2009 SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Survey results: Revealing how retailers view, use social media

As we announced in Part 1, we are now releasing the full results from the SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Survey, complete with expanded and detailed analysis available to our All Access SNEWS subscribers. This week, in Part 5, a large number of retailers revealed they’re beginning to find value in social media sites, but there are still those who are on the fence or completely opposed to using Facebook and Twitter.
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In Part 5 of the 2009 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey -- where outdoor specialty retailers get to speak their minds and offer industry observations and commentary on what is great, good, not so good and desperately needs improvement in the industry -- this installment focuses on retail acceptance and use of social media tools. The full survey results, complete with expanded and detailed analysis of each category’s results, have been presented in sections to our All Access SNEWS subscribers over the last few weeks. If you missed Part 4, click here to read the survey summary "2009 Annual SNEWS Specialty Outdoor Retail Survey: Looking at trade show attendance."

Curious as to how outdoor specialty retailers were utilizing social media and social networking sites, we queried them about it at the end of the 2009 survey. We wondered if retailers were using social media and social networking websites, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, for their businesses, and if so, which ones. We also asked them how beneficial social media was to their businesses and, if they were not yet using social media, why not.

Nearly 53 percent of our respondents told us they were using Facebook -- making it the clear winner in terms of preferred social media applications for retail business. Twitter was a very distant second with 18 percent. LinkedIn was being utilized by 5 percent, and MySpace managed a paltry 4 percent showing. As for those who spurned social media, 36 percent told us they found little or no use. They either were not currently active but might consider it in the future, or were not now active and never would be.

Below, we’ve selected a number of comments from the many we received that best summarizes the use of social media by the outdoor retail community:

The “yes’s” have it, but it’s clear many retailers are still trying to find their way. And, they are deciding whether or not Facebook and other social media sites are worth the effort and cost in terms of time. However, of those who do see clear value, capturing the attention of youth and pulling them into the storefront seems to be a focus.

>> “Email newsletters and Facebook. Facebook isn't huge, but the electronic newsletters are the best source for driving traffic.”

>> “Facebook opens up awareness. But, you must have a dedicated employee to handle it.”

>> “Facebook provides us with instant recognition and feedback of sales. Giveaways drive repeat customers back to the store.”

>> “Facebook is as good as the energy we put into it!”

>> “Facebook and Twitter and our own blogs. Our own blogs bring us the best results. Facebook is second.”

>> “Facebook and Twitter -- to let customers know about new products and current events. These seem to be good ways to let folks know about stuff without flooding their email inbox. Very hard to quantify results, but it's cheap.”

>> “Facebook and our blog have done ok, but a truly updated website would work the best. But hey, all that other stuff is free!”

>> “Facebook, because it’s a good way to promote events, and provide immediate correspondence between our staff and our customer base.”

>> “Facebook, Twitter. We haven't really seen a difference. Email marketing to local outdoor groups seems to be a better return.”

>> “Facebook, but I don't know why!!!”

>> “Facebook, but I have noticed no significant benefit.”

>> “Facebook. It is very beneficial because it is attracting a younger demographic to our business and they will be the future success of our firm.”

>> “Facebook. It has been somewhat beneficial in letting our younger demographic know when new products come in that they may be interested (i.e. disc golf discs). Also we've gotten a lot of positive feedback on the page as to specific requests or needs of customers.”

>> “Facebook is somewhat beneficial in rallying our local kayakers but very time consuming.”

>> “Using them now, and expanding their use in the future. This is a growing method of getting the word out.”

>> “We are on Facebook. We have a Blog and online store as well. Facebook doesn't seem to generate much retail business. But we've noticed good search rankings from our blog and e-store.”

>> “We are trying Facebook, but it takes a lot of time! Not sure if it's working..... Would like to have some stats on whether or not we should be doing them.”

>> “We are using Facebook, but can't really tell yet whether it is beneficial. We maintain a very active website and email newsletter, and it still seems that those two sources are where our customer interaction comes from.”

>> “We do use various forms of social media to promote our in-store events and sales. We have a mailing list, and also promote through our newsletter. We've recently started a blog, but have not had it long enough to measure its value.”

>> “We opened a new women’s only version of our main store and we have a Facebook page. Jury is out on it so far. Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace appear to be dead and my prediction is they will not last.”

>> “We use them all. Facebook has been a good source for applications. The jury is still out on the effects overall.”

>> “Website, Facebook and Twitter are definitely beneficial, but we need to make time to keep them updated.”

>> “Yes, we use Facebook and Twitter. We're new to it, but it's been very successful and cost effective so far.”

>> “Yes, we use Facebook, and our own website. We find this site to be very beneficial as more and more people join the site, and friend-request us. Our store has had a great reputation for many years, and our website, as well as Facebook, help get our name out to those who haven't heard of us. I recommend advertising your store online to bring in more customers.”

>> “Yes, we use Facebook, Twitter. Some benefit, hard to measure, but we've seen some uptick among under 30 consumers. Have to keep the messages flowing and interesting/fun.”

>> “Yes, we're on Facebook and Twitter. So far, so good, but we do need a plan to really leverage these tools. We do have a nice fan base, though.”

Over one-third of our survey respondents reported they are saying “no” to social media. Why? Some feel their own website provides sufficient exposure. Others see social media as a resource and time suck. Only two of the nays indicated they might start exploring social media in the future.

>> “At the present time, our website suffices to dispense information. We update it daily with fishing reports, ski reports, store promotions, etc.”

>> “Do not use -- do not plan to -- they seem to use time valuable for other marketing and sales efforts.”

>> “I do not plan to use any social networking sites. No time to do so, and it's not my style.”

>> “No! This is like listening to CB radio -- all crap and no substance. I have a real life.”

>> “No, we do not plan on using these types of networking because we are still not convinced that these are not a waste of time.”

>> “No, because I consider them a big security risk and a drag on my valuable time.”

>> “We are not using any and do not intend to use any. We try to connect more hands-on with our customers. Who needs to spend more time in front of the computer?”

>> “We don't use any of those. We are too small for anyone to care about us twittering, nor could I bring myself to actually do it anyway. I don't see any benefit to us using Facebook or MySpace. I'm on LinkedIn, but it doesn't seem to have any relevance.”

>> “We have a few blogs promoting our business, but no focus on social media. There is not enough time to get our regular business done let alone try to describe my day in 140 characters or less. My less busy friends spend way too much time on Facebook.”

>> “Not yet, but intending to. They seem to be more and more important for businesses.”

>> “We are not using them and probably don't plan to. We are a small brick and mortar store, and in several years, we may be trying to get into Internet sales, but are too busy at this point to take on the task.”

The SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Survey may not be reproduced for redistribution of any kind, in whole or part, including for promotional or sales purposes of any kind, to consumers or the trade, without the written consent of SNEWS. Contact SNEWS at survey@snewsnet.com for reprint details and restrictions.

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