probably have another look at social media and look for the opportunities.

Maybe*How the Maybe* platform could help

Social media is the 24-7 exit survey – done in public. It’s so easy to be able to engage with it but you need to be able to listen.

Maybe* has been created using artificial intelligence to listen and help understand what content is resonating and what impact it is having. It’s designed to give insight across the whole organisation and make key trends available for all to see. Maybe* has created an index that will help you to measures social media performance and give you greater understanding of the millions of conversations that are happening online, right now.

Get a 30 day trial and explore the Maybe* platform now.

What is your key takeaway?

Which bits did you enjoy most? What insight made your eyes light up with a new realisation? Please share your thougths and takeaways in the comments below.

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