Online retailers are always looking for an edge. With all of their competitors just a click away, they need to create unique reasons for people to shop there and nowhere else.
Social channels are a great way to drive traffic to your website and convert new customers. But what about people who come directly to your website? Wouldn’t it be great to share all of your awesome content and engage with them just like on Facebook or Pinterest?
In this article I’ll describe six ways in which you can make your website social to build a connection with shoppers, give them ideas on how to use your products and increase your conversion rates.
1. Product Boards
We all know that Pinterest is popular, but new studies are showing that it’s actually driving a large number of purchases – as well as increased spending. A study by Rich Relevance shows the site now accounts for 25% of all social shopping sessions and that Pinterest shoppers, on average, spend significantly more per purchase ($194) than Facebook shoppers ($84), respectively.
Check out the infographic below:
Why is Pinterest so good at driving purchases?
Pinterest boards allow you to showcase your products in a lifestyle format as opposed to the basic product display format. This gives your customers ideas on how to use your products and gives them more reasons to buy.
But not everyone knows about your Pinterest boards, so how can you bring the power of your lifestyle boards to your website? Adding the “Pin it” button is a simple, yet fairly impotent method to drive engagement. It may get a few shoppers pinning, but it won’t allow you to showcase all of the cool things you’re doing on Pinterest.
One way you can get to the next level is to embed your boards directly on web pages and link to them from product pages that are included in the board.
How can you execute this?
1. Embed your boards on a page on your website using an app like Wishpond’s Pinterest Tab.
2. On each product and product category page, have a call-to-action that links to the board on your site. Include a bit of text that reads “Check out how you can [way to use this product]”
For a furniture store you can have pieces link to boards that display showrooms. For clothing you can have pieces link to boards that show entire outfits. For outdoor equipment you can show boards of items that are best for certain activities, environments and conditions.
Just think about the ways in which people use your products and make boards for those activities!
2. Personality Blogs (with excerpts on relevant product pages) about products and lifestyle
In the vast array of grocery store chains, there is one that stands out for its personal connections to its customers.
Whole Foods has created a brand that is tied to its consumers’ lifestyle and personal choices. So, it’s no wonder that they are a great example of blogging on a personal level with your patrons.
Whole Foods does not have just one blog on its website, but three. Each blog site is personalized and written to connect both the reader, and the products that Whole Foods offers.
Their main blog is called the Whole Story Blog. On it, you will find lots of seasonal foods with tips and recipes on how to use them. Being Whole Foods, the blog also has sprinklings of causes and tips to be healthy.
The blog posts are written in a friendly, informative tone. They’re written in the first person, with lots of “I’s” and “you’s”, and some even read more like a excerpt from a Joanne Harris novel than a corporate communication piece.
Here’s an example of the Whole Foods blog, and how they relate their food products to their consumers’ lifestyle. They wrote a blog post about what to snack on during road trips. The post also has tips on family games to play in the car – all related to food and groceries.
Most bloggers on the site has a brief bio about themselves with a photo, so the readers are able to feel a stronger personal bond with the blogs and authors. Most bloggers have professional experience in health or nutrition.
The two other blogs on the site are from Whole Foods’ co-CEO’s.
Walter Robb’s blog has a lot of company updates, with lots of videos showing the actual announcements in the various locations they were made. The intros to the videos are written in a personal manner, without a lot of the traditional multinational corporation-type dialogue.
John MacKey’s blog also has lots of videos, with John being interviewed about lifestyle choices.
Not every company would be so bold as to have their CEO’s express themselves personally on their public website. But, if you want to really connect with your customer, speaking to them in whatever medium necessary will create a closer (and more loyal) connection.
Ok, but this is nothing new! How can I better utilize the content on my ecommerce website?
Similar to the Pinterest board calls-to-action on product pages, you can include excerpts of CTAs to your blog posts that mention a product or product category. This works especially well for companies like Whole Foods that sell food items. They can include recipes directly on the product pages of how to use those items in a dish – or provide links to different recipes if the item is included in several.
This method can also work great for both clothing and furniture companies. They can include excerpts from their blog posts that discuss the materials and manufacturing process of each item, and why the designer made the item the way they did.
Giving shoppers the full story behind a product gives a real connection between it and them. They know it well enough to have an educated understanding and, especially when the design process is described, they can connect the item to their own personality.
3. Gift Registries
No longer are gift registries used solely for weddings. Occasions such as anniversaries, baby showers, housewarmings, and even holidays are becoming known for gift registry use.
