Online Relationship Building and Offline Sales

By: Guest | March 14, 2013 | 

Spodek, EdenToday’s guest post is by Eden Spodek.

Research shows retailers that use Twitter drive online sales, and have a competitive advantage during the holiday season.

But what is the effect of online relationship building by employees of retail brands, and eventual offline sales?

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always been a firm believer that online relationship building has a direct correlation to offline behavior and retails sales are no different.

And here’s why…

It’s a typical Saturday morning. I wake up, hop on Twitter and ask “Good morning! What are you up to this weekend?”

Small Act = Big Outcome

“@EdenSpodek werkin (sic) it the whole weekend! hope you’re doing well!” was the first response. It came from someone I’ve never met in real life. He may not even know I’ve shopped at the store he manages in downtown Toronto. But @ngazman, manager of the only West Elm store in Canada, started following me and engaging me on Twitter a few months ago.

I think I surprised him with this:

“@ngazmen Hi! Maybe I can convince @DavidSpodek to pay you a visit if the end table I want is in stock. ;)”

To be honest, the only plan I had for Saturday was to write this blog post. But I ended up buying a table I’d considered buying a couple of months ago, but couldn’t as it hadn’t arrived in the store yet. I forgot all about the table, but when Neil was the first person who popped into my Twitter feed this morning, his warm hello served as a reminder.

Our conversation continued for 21 tweets. He posted a picture of the table to confirm my description and he put it on hold for me. Neil also told me if I arrived while he was on lunch, he’d be in the back and to make sure I said hello.

Affect Me + Affect My Community

Another friend of ours was watching. She doesn’t have a West Elm in her city. She joined in the discussion and asked me to post pics. So, before I looked for Neil, I took a bunch of photos and posted them to Instragram tagging each one “#westelm.” And more discussion ensued.

Neil was just as warm and friendly in person. He had everything waiting for me and made sure to give me a big hug goodbye. Our conversation resumed on Twitter and he asked me to post pics of the table once it was assembled and in my den. Yes, I’ll be back.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s another example of great online relationship building.

DAVIDsTEA, a Canadian retail tea chain making headway in the U.S. was tweeting about its flavor of the day, Ceylon Star. DAVIDsTEA always samples their flavor of the day. So, when I got home from West Elm, I decided to take a walk and stop by my neighborhood location. Today DAVIDsTEA followed up to see if I’d made it into the store yesterday. Sure did. I ended up stocking up with $35 worth of tea and buying a take out cup of Ceylon Star!

Twitter Love and Purchasing Power

Much has been studied about the affect of Twitter and online purchasing decisions.

According to The Social Skinny, “Social media users who receive excellent customer service from brands spend on average 21 percent more than non-social customers” and 55 percent of consumers share their purchases on social networks including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Now you can even make impulsive purchases with a hashtag and a tweet. And, millennials expect brands to respond to them when they use Twitter as their customer service channel.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t limit my shopping to stores that have a Twitter presence, nor am I 100 percent convinced all retailers need to be there to handle inquiries and complaints – at least not yet.

But I know I’m not alone when I say I’m more likely to frequent a business that invests time building a relationship with me online. It’s often indicative of their overall customer service practices.

What’s your take? Do you believe retailers with an active Twitter presence help drive sales and have a distinct advantage over their competitors who don’t? Do they drive you to their bricks and mortar stores too?

Eden Spodek is a digital communications strategist with a unique perspective on emerging media and more than 20 years’ experience in communications. She’s happiest helping colleagues, clients and students be a little disruptive. She’s outspoken about the importance of building online engagement and targeted relationships, one influencer at a time. Eden is based in Toronto and can be found on many places online including TwitterFacebookPinterestInstagram, and her blog.

  • ngazmen

    EdenSpodek DAVIDsTEA SpinSucks belllindsay thank you for the kind words Eden! westelm + I ❤ YOU!

    • belllindsay

      ngazmen From the sounds of things you earned those kind words Neil! 😉 Nice work! EdenSpodek DAVIDsTEA SpinSucks westelm

      • ngazmen

        belllindsay EdenSpodek DAVIDsTEA SpinSucks westelm thanks Lindsay!!

