Is Lush barmy for quitting social media?

Handmade cosmetics company, Lush, has decided to quit social media.

In a brazen move, Lush announced on Twitter this week that it was “tired of fighting with algorithms” on social platforms and it does not believe in paying to appear in its customers’ newsfeeds.

The retailer told customers it would stay online for the next week to reply to messages and comments, but after then shoppers who wish to communicate with Lush will have to live chat, email, or call.

“We’re a community and we always have been,” the brand said on Twitter. “We believe we can make more noise using all of our voices across the globe because when we do we drive change, challenge norms and create a cosmetic revolution. We want social to be more about passions and less about likes.”

Andrew French, GM EMEA at social media advertising company Smartly, warned the move could impact the retailer’s bottom line:

“Typically, brands will always look to target their customers wherever they are online. With such a large percentage of time spent on social media, Lush's decision to remove their main accounts means that it will get harder for consumers to find and interact with them. They will still likely use social channels via a community of influencers, meaning Lush won't be completely removed from social media. Therefore the move seems to just limit their possibilities to interact with their consumers,” he explained.

“Instead of fighting the algorithms brands should embrace them and utilise the constantly changing possibilities new channels and formats offer to interact with customers. Communicating via social media in a personalised and relevant way is a very customer-centric way of sharing information, offers and news. If Lush is reluctant to spend money on social advertising, then they don't have to, but removing such a valuable touchpoint for consumers all together may frustrate them into finding an alternative retailer."

But Neil Hammerton, CEO of cloud telephony platform, Natterbox, said Lush’s decision is “symptomatic of a broader movement of brands wanting to reconnect with their customers”.

In a similar vein, Essential Retail recently reported how retailers are cutting back on their marketing spend on social media influencers, shunning expensive celebrities and choosing to spend less money on micro influencers who are considered more authentic by consumers.

Back to the dark ages?

Hammerton suggested that with retailers being held to ransom by social media companies, they need to think smartly before they wipe out a significant channel of communication.

“As social media platforms are increasingly placing algorithms and automation between brands and their customers, the desire to get closer to the customer is coming full circle. And while companies less adventurous than Lush might be weary of turning to “legacy” platforms such as email or the phone to do so, they should consider that technology hasn’t just created new means of communication through the internet – it has also completely transformed existing communication tools.”

Hammerton explained that phone systems have been updated and are no longer about “chunky cable telephones” and using this method may help the retailer reconnect with its customers who are becoming disenchanted by social media.

“They now allow companies to safely record and save data about their customers to make interactions seamless. Imagine calling a company and automatically being put through to an agent who knows your name, why you’re calling and the latest product you purchased. The phone today is an essential tool for brands to reconnect with their customers in a genuine, human-to-human way.”

Meanwhile, Sandra Schroeter, senior international product marketing manager at LogMeIn, agreed that consumers are becoming weary of social platforms and pointed to AI-enabled live chat as the future of retail communications. “This is a bold move and one which is in line with today’s consumer trends,” she said.

“As Lush continues to build on its customer engagement strategies over the coming months, the company should look into further elevating its approach by looking into AI-powered live chat.

“AI has proven to be critical in supporting live agents throughout every interaction, providing the information they need to ensure that customers are getting personalised help around the clock.”

So while many may think Lush’s social media blackout is a move back in time to the dark ages, if the retailer uses technology to enhance its remaining communication options, then it may reap the benefits of the desperately sought after human connection.