"Customers aren't engaging in social to shop—that's not their primary reason for being there," she told attendees of eTail Boston during a keynote address earlier this month.
What they are there for is to interact and ask questions—and that means you should answer them, she said. "This is a conversation—once you get their trust, then you can market to them."
For an apparel brand like Express that targets young women, today's customer is more than social savvy. She's social, mobile, informed, price-sensitive and in data overload. A typical customer no longer just wanders into a store, tries on something she likes and simply makes a purchase. She tries on an outfit—and then takes a picture of herself with her mobile phone and sends it to her friends, to see what they think. That makes the process for marketers more challenging than ever.
"Shopping wasn't usually ever easy—especially for things like bathing suits—but it was linear," said Gavales.
How you interact with your customers socially depends on what channel they choose to connect with you in, she said—Facebook users want to engage with your brand, while Twitter followers want to know the latest information first.
Express typically contacts customers by mail once per month, and by email three times per week (or more, depending on the season. But social is the place they can talk to the customer each and every day. This blurs the lines of communication, as does mobile, noted Gavales.
"Mobile is making channels completely irrelevant—if a customer is using your app while in your store, what channel is that?" she said. "So how then do you define channels? By how she paid? By where the item will ship from."
Consistency across channels will make it easier to reach customers, and to get their trust. Price disparity across channels undermines your brand, she noted. After all, you don't want to be competing with the guy down the hall—or making your in-store customer feel like a chump for buying at the mall when they find out they could have saved 20% online.
Beth Negus Viveiros (@CMBethNegus) is the managing editor of Chief Marketer.