The holiday shopping season is fast approaching, and it’s not just retailers that are getting their sites in order to capitalize on this massive shopping peak. Social networks and publishers are also gearing up, and it seams a new company is releasing a shopping feature every week. Last week it was BuzzFeed testing a feature that allows readers to buy products mentioned in the article. In early September, it was Twitter announcing the inclusion of “Buy” buttons for a limited number of merchants, allowing users to buy directly from the tweet. And Facebook got a jump on the competition, announcing its “Buy” button back in July.
Is all this signaling that people think social media can actually be used to sell products? The data so far has been conflicting, to say the least. Social sales are predicted to nearly double in 2014 to $9 billion, and account for 5 percent of all online retail revenue. However, IBM reported late last year than only 1 percent of traffic to e-commerce sites comes from social media channels, and just a fraction of 1 percent results in a sale.
Social media can be used to sell, but how successfully depends on the product or service you offer. Lower-priced items that don’t have a long purchase process typically do better, and it makes sense – social media can be an impulsive medium, if the purchase is also an impulsive one (e.g., deeply discounted or low-priced items) they can do well. Social media also plays a roll in the customer’s journey for larger purchases, but it’s unlikely that a consumer will buy a car or designer sofa directly from a Facebook post. However, there are things e-commerce brands can do to increase sales from social media channels. Following are five ways to leverage social commerce.
Paid Social Media
In addition to using campaign tracking through your analytics platform, you can track conversions directly from Facebook and Twitter ads. Simply create a conversion tracking pixel for each social site through their individual ad manager interfaces, and upload the code to your site. From there, you can determine how many sales came directly from those campaigns.
LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram also have promoted/sponsored posts, but they either do not yet have the tracking features or are not as widely available as Facebook and Twitter. If you’re just getting started on paid social media, it’s best to test with the biggest network (i.e., Facebook) before spreading yourself thin across several.
Whether running paid or earned media campaigns, you can use unique discount codes to track various social media campaigns. Create a different code for each site or promotion, depending on how granular you want to be with tracking. The code can then be entered by the customer through your online checkout process or by an employee in your in-store POS system.
GrubHub uses discount codes on Snapchat to track sales.
Customers don’t distinguish between your website, your Facebook page, or your in-store environment. To them, it’s all the same brand and might as well all be managed and organized by the same person. As marketers, we know this is ridiculous, but the reality is that customers shouldn’t feel a disconnect regardless of where or how they interact with your brand. And since they’re likely researching products and prices on their phones while inside your store, there’s a natural connect for them and for you.
Several retailers – Target, Nordstrom, Michaels Craft Stores – use signage to indicate which of their products are popular on Pinterest.
Target uses in-store signage to show which products are being pinned on Pinterest. Including the Pinterest logo makes it easy for customers to identify these popular items.
You can also create experiences in-store that motivate users to share their experiences online or bring online conversations into the store environment, as Nine West has done.
Nine West used digital in-store displays to show real-time fan and brand posts.
By monitoring social media channels for your brand name, you can find people that are sharing their experience or asking questions while in the store. Acknowledging those individuals or answering questions in a timely fashion could be the way to turn a browsing user into a paying customer.
A negative review has an 11 percent chance of changing the purchaser’s intent, but a positive review can bump up a product’s price by 9.5 percent, according to a Media Bistro article. Reviews are extremely important to the purchase process, and as a brand, you need to pay attention to reviews, whether they’re on your product pages or on third-party sites. Read all reviews, respond to legitimate customer concerns or issues, and make changes to products when necessary and/or possible.
Customers often use social media to research purchases well in advance of making a purchase. When you use retargeting campaigns, your brand can remain top of mind and draw these users back to your site when they are ready to make purchase. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are great places to start with your retargeting efforts.
Online holiday spending is expected to increase 8 percent this year to $650 billion, and 67 percent of marketers will be using social to capture some of those sales. Without a clear plan and budget, your brand could miss out on these social customers. It’s never too late to start taking advantage of social’s role in your customer’s journey.