Building a loyal community online through social media is the way forward
One in three UK adults now uses a smartphone to access emails, the internet and social networking sites, according to a recent Ofcom report.
'M-commerce' – where customers shop online using mobiles or tablets – is growing fast, and currently accounts for around 20 per cent of johnlewis.com's traffic.
And customers don't just buy directly from shopping websites. They can click on links to sites through recommendations by businesses or friends on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other websites.
Add to that the fact that Facebook is the most-visited website on handheld devices, and it's no wonder John Lewis and Waitrose have embraced social media as a way to connect with customers.
The halo effect
'Social media is growing by the day,' confirms Emma Perrott, Social Community Manager at John Lewis.
'Our use of social media is about service and trust, driving engagement and getting people to talk about us online.'
And there's clearly an appetite among social media users to connect with their favourite brands and retailers. John Lewis's Facebook page has nearly 400,000 fans, while the division's Twitter following has reached 22,000 and counting.
Similarly, Waitrose's Facebook page has nearly 50,000 fans and 22,500 followers on Twitter.
Building a loyal community online is at the heart of Waitrose's social media activities, says Julie Randall, Senior Manager, Digital Communications at Waitrose.
'Our aim is to be able to share a love of food socially,' she says. 'We want fans who are going to engage in interesting conversations.' And they are – Waitrose receives around 100 comments for every question posted on its Facebook page.
World at your tweet
So how does the business acquire, and keep, online fans? Content is key, says Emma, with a tailored approach for each social media channel.
As well as posing questions and posting photos and updates on events and promotions, the John Lewis Facebook page regularly features one-hour Q&A live chats with expert Partners. They've answered customers' queries on everything from wedding outfits to the Digital Switchover.
Twitter, meanwhile, works best as a news feed, says Laura Chilvers, PR and Communications Manager for Corporate and Social Media.
'People love hearing about beauty and fashion launches, new brands, and new products going online,' she says.
Social media savvy
Since the business launched its social media channels more than a year ago, they've become well-established.
John Lewis and Waitrose have both run successful social media campaigns alongside traditional advertising methods, promoting last year's Christmas TV adverts on YouTube. Within hours of the John Lewis advert being launched, John Lewis was trending on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Waitrose's campaign included Q&As with Waitrose cookery school chefs, MasterChef winner Dhruv Baker and wine expert Olly Smith in the run-up to Christmas, as well as a 'Christmas lunch planner' on Facebook.
Both divisions now have an official presence on Google+ and Pinterest, and John Lewis is also trialling branch-specific Facebook pages to allow customers to connect with their local branch.
And Rachel Behar, Assistant Marketing Manager at John Lewis says interviews with branch managers on YouTube are a great way to build a 'buzz' around new shop openings.
As well as exploring new platforms, the existing ones have also offered new opportunities. Says Julie, 'Facebook's Timeline format means loyal fans can track Waitrose right from the 1920s to the present day.
'It allows us to bring our brand to life on social media by showcasing Waitrose's history.'
You can follow John Lewis on the following social media channels:
You can follow Waitrose on the following social media channels: