Social Shopping: How Brands Can Capitalize

social-shopping-how-brands-can-capitalizeBy now, whether with hugs and shouts of joy or with tears and dragging feet, we’ve all (hopefully) accepted that social media is no longer merely a fad or even a tool; rather, it has ushered in a paradigm shift in how brands connect to consumers. Social media is not just a platform to shamelessly promote yourself, but it is an extension of your storefront and all that that encompasses – it is a hub for customer service, a tool to create your brand identity and culture and, as a new study finds, a place to purchase your products.

It looks like social media does indeed have a hefty ROI, according to a new study, “From Social to Sale: 8 Questions to Ask Your Customers” by Vision Critical.  The report – one of the most B-E-A-U-tiful ones I’ve come across – is a lengthy, in-depth look into the consumer’s path from specific social platforms – Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest – to the transaction, whether online or in-stores.

While I could give you a lengthy book review that would frankly just look like an uglier version of the twenty-eight-page study, you’re probably better off digging into it yourself (tip: grab a bottle of wine). However, the Vision Critical study does bring up some very important questions brands need to wring out of their would-be customers. Even though I’m a words over numbers kind of gal, I’ll first take you through a couple stats for you to reflect on:

  • 4 in 10 social media users have purchased an item online or in-store after sharing or favoriting it on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. It breaks down between the networks as follows: Pinterest 29%; Twitter 22%; Facebook 38% (Fun Fact: 73% of the population is on Facebook. Marketers, you should be salivating).
  • Pinterest is the network most likely to drive spontaneous purchasing – 47% of purchasers “happened-ed” upon the product – while Twitter and Facebook purchasers are more likely to make social media-related purchases of products they were already researching or considering.
  • Social media drives roughly equal amounts of online and in-store purchasing.
  • Half of social media-related purchasing takes place within 1 week of sharing or favoriting the ultimately purchased item.

Now that you’ve got some foundational numbers, I’ll continue to expand on some of the key takeaways. Vision Critical structured the report using eight questions brands need to ask their customers. Here are three of my favorites:

What do your customers want from each of your social network presences?

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A common mistake brands can fall into when beginning their social media strategy is simply blasting a stock post across all of their platforms. Eeek! Please, please stop, OK? I know it’s easier and simpler to do mass, mindless posting, but why should I follow you on 47.39 different channels if I’m going to see the same thing on every one?

This sentiment is followed up in the study, showing how different topics and different styles of posts are popular on the different networks. Vision Critical advises businesses to match their presence to the three C’s of each network: content, culture and category.

Given this, brands should ask these kinds of questions when determining their social strategy on each platform: What type of posts appear on this network? What is the tone and social norms? What kinds of products do well on this platform?

Does purchasing lead to sharing or does sharing lead to purchasing?

Don’t worry, this might be easier to figure out than “what came first: the chicken or the egg?” When asked, “When you shared or favorited this item, were you already thinking of purchasing it?” most survey respondents across all three platforms were at least vaguely thinking about purchasing the product, if they weren’t already researching it. However, 29% of respondents on Pinterest were not thinking of purchasing the product (16% on Facebook, 9% on Twitter).

What can brands do to target these social purchasers? Engage those sharing your product or products in the same category. For example, say you’re in the professional dancewear industry. Seek out those social mavens that are engaging in dance-focused G+ communities, use advanced Twitter search to find those tweeting about their favorite ballet shows – you get the idea. Once you find these consumers engaged in the world of dance – or whatever industry you’re in – you can then engage with them on a personal level, bringing your kickass brand to “top of mind” among these consumers. #score

How does mobile move your customers from sharing to purchasing?

We know the future is mobile, and given these new findings by Vision Critical, as a brand, consider using tried and true SoLoMo tactics to connect with these social shoppers. Invest in mobile development, like a responsive website that will allow your consumer to consult you wherever they are on what whatever device they choose. Offer mobile deals that motivate your consumer from within the store. Also, consider your in-store signage. How can you engage mobile users with your brand?

The Takeaway

Social media is a beast that can eat you up – if you let it. The best thing you can do? Don’t stay silent in front of your screen racking your brain on how to engage your consumers. Remember: this is social media. The name itself invites interaction and conversation with others. Don’t wallow in a party for one – go out and ask your customers what they like and what they don’t when it comes to their social networks and how they use social media in their purchasing decisions. Your customers are just as unique as your brand; they are the best research you’re going to find.

So get out and start asking questions (and listening). Your motivation? Besides a higher ROI, your brand can avoid the same fate as Eric Carmen.


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