The Drum Live: Asda aims to unite social media activity with in-store shopping experience

Asda is exploring ways to unite its social media activity with its in-store customers via mobile devices, according to the head of social media Dominic Burch.

Speaking at The Drum Live’s event this morning, Burch said the supermarket’s focus for the next few years will be on “unlocking” how it can connect its customers’ social media experience while shopping in-store.

“We will be looking at how you can bring social media into the store environment when people are doing their shop. Customers already have their phones out while in-store, so what is an obvious, relevant and engaging way to involve them on mobiles?

“We are interested in unlocking where those moments are in the shop where we can be useful and engaging for a customer, not in a disruptive way but in a contextual way,” he said.

Asda is nearing the 1m Facebook fan mark, but rather than focus on extending that reach to hit the 2m mark it will focus on sustaining the engagement of its current base, according to Burch.

“We don’t care so much about how many fans we have – we are nearing 1m which means we are probably connected with most of the mums that are going to loyal to us and care about us – do we really need to hit 2m mark?”

Striking the right tone with its Facebook audience is vital to sustaining engagement. “We posted last night ‘cheese on beans on toast: yum or yuk?’ That’s how we approach our customers – we are a grocer, we sell baked beans – we also sell pants and socks - being true to knowing what you are and not trying to be something you’re not – that’s the sweet spot,” he said.

The result was it generated 5,000 comments and 22,000 of its Facebook fans engaged with the post and had a “lively chat” around it, according to Birch.

“They are an engaged base - it didn’t have to lead to taking that good will and forcing them into Asda website to sell them stuff,” he added.

Birch also believes it is important not to force making a monetary return on earned social media too quickly. “That’s a dangerous starting doing, and we may as well give up if viewing it that way – it’s about having a relationship with them…getting that balance right between putting credit in the bank and then asking them to do some heavy lifting is critical,” he said.

He also said it is vital brands don’t fall into the trap of getting whipped up in conversations that are creating a buzz on Twitter but that aren’t directly relevant to their brands.

Birch referred back to a previous statement he made earlier this year at social media world forum where he said websites were “dead” and that brands must think “mobile first” when it comes to designing digital properties.

Birch said his earlier comment was triggered by a growing frustration at hearing companies still approaching website design and build from a desktop, not mobile perspective.

“People are doing everything on their smarpthones, particularly on non-transactional sites so editorially focused. So by the time you have built a beautiful website, which is a costly process, by the time it’s finished it’s out of date,” he said.

He stressed the importance of thinking about content in terms of the end user, adding that companies that don’t prioritise mobile will end up “wasting time”.

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