Why Twitter is the new local store

mary kate mcdevitt open/closed sign, why twitter is the new local store{open/closed sign  by Mary Kate McDevitt}

It’s Monday – which means shopping day and I need to restock the household essentials.

Bread, milk, apples, chicken and red peppers for dinner…. oh, and it’s my sister’s birthday next week so I’d better pick something up for her too.

I head down to my local store – Wendy’s working behind the counter today and smiles as I come through the door and the bell rings.  

“Morning dear,” she smiles, “How was your walk yesterday?”  (Husband and I had the day off work and went walking on the moors).

“Lovely thanks, Wendy,” I reply. “Bit windy and wet but very bracing!”

Wendy already has a basket at the ready, with my normal bread, milk and apples.  “We’ve just got some fresh tomatoes and cucumber in if you fancy some salad with that bread?” she offers.  “And isn’t it Jess’s birthday next week?  The books are in the back of the store or you might want to look at the DVDs near the counter?”

Sadly none of that happened (except the walking on the moors bit – which was indeed wet and windy but bracing).

But this kind of personal service isn’t the norm any more – it may have been, fifty years ago – but now the supermarkets have so many staff that you can be served by a different person every day.

Then there’s the product range – more choice than you can shake a stick at, but how do you find exactly what you want without scouring the aisles for hours?

Social networking is one way – it’s changing how we buy things – giving us more choice and bringing back the personalised shopping experience.

Here’s five ways that help you to deliver a great level of personal service to your customers, that will have them coming back again and again, recommending you to their friends, and raving about you to their online communities!

Are you ready?  Let’s go….

1. Talk directly to your customers

Use Twitter names to talk to people who you know, who’ve bought from you before.

“@daisylou – Has the wedding stationery arrived okay? Posted it on Tuesday.”

This helps to build relationships, and delivers great customer service by keeping buyers up-to-date with their order.

2. Remember what your best customers like

And give them more of the same.

“@harveyjay Getting in more beach pillows next week – check them out: [insert link] – blue ones would look great with your striped throw”

Keep an eye on your records to see if any new product ranges would be of interest to previous customers.

3. Courtesy costs nothing

Just saying hello and good morning can make you stand out from your competition.

“Happy Tuesday morning to new followers @mariejane, @linenlovely and @eco-weddings”

And try and say thank you to those who retweet your Tweets.

4. Remember and manage relationships

By following your customers’ Twitter feeds you can see what they’re talking about – are they packing for a holiday?  Cooking a huge family dinner as guests arrive? Decorating the kitchen?

Talk to them as you would if they came into your store and told you this in person.

“@organicfashion New kitchen sounds gorgeous – keep the kettle somewhere handy – you’ll need a cuppa when you’re finished!”

5. Listen & respond

As soon as you have a Twitter page (or a Facebook page, or a blog), your readers will see it as a communication channel to you.

They may direct message you asking about product availability.  Or maybe they’ll ask if you can personalise your products.  Or if you can offer next day delivery.

Whatever they ask, you need to be ready with an answer – monitor your accounts using tools such as TweetBeep.

Or set-up Google alerts so you receive an update each time a word or phrase (chosen by you) gets mentioned anywhere online.

We may not be living in a world where the local store has a smiley shopkeeper at the door, ready to welcome you by name and give you all “the usuals” without you needing to tell them.

But social networks make it a lot easier to build a sense of community for your audience.

Easier to create a place where users are comfortable to share their personal experiences, advice, tips and stories.  Where you want to add your voice and support to others.

Now, can you think of an online community that’s delivering that kind of engagement*?

* Clue – you’re reading one….