The retailer continues to sell its products–mainly accessories and toys–only in its physical stores; its website is focused on product discovery. We began by asking Schwarz what digital challenges this presents the business….
Schwarz: Although we don’t sell online, all our customers are online just like everyone else’s, and that is a huge gap. Like all other businesses we have to be where the people are and speak in the channels that they wish to speak. We need to be present digitally, even though we are not present with an online store. So this raises the question of how we connect customers from where they are physically to where they are digitally.
This brings us to social. We’ve grown our social media very quickly. In one year we have changed from having almost no social media structure to having a large team of social media managers across all our countries. It’s still a starting point for us but we need to be there for people and have in place a structure where our people are monitoring and are ready to reply, just to be there for our customers.
We worked with customer experience platform Falcon.io to do this. It’s been a really important tool for managing the community, making it really accessible for us to build a team across all these countries and grow our social media audiences. From the centre we had to find a way to collaborate–in many countries we have joint ventures–so we need to align and communicate the same message so that we are not duplicating our work 29 times. The Falcon platform enables this global collaboration to take place efficiently. Plus we need to be faster in our response time than ever before, and we rely on it for this.
CMO.com: Which social media platforms are working well for you?
Schwarz: We follow the trends so Instagram has been incredible for us and grown at an incredible pace like it has for other brands. It’s great for branding; it’s very visual and intuitive and our brand is very playful and visual too, with a quirky side that Instagram has allowed us to capture in a really unique way. It’s a good match for us as it also allows our customers to play with our product visually.
Being on Facebook is almost like the old days when you had to be in the phone book–now you have to have Facebook and it works for us because it’s broad across generations. We’re a family store so you have grandmothers following their families there too, it’s a good way to reach them.
Overall social media mirrors the kind of personal contact you can have in-store as a shop manager with a single individual customer.
The similarity may seem odd because you’re scaling up and talking to millions of customers, but it gives the sense of knowing individual preferences and having conversations with single customers. For customers the kind of accessibility it gives you to a big brand is incredible. Making ourselves available for customers in that way is really interesting and engaging for us as a brand too.
CMO.com: Have you been able to link the conversations on social to in-store purchases?
Schwarz: This is our next step, how to use the data and connect with the insights from customer service and segmentation. It really starts with the individual customer but we’ve been working to get more insight and data around our social relationships. We now better understand who these people are and the trends in their conversations when they’re talking to us and about us. We’ll use these to form the content strategy. By combining the insights from Falcon’s social listening feature we can personalise to some extent.
We will build on this experience. It’s important to remember that it all begins with the individual customer, and focusing on what she wants and needs. It’s much more core to our brand to start with that.
CMO.com: What lessons have you learned so far from your big push into social?
Schwarz: I think we’re at a turning point right now. We were so enthusiastic about connecting people we just let it explode and didn’t start with many guidelines. Now we see it going in too many different directions so we need to be more strategic and to eliminate certain things as well.
We’re looking at what should be centralised and what could be localised, without aligning everything too much and losing that emotional connection to a brand locally. We don’t want to get to a stage where there’s no room for that to develop and to connect in that sense.
In our stores it’s very easy for customers to engage with the brand too. We’re a very sensible brand where you can buy things at an affordable price; we don’t demand a lot from customers. That kind of accessibility is a really nice idea and we want to maintain that digitally, even though from a global perspective we need to be clear about the messaging and how we set the brand in motion.
I also love the pace of social media. In our stores our products change very quickly, especially compared to a brand that has just two or four selections a year. This is why it’s crucial for us to be able to continue our in-store customer relationships on social, so we can use our social media strategy to activate customers to return to our stores. The new technology we’ve used has been instrumental in enabling us to establish this feedback loop. The pace of social media and the pace of the brand are really a perfect match. We are very ambitious with our goals on social media. Obviously we don’t know how it’s going to evolve, or the next channel or where we will move too, but now we are in a good place to be able to follow that.