Social shopping is the “hanging out with friends at the mall” of today’s digital generation, except that it’s not just teens and tweens taking advantage of all the social features available. Customers of all ages have more choices than ever, as well as more opportunities to engage with brands they love, through QR contests, barcode scanners, outfit builder apps, and video outlet connections.
“Social shopping” itself is more of a catch-all term that can be anything from sharing outfit ideas on Pinterest to tweeting links to coupon codes. With smartphone shopping and m-commerce (mobile commerce) on the rise (up to 69% of iPhone users report shopping on their devices), the need to connect with shoppers beyond just having a responsive website design is greater than ever.
So how can online retailers take advantage of this growing trend?
Bridge the Gap Between Online and Offline Marketing
According to a new study from Econsultancy and IBM Tealeaf, retail stores are missing the boat when it comes to connecting online shoppers with offline information. While most stores display their store locations and hours on their website, only 38% provide information on retail products and services through social media.
Fortunately, 72% of retailers said they plan to increase investment in mobile strategies. That’s good news considering that less than a third of businesses profiled said they optimize content for local and mobile search, and only 18% allow customers to place an order online and then pick it up in the store.
In the same study, it was noted that, even when cross-channel marketing was used (such as using QR codes as part of an online promotion), the results ended up being ineffective, since the pages that would load for the promotion weren’t properly optimized for mobile devices or screens.
The lesson here: Look for ways to bring online customers offline by creating convenient ways to merge social media, online shopping, and local promotions. Then, test these channels in the devices most likely to be used.
Some examples to get you started:
- Email a coupon code that gives an extra percentage off when used in the store.
- Give different incentives to users who browse online and buy in the store versus those who browse in the store and buy online.
- Leverage mobile marketing alongside in-store displays to provide flash sale notifications or limited-time coupons.
Personalization: A Delicate Balancing Act
Most shoppers would agree that getting personalized deals on the products and services they want is a great way to create loyalty and increase sales. But these same customers are reluctant to part with personal data. Only 13% of customers surveyed are willing to share social media details, but 57% are more likely to purchase from a retailer who keeps them updated with deals and sales via social media.
So what’s going on here? Most of those same customers surveyed (78%) said that they’d be willing to part with their email address and 64% would share their zip code. The key here is to fill customers in on what they truly get out of the exchange, and make sure they understand how their privacy is affected and how their information is used.
Customer confidence can be shaky and fickle at times. But companies that know how to communicate with customers and look for ways to demonstrate commitment to them are the ones that ultimately end up with the lion’s share of shopping behavior data.
- Allow customers to change the frequency at which they receive communications. Let them tell you their likes and dislikes so that you can tailor notifications to their preferences. In other words, go from being annoying to being helpful. Amazon’s “Betterizer” does this by letting customers choose the products they “like” so that it can give them more personalized recommendations:
Amazon’s Betterizer makes product recommendations more personalized
The Future of Social Shopping
Although social shopping is in its infancy now, the future looks bright for this new marketing opportunity. For example, technology company Micros Systems recently introduced a new platform that aims to let retail point-of-sale systems, e-commerce websites, and mobile apps all share data using APIs (application programming interface). This means that marketers can leverage campaigns based on how, and where, customers shop.
Micros lets retailers see the big picture of customer data by combining several sales channels
A new app from a Canadian company, Business Instincts Group, called Slyce, will have users take a photo of an item with their mobile phone, and then Slyce will find it (or a similar product) and allow the user to buy it directly online. Retailers can distribute product feeds directly to Slyce, and Slyce, in turn, will access the retailer’s order processing system to fill the purchase.
But that’s not all. Once a purchase is complete, the user can tag a picture of the product and share it with other Slyce customers, as well as social media outlets. Then, the user will receive a small commission for every sale made using the tagged picture, helping to power more purchases and reviews.
Slyce helps you shop smarter by having you take pictures of products with your mobile phone and then searching its network of retailers to find an exact, or similar, match
What Are Your Thoughts on Social Shopping?
Have you used a mobile kiosk to order or customize a product? Have you entered a contest based on scanning a special QR code? Share your experiences and thoughts about social shopping in the comments below!
About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversions through comprehensive design, compelling copywriting, and superb analytics. Learn more at iElectrify.com or follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+.