Kayla Marci

December 20, 2021

Can Retail Thrive Without Social Media?

How to engage with audiences of all ages outside of social platforms and nail your email strategy.

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound? This philosophical question may date back as far as 1710. Still, with cosmetics giant Lush pledging to no longer post to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, it’s not out of place to ask now. If a company with ten million followers disappears from the social media landscape, will its customers hear them?

Lush’s new strategy follows on the designer heels of Bottega Veneta going off the grid in January to launch a digital magazine. Balenciaga has since wiped all of its Instagram posts to start fresh with its Fall 2022 lookbook, while its designer Demna Gvasalia followed suit and has yet to rejoin.

So what does this mean for the future of marketing? And how can brands maintain an authentic connection to their customers outside of Reels and Likes? This report details ways to engage consumers across demographics outside traditional social media platforms and create a failsafe email communication strategy. 

EDITED uses real-time data to monitor and analyze language and images from competitor email campaigns and websites, giving your promotional planning an edge over the competition.

Reach out for a free demo to see how it's done.

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Key takeaways

  • Facebook's scandals around data privacy, mental health and misinformation have cast social media in an unfavorable light, leading to major retailers deleting platforms and relocating ad spend.

  • To engage social media native consumers in the #delete era, content needs to be created for Gen Z by Gen Z. Retailers need to consider authentic influencer endorsement and other exciting formats like livestreaming and gaming within shopping apps. Translate this into stores through QR codes and experiences that connect both the physical and virtual worlds.

  • For the mid and mature customer, information is power. Features, benefits, add ons and customer reviews must be prominently displayed, and touchpoints within apps need to be streamlined to ensure a seamless UX. To cater to this customer in stores, promote spaces as lifestyle experiences such as indoor dining, services and add ons for families.

  • Remaining the backbone of marketing campaigns, there's never been a better time for retailers to invest in email. Using EDITED Retail Intelligence, you can optimize your campaign with analytics to monitor competitor emails, understand how they position their products and perfectly time your promotions.

Why Social Media Is Losing Its Buzz

While ideal for new and emerging businesses to build a following and gain exposure, established brands are cutting the cord. It’s understandable to see why. The platforms owned by Meta Inc. (formerly Facebook) have experienced their fair share of outages. The longest in October was for more than six hours and cost the company an average of $163,565 in revenue every minute. While that’s couch change for Zuck, an outage can represent a serious loss of sales for retailers that have poured funds into social media campaigns. 

Then there’s social media’s not-so-secret impact on mental health. At the center of Facebook’s whistleblower scandal, information was leaked that 13.5% of UK teen girls say their suicidal thoughts became more frequent after starting on Instagram. 32% said that Instagram amplified negative thoughts about their bodies and 17% said their eating disorders worsened after using the app.  

To fight against filters and Facetune, Monki recently teamed up with the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, calling for the EU parliament to legislate organizations, companies, and influencers, so they are legally required to state when images have been manipulated for paid content online.

Last year, Facebook also fell out with the fashion industry for failing to stop the sharing of hate speech and misinformation, fuelling the #StopHateForProfit movement. Van's boycotted Facebook and Instagram advertising, putting its ad spend towards empowerment and education to support Black communities. At the same time, Ralph Lauren announced it would review each platform to ensure it aligned with the brand's values. 

Then on top of all that, there’s the murky world of data privacy concerns and the ever-changing algorithm. Taking all this into consideration sure makes a solid case for retailers to unplug. However, therein begs the question: how do you engage with consumers if you’re not on socials? 

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Image via Monki

Engaging Gen Z

Online & mobile

The cohort poised to be the largest consumer demographic won’t be found in traditional marketing channels. They are always plugged in and can’t recall a time without smartphones and social media. Gen Z reacts to short-form, bite-sized, attention-grabbing content made by their peers, which is what makes TikTok so appealing. Outside of social media, retailers can invest in creating content within their own shoppable apps, exploring notifications for new products, discounts and in store events as well as other engaging formats like livestreaming. A space lauded by this demographic, Depop is evolving from a shopping platform to a community space, making it an ideal outlet to win over Gen Z through collaboration or setting up a store. 

Harnessing the gaming boom is paramount for retailers wanting to connect to this consumer. Look to Vans launching a Twitch channel, where viewers could watch and help UK illustrator Dan Woodger create a pair of limited-edition sneakers from scratch. Outside of fashion Starbucks partnered with Gamify, encouraging users to play to win rewards. 

Above all, influencer marketing remains at the heart of Gen Z spending. They are almost twice as likely than millennials to make a purchase based on a recommendation of an influencer. However, aspirational lifestyles are falling out of favor. When including influencers in your antisocial marketing, ensure they are relatable and diverse. This paves the way for the rise of the "genuinfluencers," who focus on advice and information rather than selling, which can help reinforce authenticity in your campaigns.

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Van’s Email, House of Sunny Depop, boohoo Email

In store

Installations need to go beyond a flower wall destination to a space with purpose. Tapping into Gen Z’s prioritization of sustainability, promote vessels to donate used clothes to be returned or recycled and environmentally-friendly events and workshops.

The gamified experiences that draw Gen Z must translate to brick-and-mortar, helping connect the digital and physical worlds. This was successfully executed at Burberry, which digitally brought to life the infamous Greek Elpis statue in a Pokémon Go-esque AR popup in Harrods to celebrate the introduction of its Olympia handbag. In fast fashion, Monki's app launch was accompanied by a virtual treasure hunt, allowing customers to scan items around the store via a QR code to discover hidden discounts which are applied at checkout.

