Companies spend billions of dollars every year trying to understand what motivates customers. For example, we know that purchasing decisions are often ruled by emotion. For brands, making a connection with consumers is an integral part of their marketing efforts, and social media has become an effective channel that allows brands to foster relationships that can result in a marked lift in sales.

In a recent study by the Internet Advertising Bureau, 90 percent of consumers said they would recommend a brand after interacting with them on social media. Four out of five people also said they were likely to purchase products from the brands after being exposed to their social media presence.

While brands have been quick to integrate social into their online shopping experience, there is still tremendous untapped potential for how social can aid the sales process in-store. According to U.S. Census Bureau research, more than 94 percent of retail activity still happens in the physical world. Given that, how do brands break down the silos between online and offline by using social media to drive sales and post-purchase amplification?

Using Social to Drive Sales

Let your customers do the talking. The best validation for a product or service comes from your customers. In fact, 71 percent of people are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals. Make sure you are monitoring the conversation around your brand, so that you can amplify the positive and address any negative feedback.

Be responsive to prospects’ questions. Nearly 60 percent of people worldwide say they expect brands to respond to social media comments. Brand affinity is an emotional response that customers have with a brand. Social media allows you to build a one-to-one connection with customers. Be sure that you are not only responding to questions directed at your brand accounts, but also watching for instances where customers are soliciting information about your company from the broader community.

Create virtual window shopping opportunities. Social platforms with a visual focus – like Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest – allow for a more nuanced sales experience by allowing consumers to imagine how products fit into their lifestyle. Luxury retailer, Nordstrom, merges the online and offline worlds by taking advantage of its popularity on Pinterest and bringing it to stores; it now features some of its most pinned products in stores and displays them with the Pinterest logo.

Use your social channels to educate. In the pre-purchase process, customers increasingly turn to social media to learn more about the products they are considering buying. Help them find this information by sharing content that is both fun and informative as part of your overall strategy. Lexus is tapping into Instagram’s popularity and multimedia capabilities and creating 15-second videos that highlight the performance of its 2014 IS Sedan.

Driving Post Purchase Amplification

Encourage conversation by asking questions. While you want post useful information on your social profiles, avoid just talking at customers by also asking them questions and engaging in conversation. Encourage customers to talk about their favorite purchases and share shopping successes. For example, JCPenney regularly responds to customers touting their love for the brand by asking them about their purchases.

Build it into the purchasing process. Sometimes even something small can encourage your customers to start a dialogue. TOMS, the social good shoe and sunglass maker, includes a blue and white TOMS’ flag and a card with each pair of shoes, encouraging customers to take a picture of themselves in their new shoes with the flag. They are then instructed to upload it to the company website and share across social networks like Facebook and Twitter. This campaign allowed them to generate significant word-of-mouth without significant marketing spend.

Ask for feedback. In most instances a feedback loop is seamlessly built into the online shopping experience, but in-store buyers are rarely asked for reviews. A Bazaarvoice study found that only 45 percent of in-store buyers are ever asked for feedback of their purchases, compared to 80 percent of online shoppers. Incorporate social into the purchasing process by displaying key social profiles prominently at the register. Also, include those social profiles on receipts as another touchpoint to encourage interaction.

When consumers have a positive brand experience, there is an opportunity to solidify the relationship and build loyalty – ensuring that they don’t consider competitors in the future. Happy customers often want to share their experiences with others. As a brand, make sure you are creating an environment that encourages customers to easily participate in the discussion about your brand. It might make all the difference in your bottom line.

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