Most businesses have come to recognize the importance of social media within the spectrum of the omnichannel experience, but few are actually putting this idea into practice with success.

Throughout history, the customer has largely played a reactionary role when it’s come to making purchases. Goods and services have been essentially thrust on them, forcing them to choose from whatever few options they could see on a shelf or in a magazine, never quite knowing if a better product or deal was waiting just around the corner.

The omnichannel experience isn’t just a marketing strategy — it represents a fundamental shift of the consumer’s position in the traditional purchasing process. Omnichannel enables the customer or the client to choose how they want to interact with a company or product line without having to compromise the quality of their interaction.

A successful omnichannel retailer is less concerned with a broad, multi-channel marketing campaign and focuses instead on creating a seamless media experience for customers engaging with their brand.

The key here lies in an ability to allow your brand to proliferate across every channel. According to Marketo, one of the leaders in automated marketing software, “Each piece of the consumer’s experience should be consistent and complementary.”

Whether a customer is visiting the store, making a purchase through a mobile app, or liking a photo on Instagram, they must be able to engage your brand in a way that is both seamless and effortless, regardless of the device or channel.

Where Does Social Media Fit in?

Perhaps the most important role social media plays for companies is the creation of promotional campaigns that can be targeted specifically to individual customers. Imagine someone tweets about a product they want or snaps an Instagram of it in a store window, then ten minutes later, poof! A 15%-off coupon pops up in their inbox.

While many brands have been quick to adapt such strategies, the fact remains that social media has not been utilized as a tool to its fullest possible extent. Here are a few more ways omnichannel retailers can use social media more effectively:

Data Analytics

Data is everywhere, and considering that over 52% of all adults online have accounts on two or more social media sites, according to Pew, these platforms can be a veritable gold mine when it comes to data analytics and uncovering purchasing trends.

Tying these statistics in with data gleaned from other areas of your business (e.g. store sales, loyalty programs, and product returns) can give you a better overall understanding of your customers.

Damage Control

Use social media to immediately identify and proactively address negativity. There are a number of social listening tools available that can alert companies to a disparaging comment or an unhappy customer, as Social Media Today. This allows the business to reach out to the customer and address the issue before the negativity surrounding your brand has a chance to snowball out of control.

Establish a Deeper Connection

A recent Harris Interactive Poll from riverbed suggests that today, customers are more concerned about the quality of their experience with a particular company than about who offers the lowest prices. In an age when consumers can access every one of your competitors with a quick Google search, establishing a meaningful connection is more important than ever.

The real beauty of social media is that it creates a direct channel of communication between the business and the consumer. Now when customers voice their opinions, concerns, and desires, retailers can actually listen and respond accordingly.

By properly incorporating these social platforms into the omnichannel experience they offer, businesses stand to gain a better understanding of their consumer base and ultimately increase brand loyalty among their customers.