For eleven consecutive quarters, eCommerce sales have experienced double-digit growth. Thanks in part to mobile device proliferation and social media, eCommerce is in the midst of a major renaissance. Social networks specifically have altered the way eCommerce brands go about marketing online. Such disruption has resulted in a new model for online retail referred to as social eCommerce.
Social eCommerce Sites such as Zulily and Fancy combine flash sales sites with virally driven web experiences. The influence of social media on these sites shines through their approach to website development. A majority of eCommerce sites feature the standard search bar and thumbnail covered results page. This new breed of eCommerce site displays a HD image filled newsfeed with trending products, similar to Pinterest and Instagram.
Etsy and Storenvy are emerging eCommerce sites for smaller up-and-coming brands. They feature similar Pinterest style layouts and social discovery of products. Despite catering to smaller brands and individual newcomers, they garner millions of visitors and are continuing to expand.
I witness these strategies being considered and applied every day as CEO of web development and software solutions firm, Icreon Tech. I see firsthand how eCommerce clients are aiming to infuse social media tactics into their existing web strategy. For smaller brands and Fortune 500s, new trends in social eCommerce are providing economical and impactful tools for capturing market share in a crowded industry.
Economical Marketing for Wide Exposure
eCommerce entrepreneurs are already realizing that they can benefit monetarily from a socially driven marketing strategy. By 2015, over $30 billion worth of transactions will be attributed to referrals from social media networks. As social media continues to grow, with the likes of Instagram and Tumblr, it is likely for such trends in e-tail to continue expanding.
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Twitter has over 230 million users and is already embracing eCommerce integration. Chirpify is a Twitter driven service that allows brands to sell products within a Tweet. Brands can create custom product Tweets that user can reply to with #BuyNow to instantly conduct transactions.
Pinterest, which integrates heavily with eCommerce, has 25 million users who are primarily female and have higher than average income levels. J. Crew, a global retail brand, wholeheartedly believes in the power of Pinterest.
This past October, the brand posted the entirety of their fall catalogue, over 60,000 products, on their Pinterest board. Despite J. Crew’s size, emerging brands should contemplate their approach to marketing their products.
Smaller brands must acknowledge that the impact of social rests with influencing shoppers, gaining notoriety for a brand, and moving shoppers along the buying cycle. A report from eMarketer found that social media is a relied upon tactic for marketing professionals to increase brand awareness.
Influencers and Brand Ambassadors Are the New Salesmen
Over 80% of shoppers in a MarketForce survey, cited the prevalence of social media activity on purchase decisions. Prior to making a final buy, shoppers are consulting with their social networks.
For global conglomerates it may seem like a meager number, but for the hungry up-and-comer it represents a substantial market opportunity.
Rather than depend solely on re-marketing and AdWords campaigns, eCommerce brands can frame product suggestions with a user’s connections on social media networks. As shoppers become desensitized to traditional digital marketing, social media can serve as an alternative to cookie driven advertising.
Google made headlines recently for incorporating Google+ profile images with search ads. If someone in a users network reviewed a local restaurant, he or she will see a thumbnail image of that friend and relevant review for the searched product. In addition to advice on social networks, shoppers continue to rely on celebrities and influencers to learn about trending products.
Some brands even go so far as to offer over $10,000 per Tweet for a celebrity to mention their product. Although small brands can’t afford to shell out such cash, they can achieve viral recognition in other ways.
In the past marketers relied upon expensive endorsement deals with celebrities and athletes like Derek Jeter or Tiger Woods. By using social media affiliates, similar to affiliate marketing on blogs, emerging brands can capitalize on social media power users with significant viral sway.
On a smaller scale, but with the same strategy in mind, budding brands can provide free prototypes to popular accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Users like For minimal capital, a brand can expose their product to millions of potential customers.
eCommerce Websites Have Evolved Beyond Amazon and Ebay
Whereas the largest online retail giants cater to everyone and everything imaginable, the latest eCommerce success stories are much more targeted and niche.
Sophia Amoruso started Nasty Gal as an Ebay store for vintage thrift store clothes, and has evolved into a $100 million eCommerce operation. Amoruso helped grow notoriety for her brand by using MySpace in its early days. She would hyper target the ideal female shopper with interests that she felt aligned with her brand image.
Another example of social eCommerce success stories is Wanelo. The website caters specifically to younger demographics with its flat-designed website, social product newsfeed and trendy copy.
Yet on the other hand, one of the most successful eCommerce operations in 2013 was Zulily. Despite the lack of trendy news coverage, Zulily focuses on one of the leading consumer demographics, the American mom. Zulily went public this year alongside high profile IPOs like Twitter.
eCommerce is heading towards increased personalization, and social media is driving the trend. People are expecting personalized digital experience wherever they interact with a brand online. Whether they visit a news site or search YouTube, they expect recommendations and content catered to their interests.
Social eCommerce strategies should be used as a supplementary tool for a brand’s marketing strategy. Alongside paid search and direct marketing (and of course a great idea), social eCommerce tactics can help establish substantial brand notoriety and customer awareness.
And above all else, social media can serve as a digital soapbox for up-and-coming eCommerce brands in need of notoriety. It is difficult, if not impossible, for new-comers to allocate the resources necessary for a national TV spot or full-page banner ad.
With minimal spending, an emergent brand can potentially compete with global competitors on a shopper’s tablet or laptop screen, and win.