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Social Commerce: The Next Frontier of Retail Engagement

Social commerce is the latest potential disrupter to how, when, and why we shop. For years, ecommerce has consistently won over more and more shoppers from the brick-and-mortar world, with the majority of consumers venturing online to begin their product journey.

A recent Citi Retail Services survey, however, is showing that many are primed to begin utilizing social media to search for and subsequently buy goods for the holidays. More than 60% of respondents said that, this holiday season, they would be open to making a purchase through a social platform. This is good news for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, all three of which have been expanding their ecommerce capabilities throughout 2015.

For retailers, the social commerce prize is in your following. Of those surveyed, 58% said that they are following retailers on social media, with 40% and 31% of those following stating that they’ve either commented on a retailer’s post or reposted content from a retailer’s feed, respectively. Brands who have invested in building large and loyal social media fans will likely be the first to see the benefit of social commerce acceptance and use.

Of course, not all social platforms are equal in terms of their influence on consumer’s purchasing habits. Facebook leads as the most influential social network, with 35% of those surveyed stating the platform is important “in their decision of what retailer(s) to give their business to,” while an additional 25%, 19%, and 15% said the same for YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter, respectively.

Brands have long maintained presences on social media platforms, with difficulty in the past in regards to tying social following and influence to ROI. This will no longer be the case as social commerce becomes more mainstream.

Just as every retailer has standard operating procedures for in-store operations, there are a few key things retailers need to keep in mind regarding social engagement. Leslie McNamara, Managing Director and Executive Vice President for Citi Retail Services, notes that smart retailers are taking the following steps to ensure they’re competing effectively in the social media space:

  • Be where they are: It’s not enough to focus simply on your brick-and-mortar storefront; in today’s connected world, retailers need to be readily accessible everywhere. You want to enable purchasing wherever your consumers are, allowing social commerce to serve as an extension of your product offerings outside of your physical or digital properties.
  • Get personal: Social networks are a natural venue to connect with customers in a unique manner. Apart from solely promoting products, wise retailers share non product-related narratives and visuals that convey positive emotion with the brand and encourage customers to share with their networks.
  • Realize that time is – more than ever – money: Consumers are increasingly looking for simplicity and immediacy. This new world operates on-the-spot. By ensuring they’re providing an experience that enables immediate gratification, retailers are setting themselves up for success — and repeat business.

The 2015 holiday shopping season will be an interesting one to monitor from a social media perspective. With the transformation of consumer shopping habits toward “always on” engagement, consistent and effective social media strategies will become increasingly essential. And, if retailers can continue to adapt to consumer shopping behaviors and evolve their social media strategies to align with these changes, there’s no limit to the level of engagement they can have with both current and future customers.


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