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Soft power of social media

For many retailers, social media can be a tool that helps practices connect with customers

16 Jun 2016 by John White

When it comes to the story of retail today in the UK – its growth, its challenges – any conversation is incomplete without thinking about the digital space and its transformational impact.

When it comes to the story of retail today in the UK – its growth, its challenges – any conversation is incomplete without thinking about the digital space and its transformational impact.

For the co-founder of Kirk & Kirk, Jason Kirk – writing in the upcoming July edition of OT – social media is a great example, acting as a tool to help practices create a valuable and direct connection with customers. He writes: “I can hear my father saying to me: ‘What has [social] got to do with optics?’ but it is a commercial reality today.”

And thinking about OT, social media continues to play an ever-more important role in our media offering. Twitter, for example, enables us to share news stories as they happen with our 11,000 (and growing) followers, and engage with their views.

This week we saw Microsoft snap up LinkedIn for a cool £18.5 billion in a move to open up new horizons for the tech software giant.

Making the announcement of the deal, LinkedIn chief executive Jeff Weiner does not play down the hyperbole. “Just as we have changed the way the world connects to opportunity, this relationship with Microsoft, and the combination of their cloud and LinkedIn’s network, now gives us a chance to also change the way the world works.”

What is this likely to mean in real terms? Linking Office to LinkedIn will enable attendees of meetings to learn more about one another directly from invitations in their calendars, and sales representatives using Microsoft’s Dynamics software for managing customer relationships can procure background information on potential customers from LinkedIn data. A bit ‘big brother’? You bet.

Parking the cynicism, Alcon general manager of UK and Ireland, Pierre Bourdage, reminded me recently in an interview for OT that being ready for change in the digital space, and embracing the positives, is not easy, but is vital. 

Agreeing that “a lot has and is changing in the online space,” the GM is clear that the web represents a long-term transformative environment, to be ignored at our peril. “If you look at large internet retailers, if one of them decides to make a heavy and disciplined approach to push into the optical space, it could be very disruptive in the long term.”

Change of this kind, however, could be a good thing for the industry in the long term, he concludes. “How do we act now, as industry leaders with our customers, to leverage the web, to get better at service wrapped around contact lenses and the value we provide to consumers and opticians?”

If you are a digital pioneer – or a web cynic – please do get in touch with your thoughts.

Image credit: Flickr/Mkhmarketing

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