Marks & Spencer has been using social media to engage with its customers and has seen significant a increase in sales from its marketing campaigns.
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“Happy customers are, by and large, more valuable,” said Julia Monro, head of social media at Marks & Spencer.
“Listening to customers is absolutely fundamental to doing social [media] well. Otherwise, how can you make them happy and know what they want?”
Speaking at the Internet Retailing Expo in Birmingham yesterday, Monro said M&S notices every day the impact social media has on e-commerce. If a tweet about a certain beauty product goes viral, it is likely to be the most searched product on the retailer's mobile site, she said.
M&S relaunched its website in February. It designed and built the new site around its customers' needs following two years of testing. Analytics and feedback from the previous site enabled M&S to pinpoint 40 key customer issues, and the retailer has now improved the quality of search returns by 14%.
Monro said the social media team had spent a long time planning the feedback from customers responding to the changes. “We picked up on things we would never have known otherwise,” she said. “Proper listening is about getting the feedback loop, and getting the insight from the social media team to the people with the power to change things.”
She said insight from social media should flow back into M&S's commercial strategy. If people were talking positively about a product on social media, M&S could use that insight to place it at the front of its website.
The retailer has also seen an increase in sales after driving engagement through social media campaigns. For example, Monro said customers liked M&S’s Walnut Whip chocolates, but many kept asking for the coffee flavour, which the retailer no longer sells.
Monro and her team capitalised on this nostalgic demand and used Twitter and Facebook to encourage customers to vote for a flavour that M&S should bring back to its shelves – coffee, salted caramel or orange.
“It was no surprise that coffee won,” she said. “But we have tens of thousands of people getting involved, and we are hoping it will be a commercial success as well.”
Meanwhile, M&S has seen a rise in sales of its Percy Pig sweets after another social media campaign. It used Facebook to encourage customers to create a story about Percy and his girlfriend Penny, which was then translated into a bag of sweets.
“Percy and Penny are our first ever crowd-sourced product that was born out of social,” she said.
Percy and Penny sweets were released as a limited edition after a £10,000 marketing campaign. “It was the fastest-selling bag in the range,” said Monro. “It’s now turning over millions a year.”