Shoppers Stop was one of the first Indian retailers to recognize and leverage the potential of digital and social media to engage with customers. Shoppers Stop was present on four important social media platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It was very active on these social media platforms with a large base of followers (see Table 1).
However, a large number of Shoppers Stop’s customers posted complaints about deficiency in customer service on these social media platforms, mainly on Facebook. These complaints resulted in customers assigning low ratings to the company. On Facebook, Shoppers Stop was rated 3.3 stars out of 5 stars based on 973 reviews. Out of the total reviews, 309 reviewers rated Shoppers Stop 1 star1 (see Table 2).
A significant number of 1-star ratings could have been a serious threat to the company’s brand image on social media and managing them was a challenging task.
The company also used social media platforms to promote its employer brand to prospective job seekers; for instance, Shoppers Stop used LinkedIn to reach out to job seekers by posting vacancies.2 Customer reviews were seen by other stakeholders such as current and potential employees, members of placement committees of various B-schools and professional placement consultants. Research studies indicated that a company’s customer brand influences job seekers’ behaviour and their intention to apply (Kim et al., 2011).
While Shoppers Stop promptly responded to disgruntled customers on Facebook to redress their complaints, the company was uncertain about the possible adverse impact of these customer reviews on the company’s employer brand. In May 2018, Shoppers Stop decided to investigate the possible negative impact of underperformance of its customer brand on its employer brand and the most suitable strategy to handle such outcomes. Further, it wanted to identify how to leverage its presence on various social media platforms to promote and manage its employer brand. Shoppers Stop also needed to align its employer brand with its customer brand.
Use of Social Media in Influencing Consumer Purchase
Empirical research (Mai et al., 2016) shows that social media information’s quantity, quality and credibility positively influence the perceived usefulness of an information source and intention to use it in future. Apparel retail companies employ social media platforms, especially Facebook, to communicate and interact with their customers, and enhance their relationship with them. However, the appropriateness of a particular social media channel depends on the customer’s age.
Further, social media communication may have a greater impact on customer satisfaction than other forms of communication. For example, a recent study found that customers experience a higher level of satisfaction when communicating via social media versus by phone.
Customer service concerns are one of the major reasons that consumers engage with retailers on social media and companies can gain significantly by equipping themselves to handle such concerns. Effective social media strategy for retail means listening and responding to customer complaints with care, including personalized replies, in a timely manner.
This requires dedicating time for providing customer service on social media with a ‘one-size-fits-one’ approach. For example, 60 percent of customers expect a personalized response within an hour (Barnhart, 2019).
While about 47 percent and 40 percent of customers reach out to brands on social media when they have a question related to product or service and when they have a bad experience, respectively (Barnhart, 2019), customer service goes beyond addressing questions and complaints and it also includes highlighting customers’ positive experiences on social media.
Any customer review less than 5 stars is undesirable and a well-rounded social media strategy for retail can convert that negative review into a positive one. Thus, social media for retail can be useful in both addressing the complaints of existing customers and discovering new customers. Also, for an effective social media strategy, an omnichannel social presence is recommended.