Social Commerce: The Proverbial Foot Traffic
By Akbar Jaffer
In the days of brick-n-mortar stores, the mantra was location-location-location. The right location meant higher foot traffic, which in turn, meant more sales. With the introduction of the Internet, location became irrelevant and foot traffic gave way to search engine and paid advertisement. Today, as the organic and paid searches become saturated, how do retailers attract new customers? Where is the proverbial “foot traffic” going to come from? Enter, social media.
When the Internet gave birth to social media, brands and manufacturers were forced to hand over the control of product information and buying decision to consumers. As the majority of the consumer market became commoditized and the quality of goods and services plummeted, brand trust withered and was replaced with trust in the consumer’s social network: their friends, family and fellow shoppers. Today social media is not only the starting point of most buyers journeys, it is becoming the most powerful shopping channel.
Brands, retailers, and manufacturers are spending millions of dollars growing their social media following. They parade their large numbers of followers, copious tweets and numerous pins as a sign of their success. But what good are followers, tweets, and pins if they do not convert into happy, repeat, loyal, paying customers?
All is not lost. Social commerce is the answer to the question: “How do I convert my social media fan base into paying customers?” Social media has opened new doors into the world of e-commerce. Combining e-commerce with activities people do inside their social networks, like posting selfies with their favorite brands and reviewing products they purchase, lets brands tap into the excitement their customers feel about their products. Not only do they get to witness this excitement, they can share it with other potential customers. It’s the ultimate word of mouth marketing.
Today’s consumer is constantly plugged in to social media; Americans spend more time on social media than any other major Internet activity. In order to thrive, retailers need to fit this new model of Internet usage and make the shopping process more social.
- – User-curated social and product galleries that help shoppers discover new products they didn’t know they would like.
- – Peers referring and sharing product ideas with their social networks.
- – Shoppers reviewing, commenting and answering questions from fellow shoppers to help them make better buying decisions.
- – Active and frequent engagement between brands and customers on social media sites.
- – Rewarding your most loyal customers for relevant activities and actions they perform on social media.
Social Commerce Depends On Relationships
Social commerce is entirely based on relationships among customers, and between retailers. Social media is delicate, open, and transparent. Good customer relationships require that retailers pay attention to the smallest of details when it comes to the customer experience. Only by truly differentiating your brand can you gain greater customer loyalty and increased sales. Here are a few ways retailers can build greater customer relationships as the foundation of strong social commerce:
- – Being friendly, helpful, and prompt in social media interactions with customers.
- – Being super knowledgeable about their own products and services. Customers today do their own research, and they expect expert knowledge from brands and retailers.
- – Avoiding the hard sell. While it’s OK to make social posts about offers in around 20% of interactions, customers want more educational and useful content about the brands they follow and the products they love.
- – Listening to customers, and asking for clarification when there’s confusion around a customer issue.
- – Helping customers save time by being agile and developing mobile shopping apps.
- – Keeping promises and following through on interactions with customers on social media.
- – Engaged customers represent a 23% premium in terms of profitability and revenue compared with the average, disengaged customer.
- – For consumer electronics, engaged shoppers make 44% more visits per year to their favorite retailer compared with disengaged shoppers. They purchase more items during those visits.
- – Fully engaged banking customers bring 37% more revenue to their banks each year than do disengaged ones.
- – Hotel guests who consider themselves “engaged customers” spend 46% more each year than their disengaged counterparts.
Social Commerce: The Opportunity Is Now
As social media becomes an increasingly critical source of new and repeat customers, it is imperative to the success of every small and large e-commerce business to have a robust 360-degree social commerce strategy. It needs to be well thought out and demand a complete tightly integrated technology solution that can deliver not only robust social commerce marketing programs, but also offers deep and complete business insight into effectiveness, usefulness, and return on investment of such programs.
Brands no longer control the buying decision because consumers trust their peers feedback over any product or brand literature. Social media is where your customers are and they are openly talking about your brand and your products. You must invest in a robust and complete social commerce solution to serve your customers in ways they prefer to be served, socially.