Over the past five months the group has been working with the social media and eCommerce consultancy, SocialRetail.co.uk to increase its online presence and impact on the local community, as well as to generate greater footfall.
Pilot stores for the strategy included outlets in Bath, Chichester and Eastbourne. The original pilot programme, trialled from March, to May 2012, increased Hillier’s social media contacts by ‘tweeting’ garden shoppers and using social media to create an impact on local communities.
Hillier operations manager Mark Pitman said: "We worked withSocialRetail.co.uk to run a pilot in social media strategy, predominantly using Twitter, within a small selection of stores. Allowing stores to take ownership of their local marketing has generated significant new customer and sales figures within their local area.
"Pitman added: "The pilot was deemed such a success that we are rolling this out to all our stores during mid 2012. Each Hillier Garden Centre will use social media to promote and market themselves locally and update their site specific webpage, and to promote each other via central marketing activity."
SocialRetail.co.uk founder Pete Doyle said: "We have a unique approach to planning and implementing social media and integrating this with other marketing communication channels. We call this approach the Conversation Plan. We worked with Hilliers to construct a Conversation Plan and implement a strategy to increase footfall and grow sales. The pilots that we ran have been hugely successful and individual stores are now better integrated into their local community. This will be repeated for Hilliers stores nationwide."
Doyle added: "It is essential for any retailer, whether they have one shop or 1,000, to make an impact on the local community. Social media is an effective way of encouraging shop staff to build local relationships and increase sales."