How Social Has Changed The Way Customers Shop – And How It Hasn’t

How Social Has Changed The Way Customers Shop – And How It Hasn’t

This is a guest post by Joe Gewickey, Social Media Strategist at ShopIgniter.

There’s a theme I’ve been hearing from brands and retailers lately. The time has been spent, the vibrant fan base has been built, and it’s time to generate some real return on our social investments – but how?

Well, we know it’s not a question of volume. After all, there’s no shortage of content being created by brands of all shapes and sizes. Most have someone in-house managing social media full-time, and they’re tweeting, posting and pinning with the best of them.

It’s not an “information overload” question either, contrary to what many experts have been suggesting. In fact, according to new research, “the high volume of information available these days seems to make most people feel empowered and enthusiastic”.

The daily deluge of updates from friends, family, news networks and brands doesn’t look to be scaring customers away, but it’s not generating the return anyone expected either. It seems the question, then, isn’t the quantity of posts in social, but rather the quality of what’s being posted. The social customer is unique, and they need to be marketed to in a way that’s sensitive to their needs. What’s the message you’re sending them? Are you promoting product in an exciting and engaging way, or just keeping the customer in touch with your brand? If the goal is to drive product discovery, encourage deeper product exploration and create brand affinity and loyalty (and chances are one of these goals exists for every brand today), it’s about what you say, not how many times you say it.

A broken discovery process

Consider for a moment how you typically discover new products. If you’re at a bar with a few friends, and you casually notice someone wearing a great pair of jeans across the room, you might consider getting a pair for yourself the next time you’re out shopping. Your interest is piqued. You’re probably not ready to buy anything just yet, but you do want to learn more. In a normal scenario, you might ask where the person bought them, or check out the brand’s site on your phone and add them to your wishlist.

Now imagine there’s a person in the corner of the bar running a little pop-up shop, selling those jeans on the spot. You can just see them now, waving their hand at you, perhaps offering a discount or special and pushing for that purchase right this minute. What are the chances you’re headed over, wallet in hand, ready to buy what you just discovered moments ago? For most, they’d be slim, and telling all your friends about the place isn’t that likely either.

Unfortunately, this is how it feels to your social customers when they click on an interesting post on your brand’s fan page, and are taken directly to a product page and checkout. We are just starting to figure out how social impacts the buying process and many marketers just don’t know how their customers use social. This is part of the reason conversion has been elusive. The effort may be to engage the customer, but the execution often results in filling their stream with posts that get ignored or worse – pushing too hard for the sale that never ends up happening.

Back to basics: The traditional retail process

Let’s consider a typical shopping scenario. In a retail setting, lots of energy is put into presenting the product in an interesting way and drawing the customer into the store. From there, the stage is set for a customer to browse and look at other options. All the products are laid out neatly on their shelves and the salespeople are helpful. When the time comes that they’re ready to buy, the process is simple and painless.

There’s the disconnect: A customer’s needs don’t change when they’re online, only the venue does. The approach and expectations need to be adjusted, but the philosophy remains the same. The bar in my earlier example becomes the social network, where people are spending their time and are open to engaging with new products. The person wearing the nice pair of jeans becomes the social post- making the customer aware of how good they could look, but without pushing to close a sale.

Once you’ve caught their eye, the customer needs a chance to shop in a manner they’re familiar with. Sharing needs to be fun and easy, and checkout should be seamless and simple. The mechanics are easy enough to understand: The more interesting the presentation of a product to a customer (through rich media posts, for example), the higher the likelihood of grabbing their attention. From there, the quality of the experience will dictate the success of the effort, and is the linchpin to creating the return on investment that everyone is looking for.

As brands uncover actionable insights about their social customers we can expect to see exciting innovations in product promotion. The market will continue to evolve, and with it, the need for brands to be nimble and thoughtful in how they connect with their customers using social media. Creativity will be key, and as long as the basics are never forgotten, the growth will continue – and the brands that do it best will reap the benefits.

This post was originally published on the ShopIgniter blog.

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  • http://www.jacobcurtis.co/ Jacob Curtis

    I agree with you that it’s not the quantity of posts in social, but rather the quality of what’s being posted.
    One thing I think you forgot to mention was the quality of the actual fanbase/followers. If a business simply filled up their social networks with randoms (family members, friends, bots, etc.) than there is not target audience to communicate to. Just a bunch o’ randoms who could really care less about how often you post and what you’re posting.

  • http://www.socialmouths.com/ Francisco Rosales

    Agreed. I think the main point of the post assumes that there is already a community in place. As Joe says, business are finding themselves doing everything right until the point of conversion.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.igniter Joe Igniter

    Absolutely right- there are lots of brands buying a fan base, and I think most folks in our space would call that a bad idea in the long run. My reference above is more to those that have a vibrant fan base of real brand believers, but aren’t seeing the conversion they want. Also, this begs the question of viral engagement in the social stream to friends of friends- another crucial aspect to effectively leveraging the social space to grow a fan base, and a network of potential customers. Great comment!

  • ozio media

    There is much less chance of closing a sale in
    the social media environment than via other internet marketing avenues, but as
    a long term strategy social media can cement a brand in the consumer’s
    consciousness. When they do make a purchase, it is more likely that they will
    choose yours. Just taking the time to interact with your potential customers on
    social sites develops a relationship that they feel is more personal than they
    have via other media. That is the real value of social media marketing and it
    makes it hard to quantify its impact on sales.

  • Ande

    Social media is not a good platform to drive sales and the ROI marketers seek will be very hard to find with social. To compare it to search or display in that capacity is foolish. So is comparing social the shopping in the real world. That is just not what social media is about or why social users are on those platforms.

    However from a branding / awareness and demand generation perspective, social has value. Once a user likes or engages with social ads, a marketer can message them over and over for no additional cost (yet). That is a huge advantage over search and traditional display as, which can only offer something similar via retargeting, which has a limited shelf life.

    But marketers still seem very misguided about social. The DR type of ROI that marketers are seeking with their social investments are just not going to happen.

  • http://twitter.com/creative80ds Anna DiTommaso

    Couldn’t agree more. I remember reading the statistic that 92% of people who like a page never revisit it. I’ve found the level of engagement among fans to be a much better indicator of success than the number of likes, followers, etc. Loyal fans who enjoy hearing from a brand will usually spread the word without asking, and will bring in more loyal fans. Bots and cheap likes are nothing but a facade that the company has a good understanding as to what social media should/can do.

  • Alexis Long

    There’s a theme I’ve been hearing from brands and retailers lately.
    The time has been spent, the vibrant fan base has been built, and it’s
    time to generate some real return on our social investments – but how?

    http://www.informededinburgh.co.uk

  • Lynelle Hallman

    Well, we know it’s not a question of volume. After all, there’s no
    shortage of content being created by brands of all shapes and sizes.
    Most have someone in-house managing social media full-time, and they’re
    tweeting, posting and pinning with the best of them.

    http://www.licebeaters.com/

  • http://upsurgelocal.com/ Business Advertising NYC

    You know friends what is the
    most important uniqueness in this article. Sources, yes sources are the
    main headline of this article in which everything has been proved with verified
    links.

  • Brampton Homes for Sale

    Well the high volume of information available these days seems to make most people feel empowered and enthusiastic..When they do make a purchase, it is more likely that they will choose yours.