    • EdenSpodek

      ngazmen DAVIDsTEA SpinSucks belllindsay westelm And every word is well-deserved. Another post coming up. 😉 I ❤ YOU! 2! xo

  • Joseph Gier

    I think it largely depends on what “active” means.. if they are responsive to complaints comments and critics … maybe .. if they respond to comments and do nothing substantive particularly to a complaint; not so much

  • Nice post, Eden! If a store is social savvy and is capable of helping the customer that way — I immediately think they are trustworthy and credible. If certain brands don’t offer it, I don’t have as much respect for the brand. Not saying I won’t stop buying from that store, but I sure don’t think as highly of them. Maybe it’s because I love social media? 🙂

    • @Matt_Cerms Thanks! I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s strange how that happens but there seems to be some type of psychology at play.

      • @EdenSpodek Totally! And being a sociology minor, I definitely look at these types of situations from a sociological perspective. Why the people of these companies/stores do what they do. Gives me a feel for how the executives at the top think and how that translates down the ladder. If brands are adamant about spending serious time on social to help the customers, that tells me something!

        • @Matt_Cerms I met with Neil on Tuesday and he’s so passionate about customer service and finding ways to build relationships with people. He agreed to a brief blog interview where I hope to gain and share insights about why he does what he does and how he’s building support within the company. It’s quite telling indeed.

  • A David’s Tea just opened down the street from me, across from Starbucks and nestled in between two local coffee shops. I’m curious to see how they’re going to make it. Not the point of your blog post, of course. As you know, I am a huge advocate of social media and love Twitter enough to marry it. There are organizations that don’t need to be using Twitter and Facebook (some of them are our clients), but if you have a retail location and work with consumers, it’s probably fairly wise to get on there and figure it out.

    • @ginidietrich I agree. The closest davidstea opened down the street from me last year. (See another reason why I think Chicago and Toronto are so much alike.) It’s two doors away from the nearest starbuckscanada and both places are busy but in a different way. Starbucks’ customers tend to purchase drinks and/or snacks and larger ticket items as an add-on where as David’s Tea’s customers tend to purchase the higher-priced items and a cup of tea as an add-on. They’re both active in social media although I’m curious to see how David’s Tea scales as they expand into the U.S.

  • belllindsay

    I seriously love real-life stories like these of brands really *getting* it! This post makes ME want to go to WestElm and buy some David’s Tea (and I don’t even like tea!) – lol – it’s so simple and easy to be aware and proactive when you see a tweet such as your’s on a Saturday morning – and bingo – they made a sale (and potentially many more!).

    • belllindsay

      *yours* (facepalm)

    • @belllindsay Me too! That’s exactly why people like us want to do business with them. However, if their in-person customer service and/or products sucked, no matter how good a job they were doing building relationships using social media that wouldn’t be enough. Customer service is key in all ways, shapes and forms. @ngazmen rocks and we’ve kept in touch in person and online. West Elm’s lucky to have someone like him. Overall, his team understands customer service.

    • @belllindsay Well, it’s not this comment that’s going to get you fired. Off to investigate further.


    EdenSpodek Thanks so much for the shout out, Eden! Gone back for another cup of Ceylon Star since?

    • EdenSpodek

      DAVIDsTEA You’re welcome and well-deserved. I’ve gone to my cupboard for more Ceylon Star. I have a canister now. 😉

      • DAVIDsTEA

        EdenSpodek Well that’s much closer than the shop!

  • EdenSpodek

    hessiejones Thanks, Hessie!

    • hessiejones

      EdenSpodek Always a pleasure! Great article!

  • EdenSpodek

    Toronto_PR_Guy SpinSucks Thanks Barry, that means a lot coming from you.

    • Toronto_PR_Guy

      EdenSpodek SpinSucks You’re welcome. It’s too bad more companies don’t understand the value of connecting like those you described!

      • EdenSpodek

        Toronto_PR_Guy SpinSucks Hopefully more companies will take note and improve their overall customer experience online and offline.

  • RFongTea

    EdenSpodek ngazmen DAVIDsTEA SpinSucks belllindsay Great posts, Eden! Very true. Still haven’t tasted the Ceylon Star yet.

    • EdenSpodek

      RFongTea ngazmen DAVIDsTEA SpinSucks belllindsay If you haven’t tried it by next week’s class, let me know and I’ll bring you some.

  • PattiRoseKnight1

    Reminds me of when the Avis (rental car) representative was rude to me and Gini overheard and put it on Twitter and within seconds Hertz responded to say they would love her business and we’ve used Hertz ever since.

