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Social media management for retailers: An invaluable tool

For the modern retail company, social media management is an indispensable tool. Social channels — from major platforms like FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest to newer and niche platforms — allow a retail company to advertise and sell products and build its brand.

Innovative retail companies, both large and small, are not only taking advantage of social media’s outward reach but also making the most of the consumer data that social media platforms provide. These companies use social media to broadcast and to listen, and they’re gaining invaluable information about their consumers and insight into how their products and brand are perceived — and how they fit into their customers’ lives.

For this reason, retail companies are increasingly turning to social-focused SaaS providers such as social media management and monitoring services — like HootSuite, Buffer, and TweetDeck — that collect and analyze social media data. As the number and type of social media platforms continue to grow, retailers also face a serious challenge: how to seamlessly collect and analyze data from a diverse set of social platforms.


An integrated approach

Retailers doing social media right

While the amount of social media data on consumers continues to expand, it’s not enough for retailers to simply to have access to that data — they must also be able to synthesize, process, and interpret it. Otherwise, such data could easily be misinterpreted — or become so overwhelming that it’s simply left unsorted, unused and wasted.

An integrated approach can give a retail company a bird’s-eye view of its consumer audience, as well as highly specific data about a particular consumer’s behavior. For example, consider a home furnishings retailer with showrooms in a dozen major cities and a rapidly growing online business. A customer in a small city (one without a showroom) clicks on a Facebook ad for a new line of furniture. She clicks from that furniture page on the retailer’s website to the housewares section and ends up purchasing a set of a dozen wine glasses. After receiving the glasses, she writes a review of them on the retailer’s website, posts a picture of them on Instagram (a picture which is liked by several of her friends), follows the retailer on Twitter, and pins a picture from the retailer’s new furniture line to one of her Pinterest boards.

If the retailer is effective in collecting and analyzing all of this data, it can better assess and anticipate this customer’s needs and likely purchases — thereby building a stronger relationship with that customer, as well as allowing her to be a better evangelist for the brand. While a retailer has to understand what its consumers want in broad terms, modern shoppers increasingly expect personalized options. Targeted ads and smart advertising are must-haves for the modern retailer — even if they are offering thousands of different products on a global scale. By aggregating the customer’s online browsing and purchasing history, the retailer can determine some demographic data, as well as her tastes. By integrating and sharing this data throughout the company, the retailer can directly promote additional relevant products — through email, SMS, banner ads, direct mail, and so on — from other departments (tableware, items for entertaining, and cookware, for instance) and even from partner companies, such as a specialty food retailer.

Combining her purchase history with additional information from social media and public records, the connected retailer can develop a comprehensive 360-degree customer profile that could shape major decisions — for instance, about a new showroom’s location and new product lines.

What’s more, an integrated approach to analyzing social media data can help retailers streamline business operations — so everything from marketing to inventory management to communications is more efficient. Less effective marketing tactics can be eliminated in favor of those that get better results. Stores can stock their shelves with the products their customers prefer. And disruptions from information bottlenecks can be avoided.

Integration challenges in retail

Integration is both crucial and — when dependent on custom point-to-point implementations — often difficult. A primary challenge is that consumer data is arriving via so many channels. A further challenge is the complex nature of modern retail companies operating both brick-and-mortar and online stores, and the many different legacy systems that manage everything from inventory to logistics. These legacy systems are often highly complex and quite expensive to change. Moreover, deploying such a variety of applications, systems, and services from different vendors can lead to an explosion of endpoints, data sources, and systems throughout the enterprise. While point-to-point integrations can be manageable in an environment with only a few systems, it can quickly evolve into a nightmare of complexity with the addition of just a few more. That complexity skyrockets exponentially as more and more systems and services are added over time. Increased complexity, meanwhile, brings increased costs—as organizations are forced to divert ever more time and resources to building and maintaining integration in an increasingly fragile and inflexible architecture.

MuleSoft’s CloudHub: Cloud-based social media integration

In a connected company with well-integrated systems, information flows seamlessly between applications and platforms — from data collection points to wherever it needs to go. With MuleSoft’s CloudHub, a cloud integration platform as a service (iPaaS), retailers can develop and customize integration applications that allow communication between a diverse mix of third-party social media applications — like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest — and marketing tools — like HubSpot and Marketo —  all on a single platform, enabling them to more easily automate data analysis.

CloudHub offers over 150 pre-built connectors and Anypoint Templates that connect systems, applications, and APIs — without requiring custom code. Retail companies with social media strategies have much to gain from CloudHub, which allows them to easily connect to a variety of third-party social media apps, obtain valuable information, and package it for the departments that need it.

Some SaaS providers such as Spredfast have taken on the challenge of social media monitoring and provide their customers with useful data. They monitor, process, and analyze consumer social media data, placing it all in one place for convenient access. MuleSoft offers simple solutions for integrating with such services, enabling them to more easily obtain, process, and analyze social media data.

The future of retail: Moving forward with integrated solutions

In the past, the retail business was simple: Stores stocked their shelves, and then customers chose from what was offered or simply did without. But today’s consumers are far more demanding and more resourceful: they have specific needs and desires, and they have the will and tools to find the retailer that best meets them.

The retail companies that will be around to see the next changes in consumer behavior and retail technologies are the ones who stay a few steps ahead of consumers, aggregating and analyzing social media data in order to offer up the right products at the right time, and at the right price.

Learn more about MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform and its other components or contact us today to see how CloudHub can help organizations efficiently drive business.