Ideas & Debate

Well executed social media strategies will be game changers in Kenya’s retail market war

The Junction Mall in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE
The Junction Mall in Nairobi. PHOTO | FILE  

On May 28, Garden City Mall on Thika Road is going to open its doors to shoppers. It is Kenya’s first integrated residential, retail and office development.

With the opening of its first phase of 33,000 square metres of retail space, it is a shoppers paradise offering both local and international brands. And once it is completed in 2017 it will be the country’s largest shopping mall.

But this title for the largest shopping complex will only last until Two Rivers opens its doors, boasting of 100,000m2 of shopping experience.

The retail war is on and investors are pulling out all the stops to ensure they get foot traffic inside their doors.

The wide variety of local and international brands that shopping malls are offering is a key attraction for customers, but their ability to manage their social media presence as well as engage their online audience will be an added advantage towards reaching their target numbers.


Endless opportunities

Nairobi was recently ranked Africa’s most intelligent city for the second year running by the Intelligent Community Forum. It is a cosmopolitan city with a population of 4.3 million people and home to many multinationals, which contribute to the cosmopolitan nature of its residents.

In their second quarter report of 2014/2015, the Communication Authority of Kenya says data and Internet usage grew by 10.8 per cent to reach 16.4 million users up from 14.8 million the previous quarter.

These numbers should make retailers happy as they are proof that the middle class is growing and there are endless opportunities available for malls that adopt the right social media strategy.

How can malls use social media to attract and retain customers?

Let us first get something out of the way. A successful social media strategy is dependent on only one thing; a great business plan. Anything less than a sound plan and social media has no power to turn a business into a good or a great one. Technology only works in tandem with a solid business strategy.

Social media offers an opportunity for retailers to rethink their relationships with their customers. With the majority of Nairobi residents being tech savvy, we are looking at a demanding customer base that knows its way around tech.

The first step towards a successful social media strategy is getting together the right team – a team that understands customer needs and expectations and will not rest until they get the job done. It needs to be a team that will offer ideas and the means to engage customers in the malls.

These team members should be able to visit stores in the mall and capture content such as new products and services, launches and sales events as well as anything else that will appeal to their online audience.

The fact that most malls have a presence on various social media platforms is a step in the right direction. But what value are they adding with that presence?

Is their presence on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram only serving as a venue for self-promotion or is it adding value for their followers?

A great social media strategy plan should seek to add value to the customer from the moment they walk in the mall to the moment they leave. Apart from providing information on promotions and events, social media should be seen as a channel for customer engagement. Customers should be encouraged to provide feedback – no matter how trivial – and it should be responded to.

It is from this feedback that retailers get ideas for new products and services as well as know what is working and what needs fixing.

Every mall needs to think of itself as a destination, and whenever people are headed for a holiday destination what do they have in mind? Getting value for their time and money.

By choosing to be on social media both individuals and businesses should think of themselves as media houses. Any information they put out there has the potential of reaching thousands. Thorough and deliberate creation of shareable content should be the aim of any social media strategy.

And when making a choice as to what platforms work best, all social media channels are not created equal. The first thing before choosing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest is to think of your ideal customer.

What drives them, what do they need from the moment they walk through your doors to when they leave? It is much better to be focused and effective on one channel than to be active on multiple channels but have no measurable effect.

Encourage customers

After settling on a team and a social media channel of choice, a balance should be found between blatant self-promotion and content that adds value so as to create a connection with your online audience.

Encourage your customers to share and post memes, or photos of themselves having fun at events within your premises.

In conclusion, social media platforms are just tools that have enabled businesses to inform, entertain and encourage customers to return as often as possible.

Emphasis should be on experience rather than on a monotonous, mundane shopping trip. Make social media an extension of that shopping experience.

Santina is a lifestyle blogger