Social commerce is exploding. By 2015, Booz Allen predicts that social commerce will be a $30 billion industry worldwide.Defined by Altimeter as the use of social technologies to connect, listen, understand and engage to improve the shopping experience, social commerce isn’t really a new concept – people have been sharing brand experiences with friends, family and co-workers since time eternal. The effectiveness of social platforms for amplifying endorsement and censure is making brands stand up and take notice. While most brands have checked the basic social boxes (Facebook, Twitter and more recently Pinterest), it’s surprising to see how many are missing the main course: mobile.
Stop reading this article for a minute and pull up your brand’s website on your smartphone or tablet. How does it look? Are you serving up a simplified mobile interface that makes it easy to learn, transact, engage and share? Many huge brands lack even a basic mobile interface – and worse, it’s often tricky (or even impossible) to actually buy something online using a mobile device. It is mind-blowing to see how many major players are overlooking mobile – and consequently, alienating their most valuable consumers. The time for mobile is now.
The basics are never as alluring as being part of the next big thing. Many brands scramble to be where the cool kids are – today it’s Pinterest and Instagram, tomorrow, who knows? Every social network represents an ongoing incremental investment in content, engagement and reciprocity. If you’re driving people to a clunky website, what’s the point? Put the basic principles first.
Getting your mobile house in order isn’t difficult or all that costly. Scores of vendors offer simple solutions that are quick and affordable. Measured against the ongoing commitment that social media entails, setting up a mobile-friendly interface is an item you can check off from your to-do list and brag about on your performance review – once it’s done, it’s done (more or less). But it’s probably the most important thing you can do for your brand this year. Your mobile store will always be open. If you build it, there’s a much better chance that they’ll come, and come again.
Below is a list of steps that will position you for success in social commerce:
- Mobilize first. Mobile has become the “first screen”. A recent study states that people look at their mobile device about 150 times per day. Today’s consumer is on-the-go and expects instantaneous access to information. Your branded website is your 24-hour storefront. A mobile-friendly website is the #1 essential asset for commerce-based brands to survive. Do it now.
- Listen. Chances are that people are already talking about your brand online. Getting a feel for what’s being said is invaluable for shaping your social media strategy. Listening platforms like Radian6 and Sysomos allow brands to assess their competition, gauge sentiment, identify influences, and find “whitespace” areas that you can own.
- Engage. Once brands understand what’s being said, they’re able to participate intelligently and strategically. Social commerce success requires a real commitment to participate in the conversation of the day. Unlike the era of traditional “talking at you” brand advertising, social commerce values “earned” endorsements and word of mouth. Brands no longer control the message, but they can, and should, be part of the conversation. The smartest brands provide a forum for reviews, discussion and feedback within their own branded properties, making it easier to shape the conversation and respond quickly.
- Respond. 50% of brands simply ignore social media feedback. Ignore your customers, and they’ll return the favor. Respond to them, and you could win their lifelong support. Which would you rather choose?
Mobile is the first step to social commerce nirvana. Today is the day. Is your brand ready?
Diane Walter is digital strategist at Pittsburgh-based ad agency, Brunner.