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Social shopping

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Intelligencia.co

Social shopping

According to a survey conducted by Nielsen in Q1 2012 (Nielsen Wire, 2012b) in which Smartphone and Tablet owners were asked if they have done any mobile shopping on their mobile devices, 79% said they had, while 21% had not. Of the 79% who had shopped, more had used a smartphone to do on-the-go activities such as locating a store (73% vs. 42% for tablets) or redeeming a mobile coupon (36% vs. 11% for tablet owners) (Nielsen Wire, 2012b). Tablet owners, however, “are much more likely to use their device for online shopping: 42 percent of tablet owners have ‘used their device to purchase an item’, compared to just 29 percent of smartphone owners” (Nielsen Wire, 2012b).

Companies can use services like Facebook, Twitter, Weibo and WeChat to talk directly to their customers; Twitter is a specifically useful tool because it can help a business quickly move perishable inventory. Twittering last minute airfares to its Twitter followers helps airlines such as United and JetBlue sell their perishable inventory of seats.[1] The same could be done with concert, theater, or sporting event tickets.

As previously mentioned, WeChat is a good avenue for social shopping. There are a growing number of shops, malls, group-buy and flash-sales channels being built into WeChat (Baker, 2014).Several big name brands have created branded stores (as “Service Accounts”) where they sell products directly to WeChat users (Baker, 2014).

There are also “malls” within WeChat where users can purchase products from several large Chinese and US retailers (Baker, 2014). The biggest challenges selling through these channels is gaining visibility in a very crowded market as well as managing the presentation of the brand (Baker, 2014). WeChat also has an affiliate sales network that can be exploited (Baker, 2014). I go into full detail about these options in the section on WeChat in chapter three.

Today's online shoppers are more socially active than ever before and they like to participate in conversations that allow them to share their knowledge as well as learn things from others (Woodward, 2013). Brands, too, are more willing to communicate with customers in an informal and open way (Woodward, 2013). “These off-site communities are powerful in that they give customers a platform to express their opinions, but the next step for retailers is having an online community built directly into their site” (Woodward, 2013).

Apple has created a community within its online store that allows shoppers and potential customers to ask questions about the brand and its products and it has thousands of active conversations going on at any one time (Woodward, 2013). This service enhances loyalty by giving customers a place to candidly talk about Apple’s products with fellow enthusiasts (Woodward, 2013).

The first goal of building an online community should be to engage the audience and encourage repeat visits to the site. “To achieve this, retailers should ensure users can express themselves, that they can easily see what others are up to and that they feel contributions are valued” (Woodward, 2013).

Users should be able to create profiles as this lets them feel as if they are a part of a network of like-minded people (Woodward, 2013). “Retailers should let users follow things they find interesting—this is a powerful way for them to create their own network of interests. Regular email updates about their interests will also bring them back to the site” (Woodward, 2013).

“Online communities can be miniature societies where shoppers and staff members sit alongside one another to share their wisdom” (Woodward, 2013). These social environments should be friendly, offering impartial and expert answers to questions from customers and potential customers, while also making the brand seem responsive and approachable (Woodward, 2013). “Retailers should ensure staff are available to answer any questions. Swift responses add to the customer's sense that they are participating in a conversation, and support their perception of a retailer's product expertise” (Woodward, 2013).

The community can then be used to bridge the gap between online and bricks-and-mortar stores as well as being an entry into the omni-channel (Woodward, 2013). When a customer purchases something in-store, the retailer's staff are on-hand to assist with questions and/or problems and an online community should replicate this experience (Woodward, 2013). However, it also offers something that can't be replicated: the mix of expert staff and genuine customer opinion, which is “a strong combination that gives shoppers more reason to visit the retailer and makes communities easier to develop” (Woodward, 2013).

“Although the retailer's website is the hub of community activity, it shouldn't end there—spreading the community further allows a wider audience to become involved in the conversation, while also exposing potential new customers to the brand” (Woodward, 2013). Social media sites should be exploited to build and support the community (Woodward, 2013). “Letting users log in to the community with social profiles facilitates the sharing of information, and share buttons ensure users can spread content across their social networks” (Woodward, 2013) with ease. “Retailers should also actively feed content into their own social media sites so that their off-site communities support their on-site one” (Woodward, 2013). This creates a broad base of experience by drawing in insights and opinions from a wider group of people, thereby creating a strong and knowledgeable network of experts (Woodward, 2013).

A recent study by Shopify found that Facebook was the top social commerce site worldwide (eMarketer, 2014). “According to Q3 2013 polling, Facebook drove nearly two-thirds of social media visits to Shopify-operated stores and claimed about 85% of all orders from social media—a year-over-year increase of 129%” (eMarketer, 2014).

Facebook was not the leader when it came to average order value, however, that honor belonged to Polyvore, the community powered social commerce website that allows members to curate products into image collages called “Sets” (eMarketer, 2014). Polyvore led the pack here, “with an average order value of $66.75. Instagram ranked a close second, at $65.00 per order, and Pinterest was No. 3 ($58.95). Facebook had the fourth-highest average order value, with $55.00” (eMarketer, 2014).  

Shopify found that Facebook’s level of dominance varied across shopping categories. “Nearly all photography-related social commerce orders came from the network, and 94% of sports and recreation as well as pet supplies did, too. Drop shipping and jewelry and watches rounded out the 90%-plus list” (eMarketer, 2014).

Other social platforms also showed some success in generating orders, as well (eMarketer, 2014). “The antiques and collectibles industry was the best example, with Pinterest generating 74% of social orders. YouTube saw success with digital products, services and merchandise, grabbing 47%, 36% and 29% of orders, respectively” (eMarkter, 2014).

In conclusion, “while Facebook was the clear leader, marketers may fare well when using secondary platforms such as Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter in conjunction with their Facebook page, Shopify suggested” (eMarketer, 2014).

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