    • @PattiRoseKnight1If only more companies would understand the value of excellent customer service and opportunities afforded to them through social media, to @ginidietrich  point. don’t like calling out companies on Twitter but I had an issue with a restaurant last month and ranted on Facebook. A friend who is one of their regulars and likes to stir things up a lot, called them out on Twitter. They didn’t even seem to care. Glad Hertz worked out for you in the end.

      • PattiRoseKnight1

        @EdenSpodek  @ginidietrich And once a company gets that customer loyalty their business grows because a loyal customer will recommend them to their friends.  It’s a win/win for the company.

    • @PattiRoseKnight1 LOL! I tell that story all the time!

      • PattiRoseKnight1

        @ginidietrich And Avis still hasn’t reached out to get back our business which is amazing considering how long you were a frequent user.  Hertz treats use like they value our business.  And that is my reason for calling them out by name.  Whoever owns Avis should go on Undercover Boss

  • This has  jeanniecw “micro interactions” written all over it. 😀

  • EdenSpodek

    trevoryoung Thanks for sharing Trevor! Glad you enjoyed my SpinSucks guest post. cc ginidietrich

    • trevoryoung

      EdenSpodek I did, always good to see true-life examples in social media 🙂

  • EdenSpodek

    elissapr SpinSucks Thanks Elissa! Don’t you love retailers who are passionate about delivering great customer service?

    • elissapr

      EdenSpodek SpinSucks Yes! and I remember your #westelm tweets – so impressive!!

      • EdenSpodek

        elissapr SpinSucks I’ve got an interview coming up with ngazmen on my blog too. Stay tuned.

        • SpinSucks

          EdenSpodek elissapr ngazmen I’m sort of obsessed with West Elm so keep me posted!!

        • EdenSpodek

          SpinSucks elissapr ngazmen Definitely!

        • westelm

          SpinSucks EdenSpodek elissapr Thanks everyone! Really great article. ngazmen is the best! 🙂

        • EdenSpodek

          westelm SpinSucks elissapr Glad you enjoyed the blog post and yes, ngazmen is a star in my books too. 😉

        • ngazmen

          EdenSpodek westelm SpinSucks elissapr thanks for all the ❤❤❤ this morning! wishing you all a fab day! #spreadlove

        • EdenSpodek

          ngazmen Thanks, you too! xoxo

  • The tough thing is convincing the “unconvinced” that the long-term value of selling one table to you extends waaaay beyond that single sale. On Twitter especially, one tiny action of being responsive has a ripple effect. The other day I watched as a major airline jumped in to help someone whose stream I follow, and of course that gets filed away in my brain under, “hmmm…they seemed really on the ball….” I didn’t engage in the tweets, and nobody knows that I even saw it, but it had an effect on my future buying behavior.

    • @rosemaryoneill That’s where case studies and testimonials from other retailers and customers are helpful when convincing the “unconvinced”, especially when you can demonstrate results by increased sales or sales as a direct result of online relationship building. Measurement tools are improving and it’s getting easier to demonstrate ROI (in addition to ROE.)

  • SpinSucks

    BarbaraDuke Thanks for sharing Barbara!

  • SpinSucks

    joecardillo Hey Joe! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • joecardillo

      SpinSucks Of course! Always a pleasure

  • What a great post! Thank you for sharing.

  • Shonali Burke Consulting

    Consumers are more likely to do business with companies that make them feel special and appreciated. Great examples of how communicating with customers via Social Media increases the customer experience! ~KL

  • EdenSpodek

    isitacordero Glad you liked my post. Have you had any similar experiences?

  • EdenSpodek

    InNetworkInc JonMikelBailey Thanks for sharing my guest post from SpinSucks. Happy Friday!

    • InNetworkInc

      EdenSpodek no problem Eden 🙂

  • EdenSpodek

    merylkevans SpinSucks Thanks! Any similar experiences you can share?

    • merylkevans

      EdenSpodek SpinSucks Not at the moment. These are retailer examples. B2B professional services is tricky.

      • EdenSpodek

        merylkevans SpinSucks There are some great B2B examples too. sysomos is one that comes to mind and lots more.

        • merylkevans

          EdenSpodek SpinSucks Thanks for sharing that. Will watch them — even though bio has “leading” provider … 🙂

  • AlinaKelly

    Great post Eden! Customer service only works if it’s lived in every aspect of the business. Thanks for sharing such great examples. I love hearing these great news stories.