Interactive events with aspirational labels are a growing area of interest. Ahead of the hotly-anticipated House of Gucci film, George at Asda hid 30 pre-loved archival pieces from the Italian fashion house in its aisles, with prices starting as low as £12 and £25. Now, that’s one way to get customers through the door! 

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Burberry Email

Engaging The Mid And Mature Customer

Online & mobile

Gen Z and millennials may be hailed as the most tech-savvy, yet older generations shouldn’t be dismissed in this field. Where Zoomers have TikTok, boomers have Facebook and one in four use their mobile phone to shop. This should signal for retailers to explore text messages and double down on their shopping apps. In the absence of social media, focus on making the online UX and navigation seamless and as easy to navigate as possible.

This demographic is less impulsive with their spending and takes their time to compare and research an item before purchasing, so providing as much product information as possible within apps and email is beneficial. Ensure features and benefits are clearly displayed - infographics are a great way to convey a lot of important information in a digestible format.

Encourage shoppers to browse by linking product or add on style suggestions and have clear FAQs and delivery details. Customer reviews are also important to help build trust, so leverage these within emails.

Outside of apps, the online magazine is seeing a resurgence with Bottega Veneta, Hush and Net-a-Porter all creating shoppable content through this digital format.

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Levi's Email, Athleta Email, Net-a-Porter Email

In store 

For getting this consumer in store, look to connect mobile with services by promoting personalized experiences that can be booked via an app such as in store styling, tailoring and fitting. Reward points and loyalty schemes are also optimal and can be applied to these services. 

Transforming your stores into a one-stop lifestyle destination is essential for courting this demographic. To attract customers in store post-lockdown, Ralph Lauren opened a pop-up cafe, while John Lewis & Partners’ Edinburgh store introduced family add-ons including a play area for kids, interactive spaces for adults to relax and a consultancy for expecting parents.

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John Lewis & Partners

Optimizing Email

Web platform Hubspot reported that for 2021, emails sent to customers generated $42 for every $1 spent, an eye-popping 4,200% ROI. More tellingly, 80% of marketers said they’d rather give up social media than email outreach.

Whether retailers are on socials or not, email still stands as a go-to channel for engagement. To make your campaign stand out in customers' inboxes, we’ve harnessed the power of EDITED’s Visual Merchandising feature. This nifty function shows all promotional communications from your competitors worldwide to help tell the right story and capture the right audience. Discover how to execute the perfect email campaign by focusing on these six pointers.

1. Establish the right cadence
You don’t want to waste time sifting through competitors' newsletters to determine how frequently they send communications. At EDITED, we can do that with a click! For example, we can see that Araks has a clearer pattern of sending three emails a week compared to Fashion Nova, which sends emails daily - and around the end of November sent three emails a day to promote Black Friday.

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2. Know the best time to communicate key events

Using our keyword function, EDITED can pull out themes within email graphics and subject lines, allowing retailers to pinpoint the exact time to start talking about certain topics. As sales events like Black Friday start to blur into month-long discounts, timing is essential to ensure you’re not prematurely discounting or leaving it too late. This is beneficial to see when retailers switch up their strategy - like this year, &Other Stories began talking about Black Friday a week earlier than last year. 

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&Other Stories Email

3. Know the best time to communicate key events

Retailers can leverage email to generate sales by promoting click-throughs or encouragement to download apps with the sweetener of early sale access and rewards. Emails promoting buy now, pay later services like Klarna and Afterpay are sent on a daily basis, ramping up ahead of the holidays. In social media’s absence, this is the channel to promote events, as seen at Glossier advertising its London store opening in Covent Garden with a surprise for its first 100 visitors.

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Glossier Email, Pretty Green Email, boohooMAN Email

4. Know the best time to communicate key events

Communications should never be boring! To avoid them going straight into the delete folder, retailers should be thinking outside the (in)box - especially during sale events when consumers are bombarded with emails containing red sales banners. Get creative like Look Fantastic, which included a wheel of discounts in its Black Friday communications for recipients to spin and win, or Lee, which promoted its first virtual store via email. For EDITED customers, we round up the standout messaging and discount codes from across retailers to help you stay on top of the most important happenings each day.

Log in to read: Daily Tracker - Visual Merchandising & Discount Codes

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Image via Lee

5. Give back and do good

In the current climate where retailers are expected to weigh in on social and political issues, posts on Instagram can often be viewed as performative. Email allows more space to communicate outside of a square box and can seem more authentic and personalized when speaking about social causes, raising awareness or supporting charity initiatives. 

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Sweaty Betty Email, Patagonia Email, J.Crew Email 

6. Keep consumers informed

As the retail landscape is ever-changing, overcommunication is essential. Lean on your email campaigns to inform customers of any changes to store operations during the Omicron variant and shipping delays amid supply chain disruptions. 

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Simply Be Email, Only & Sons Email

While it may be too early to tell if a brand's departure from social media will adversely affect its sales, standing against the seedy side of internet culture may very well be worth the price. In the meantime, it's never been more critical to explore other alternatives. 

We can’t talk about emails without mentioning our Insider Briefing. It’s free, packed with important information and sent weekly. Sign up to receive it today.