Many local retailers feel threatened by social media. Their hackles go up when confronted with the idea that consumers increasingly turn to their computers and smartphones to make purchases, rather than venture out and visiting a physical store.

However, the local retail space doesn’t have to be at odds with the social media space – they can be quite complimentary, with some strategic adjustments.

Moving consumers down the sales funnel

Social media provides retailers with the opportunity to understand where their customers are in the sales funnel, and equips them with the tools to move them closer to making a purchase.

A retailer’s social audience is constantly sending signals about their buying patterns and intent. These signals, whether they are product reviews, information requests or word-of-mouth recommendations, can be analyzed and used to inform both digital and in-store marketing.

If the majority of a retailer’s social audience is comparing prices between competitors, for example, it might make sense to create a price-matching program. This will engage customers and encourage those who are already in-store to convert to a sale.

Keep their attention on- and off-line

Thanks to social media, retailers now have multiple touch-points where they can reach their customers.

For instance, as Google research uncovered, 42 percent of in-store consumers will use their smartphone and search for information while shopping. Some retailers see this as a defeat: They have lost the attention of the consumer. However, about half of these shoppers are actually searching for information about the retailer they are visiting.

This presents the opportunity to leverage social media, as well as apps or websites, to connect to consumers while they are in the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey. Retailers that provide the information that consumers want – such as prices or product reviews – will find that more casual browsers convert to customers.

Personalized incentives

Consumers are looking for engaging, personalized experiences tailored to their needs – whether they are making a one-click purchase online or a multi-stage purchase decision in-store.

Personalizing incentives is one extremely effective method of earning not only a one-time sale, but also the lifetime loyalty of a customer. Retailers can tap into social signals to determine who their customers are, and develop promotions and incentives to match.

For example, using data pulled from social media, a retailer might uncover that its customers are young professionals who enjoy Starbucks and reading online business news. The retailer could then offer premium coffee to its shoppers while they browse, to improve the in-store experience. Or, it could partner with a business news magazine and offer a free trial subscription with any purchase.

The social signals that an audience sends can be used to hone in-store promotions so that they resonate with the interests and profile of shoppers.

Social media provides data, insight and connection with retail audiences. It can be an effective tool to bring in new foot traffic and increase customer loyalty, and should be embraced – rather than shunned – by local retailers.