    • @AlinaKelly Thanks Alina! You’re so right. Both of the examples I’ve used seem to live and breathe that philosophy. Their customer service is excellent at every touchpoint. Whenever I’ve had a problem, they’ve been attentive and provided a quick resolution. I had a negative experience at a David’s Tea location once because a store manager didn’t want to uphold one of their policies. I complained and head office responded and promised they’d improved their employee communications (unprompted) among other things.

  • ProductiveKylie

    Great post! Twitter is an interesting kettle of fish and I certainly use it in my business. I think every touch point with the customer should be consistent, however it’s also great to be able to connect and communicate online, before making a purchace.
    One thing that seems to be on the down turn is great customer service! Not sure if social media can fix this or better training.

    • @ProductiveKylie Thanks Kylie! I agree that businesses need to provide a positive customer experience at every touchpoint and that begins with their company culture and training. Social media isn’t the solution but it sure can help to spread the word quickly about customer experiences positive or negative.

  • EdenSpodek

    suddenlyjamie SpinSucks Thanks for sharing my guest post Jamie. Any good Twitter customer service stories to share?

    • suddenlyjamie

      EdenSpodek The team at urbanmoonshine was very responsive & chatty. Like you said – predisposed me to a brand preference & loyalty. 🙂

      • EdenSpodek

        suddenlyjamie urbanmoonshine It’s always great hearing about excellent online/offline customer experiences. Someone need to do a study. 😉

        • suddenlyjamie

          EdenSpodek Yes. Too many brands discount the influence a few kind words have on long-term loyalty. Related story: 🙂

        • EdenSpodek

          suddenlyjamie Agreed 100% about customer loyalty and enjoyed your analogy of playboy versus the marrying kind of guy.

  • Thanks for this post Eden and tangible examples.  Hopefully this post and others like it will wake more retailers and businesses up to the potential outcomes of responsive engagement online.

  • barbaraslade

    RT markwschaefer Online Relationship Building and Offline Sales vginidietrichich

  • EdenSpodek

    belliveaul Thanks for my SpinSucks guest post. Have you had any experiences like the examples from ngazmen westelm DAVIDsTEA?

    • belliveaul

      EdenSpodek Me, personally? No, but I’ve heard plenty of stories! Plus, I strive for such high service with my customers.

  • EdenSpodek

    MarkOrlan Glad you enjoyed Online Relationship Building & Offline Sales. Those examples truly demonstrated the value of social engagement.

  • I love case studies like these, and we hear/observe plenty because we are in the monitoring space. In those cases, we are monitoring for brand mentions, and then engaging immediately…or aggregating and doing topical analysis to determine what people are talking about and the overall sentiment towards the brand.
    However, one of my own case studies is kind of like your first example. I really wanted a meeting with a CIO of a major restaurant brand, and I tried emailing and calling him multiple times. I was also following him on Twitter, and had him setup in a list…with a Hootsuite stream tied to it.
    Well, the guy was sitting in an airport, and he ordered food from a competing restaurant chain. He then ranted on the poor food quality and service…not maliciously, he was just a ticked customer.
    I tweeted to him “just think, if that brand was using our product, they could be whispering sweet nothings to you while giving you a discount on your next purchase”…
    He tweeted back “call my assistant and arrange a meeting”!

  • lttlewys

    Sprinklr Thanks for the RT! How’s the day treating you?

    • Sprinklr

      lttlewys Our pleasure, great article! Similar to a post I enjoyed on creating offline contacts from social/ events:

      • lttlewys

        Sprinklr Ohh, I like that one.. goin to share, thanks!!

        • Sprinklr

          lttlewys Thanks Brandie! Glad you liked it 🙂

  • SpinSucks

    SHDickson Thanks or sharing Scott!

    • SHDickson

      SpinSucks You’re welcome!

  • CariCaprio

    Retailers with an active Twitter presence/ social media presence NO DOUBT helps drive sales. I was recently researching NIKE when I learned that their traditional advertising costs went down but advertising as a whole increased dramatically. Where were all these funds going to? Social media. I agree that building a relationship with a customer is extremely important and social media is a great tool. What I would like to know is the cost of monitoring and responding to millions of customers for a company like NIKE. Yes social media is “free” but how much does it cost to build that relationship?

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