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This post is courtesy of Retailer Solutions, Enterprise Ireland's Innovation in Retail Platform. [20th June 2012] Enterprise Ireland welcomed members of the retail community to the Irish Embassy, Londonon Thursday, 14th June 2012 to celebrate the range of exciting technologies coming out of Ireland. Enterprise Ireland...

by Kate Enright “Our fan page has a million Likes”, if you’ve ever heard this and thought, that’s pretty impressive, you’re not alone. We have all come to regard high figures like these as the holy grail of popularity, especially those of us who run social media sites. We are impressed by a page’s fan-base or a brand’s follower numbers or pin stats. But, what does it really mean? Is there more to it than just collecting figures, more than simply rolling up the counter? Or are these numbers a good enough indication of  what to expect as regards custom and loyalty?   Matt Rhodes, Strategy and Planning Director at London-based social media agency, FreshNetworks, thinks that we are missing the point completely and not thinking about what is really important in social media (and for the record, Matt hates that term). I agree completely. Let me fill you in on the back story.

by Kate Enright Augmented reality ads are slowly making their way into mainstream advertising and the minds of creatives industry-wide. More and more brands are now using the technology to engage consumers with both high impact advertising and with hidden digital content. Large organisations are now turning to augmented reality as a means of creating a stir around products online. The value in this is that the impact does not stop at those seeing the installations first hand, but there is an extremely high potential for these eye-catching campaigns to go viral, their digital nature is a huge draw. A good example of this is the recent Absolut Inspire app created by Absolut Vodka, calling for users to digitally overlay their “graffiti” onto public buildings, streets and walls. The ad alone had international viewership all over the web.

The Absolut Inspire ad campaign 2012. 

by Kate Enright There are now over 1.2 billion mobile Internet users worldwide. This exciting statistic means that business owners can no longer afford to ignore the rising tide of people accessing online content via their phones and tablets. So where to from here? The next question many are asking is, mobile app, mobile site, or both?  Based on the content you need to display and the service you need to provide, this decision is an important one. One thing is for sure however, retailers and other business owners can no longer afford to neglect the importance of their mobile presence.

by Kate Enright Last “holiday season” in the US, 50% of adult smartphone owners used their mobiles in-store to get help with purchases. This was to ensure that they got the best price possible and the most information when before making purchases. This data came from a study made by Pew of 1000 adult holiday shoppers all over the US. Pew found that 38% of shoppers called a friend while in store for advice, while 24% used their smart-phone to obtain product reviews online. 25% of phone users looked up prices online for products in-store in attempt to find the best deal online and in other stores. Altogether, 52% of all adult cell owners relied on their phone for one of these purposes and 33% specifically turned to their phone for online information while shopping inside a store.

by Kate Enright We now live in a world where every euro is appreciated and the throw-away attitude of the past is gone, the same can be said about brands consumers. Customer service expectations have been increasing consistently over the last four years, with 44% of consumers saying their expectations are higher than the previous year, compared to only 31%in 2008 [Forbes]. And, for the most part, retailers are stepping up and meeting the customer service challenge. Stories, for instance, of follow up, hand-written notes from retailers and complimentary bottles of wine sent to rooms from hotel management are now commonplace. Service providers are realising that we are living in an extremely competitive world and it is truly dog-eat-dog when it comes to getting new business and retaining old. The last thing however, that retailers/service providers should believe is that only the cheapest offerings will survive. Although, as I said, consumers do appreciate and value every cent much more so than before, that does not necessarily mean that they will always opt for the cheapest. What they will opt for, more often than not, is the best quality, the best level of service or a provider they feel connected with, simply because they want to know that they are spending their money in the best possible way with the best people. So how do we turn good customer service into customer loyalty? Firstly, you have to get to know your customer and secondly you have to take this knowledge and use to it understand what they really want and need. If you can market to that need directly and personally, tapping emotions and treating customers as individuals, you will reap the rewards. This goes beyond the generic “How was our service today?” form, email or text. After all, it has been proven that 85% of loyalty program members never hear from their loyalty programs after the day they sign up. So the generic loyalty programs in place from retailers clearly aren’t cutting it. Companies such as Swipely are thinking creatively by trimming back on loyalty cards and vouchers and using customers’ existing credit cards as vehicles to improving loyalty through clever marketing and deal offerings on behalf of merchants. Image