Before the age of nation-spanning retail chains, Main Street (and the High Street) in most towns was a retailing mecca, anchored by a proud department store named after some prominent local family. Hardware stores existed before Home Depot wiped them out. And a variety of specialty stores prospered side-by-side along the main drag long before Wal-Mart built an airplane hangar on the outskirts of town that houses hectares of retail possibility. We miss these mom-and-pop shops most on days when we cannot get in the car. The local shops, it seemed, never took a snow day, and so commerce endured through the worst Mother Nature could throw at it.
But while we gained something in selection and cheaper prices with big box retail chains, we lost something just as vital—a bond with the man or woman behind the counter who knew every item in his or her store.
Twitter, when used well, can restore some of these broken ties. Retailers from Whole Foods to Dunkin Donuts are using Twitter to great effect to clarify misconceptions about their product range, solicit customer feedback, point out specials, and to try to build a little public participation in the brand, as Dunkin’ Donuts is doing with its yeDDi Facebook promotion (plugged often on its Twitter feed) for those who love iced coffee in the winter. Marks & Spencer is using its Twitter and Facebook presence these days to raise awareness for local charities, something its 103,000 Facebook fans genuinely seem to appreciate.
Lovely piece here from Bernard Warner about M&S’s use of Twitter recently during the winter storms in the UK.
It makes me think about (and look forward to) how customer / retailer communications will begin to become more local, devolve from brand level to local over time. I don’t think there needs to be any great imperative, any rush to push this idea, but as social web literacy rises generally it will feel natural to customers and organisations alike.