Since the birth of social media platforms, brands have been carefully adapting their marketing strategies to reach the cool kids on whatever their chosen channel of choice.
From MySpace, to Facebook, to Snapchat and beyond, it is widely known social media is a powerful tool in the hands of retailers, especially when it comes to the younger generation.
Young people have claimed they want to be able to buy products through social media where possible – something you can now do on some sites.
As for the line between shopping and social, it’s becoming thinner and thinner – people are in an “always on” shopping mode in the current day and age as technology adoption allows consumers to browse and shop anywhere at any time.
In many cases social media is used to act as a personalised recommendation service to reduce the amount of choice consumers have, and give them exposure to things they’re more likely to want to buy.
So it came to a shock for many when Lush announced in mid-April 2019 it would be switching the channels used for customer contact.
The luxury cosmetics brand posted to its followers across various platforms claiming it would “bid farewell” to some of its social media channels, and said it was sick of “fighting with algorithms” for its customers’ attention.
The brand ultimately encouraged its followers to use the #LushCommunity hashtag to spread the joy, while claiming it wanted to encourage a more 1:1 conversation with its customers by using live chat on its websites, email, or a good old traditional phone call.
It seems Lush wants to return to a model where it can deal with customer comments and complaints in a private forum, making sure it can get to everyone without having to navigate the noise of social media.
When you think of the brand’s post about this move on Instagram alone, the single interaction gained almost 66,000 views and more than 1,000 comments.
Imagine trying to sift through every one of these comments to see whether or not they need a reply.
This works fine when you have a huge team of people dedicated to social media channels, but even then it can make it difficult to present a united front from a brand perspective – do companies have style guides for social media interactions?
Sandra Schroeter, senior international product marketing manager at LogMeIn, thinks the move towards a more chat-based approach to customer service will make the brand’s life a little easier.
She said: “This is a bold move and one which is in line with today’s consumer trends. It also highlights the many benefits of choosing live chat to support customer engagement.”
It won’t be the end of the brand’s presence on social platforms, with Lush’s encouragement of the use of the #LushCommunity hashtag to push for user-curated content.
After all, who best to advocate for a brand than those who use and love it?
Lush’s websites are similarly focused on user reviews, with each product page featuring comments from people who have actually used its various soaps or its famous bath bombs.
Schroeter expects more retailers to move towards this model in the future, and said Lush may benefit from considering the use of artificially intelligent (AI) chatbots to make it easier to tackle queries.
She summarised: “AI has proven to be critical in supporting live agents throughout every interaction, providing the information they need to ensure that customers are getting personalised help around the clock.”
Is a move away from social the right one? Many customers now claim whether or not they can contact a brand on social media is likely to impact their loyalty towards that particular brand.
With young people happy to shop through social media, but brands struggling to keep up, only time will tell whether Lush’s move towards a social media blackout will help or hinder the brand’s relationship with its customers.