Including a registry form on one of the pages of your website, such as the one on the Hudson’s Bay website (below) opens up your business to a whole new online market, multiplying your chances for revenue.
Expecting mothers, brides-to-be, and others in the market for a big occasion gift registry are slowly seeing more and more to choose from. Up the chances of your website being the chosen one by enticing prospective customers with bonus offers similar to Pottery Barn’s 10% discount on all items for six months after the big day.
Diapers.com’s gift registry offers their customers free shipping and gift returns, in the case that a guest takes a turn for the worst in their gift giving. Furthermore, they also offer a “Thank-you Manager” application, allowing gift receivers to keep track of which gifts that they receive from their guests and thank each one personally.
Since there is always one that outdoes the rest, there is Myregistry.com. The queen of all gift registries, this 8-year-old Universal Gift Registry Network allows members to create a centralized gift registry by choosing items from any of their partner websites. Its partners currently include Target, Crate and Barrel and 16 others.
By signing up for Myregistry.com’s $14.95/Month account, you can add a customizable web widget to your website and have registry functionality for all of your products too.
4. Customer Communities
Customer communities on your website are a great way to create an open forum where people can ask questions and discuss your products with you and fellow shoppers. This gives the feeling of shopping in a store full of other customers, not one of just shopping alone. It is great to give customers the ability to chat with your support reps (as we’ll see shortly), but giving shoppers the ability to ask and answer each others questions gives a more unbiased feel to the answers.
Just think about how powerful it is for a fellow shopper to tell you how great his home stereo sounds with the speakers you’re checking out vs. a salesperson.
Check out Kobo’s customer community, using Get Satisfaction, below:
Out-of-the-box apps like Get Satisfaction come packed with the features you need to create a great customer community. These include the ability for people to ask questions, file complaints and even make suggestions on your products.
People can upvote questions and answers to show how important they are within the community to allow you to see what you need to focus on the most. You can even have individual employees answering questions under their own name to give people personal answers. In section #6 we’ll look at a couple of ways to enhance the personal connection between shoppers and your customer support staff.
5. Contests on your Website
Most marketers these days are running contests on Facebook only. But the majority of web traffic goes to your website, not your Facebook Page. So why not run it right there?
Contest apps like Wishpond make it easy to embed a contest on a page on your website using a small piece of iframe code.
The best types of contests produce user-generated testimonials of your products that you can use on your site and social channels once a contest is complete. These can include simple text contests that ask people to say which product they want and why, up to photo and video contests that ask people to show themselves using your products.
Why are customer testimonials important?
According to a recent Forrester Research report, “70% of US online adults trust brand or product recommendations from friends and family”. That same report indicated that 46% trust online reviews written by customers, but only 10% trust online ads and company written text messages.
Check out a recent photo contest that Nasty Gal ran on its website to get people to share photos of themselves wearing Nasty Gal items:
Just because the contest is housed on your website, doesn’t mean it won’t be social. The contest above asks people to post their photos to Instagram or Twitter to enter – giving your contest exposure to their friends and followers. And you can even include automated sharing or sharing pop-up windows in your contest just like on Facebook!
6. Real-Time Customer Support
During an online purchase, a customer’s doubts or questions could potentially influence them to change their mind about buying a product. Providing live online chat for them to use in the middle of an online purchase provides customers with the assurance needed to make their decision.
PishPoshBaby gives its customers the option of live chat to answer any questions that may come up as they shop for baby apparel.
Interestingly, PishPoshBaby also provides customers with a “Meet the Mom Reps” page on their website featuring pictures and bios for each of their “Expert Moms”, creating a more comforting and personable feel to their business – key for the many new and expecting moms visiting their website.
The worst thing you can have are customer reps that don’t understand your customers, or worse, customers who don’t think your customer reps understand them. By including detailed biographies about their backgrounds, especially pieces that are relevant to your business.
A hockey equipment store, for example, could list the hockey careers of their employees, especially if they played at the Junior or above level. For an electronics store, customer reps could list their personal experience of fixing and building their own electronics. Or for outdoors equipment, you could list the activities they’ve completed, such as mountains climbing, rivers kayaking, or trail-biking. For this last one, photographic proof may be necessary if the activity sounds unbelievable!
Don’t think that just because you’re on your website and off a social network that the social needs to stop. Many people who visit your website will not be aware of your social presence or have any reason to check out your social networks.. Bring the social to them by including your product-focused content to the pages where people are making their purchase decision. This will give your products a personal touch above your competitors and add nicely to your conversion rate and bottom line.
Now it’s your turn. How do you integrate social media into your website?