By Simon Horton
Competition among eCommerce stores is at an all-time high. What online retailers now need is the extra edge, and social media has introduced a new retail ecosystem in its short reign. There is no denying that sites like Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we communicate. With time, social media has even extended its impact on the way companies do business, especially in changing their digital marketing approach.
“72 percent of retailers say they will increase their spending on social networks this year over last year.” ‐ Forrester Research (May 2011)
The new retail ecosystem, encouraged by blogging and social media sites, is based on genuine conversations, social activities and back-and-forth relationships. eCommerce, therefore, can no longer survive on a one-way conversation. It is time to integrate eCommerce with social media to stay abreast of your customers’ needs. Many online retailers think that social media marketing strategies only involve posting social ads and sharing marketing/sales content. This is far from the truth. A successful social eCommerce (social media + eCommerce) strategy calls for customer engagement. You need to influence the purchase decisions of the consumers using social channels.
Why Integrate Social Media with eCommerce
Integrating social activity into your online retail site means building social sharing activities and promoting consumer engagements on social media. By tapping the capabilities of social networks, you encourage your target audience to browse, research, purchase, and review your products. The channel to opt for often depends on the type of products being sold as well as on the customers being targeted.
This is different than solicitation methods of marketing. Integrating social media with your eCommerce site is an ‘inbound marketing’ approach. If used properly, it helps create a situation where users engage with your brand out of their sheer interest and perceived benefit. Social eCommerce is a great way to open up conversation regarding potential purchases, which is similar to shopping with friends at a brick and mortar store. It provides eCommerce sites the capability to offer user experience akin to offline shopping where buyers can weigh their reactions after seeing an item and build a conversation around it. People are compelled to interact; even passers-by can participate or start a conversation.
Statistics too show that integrating social media with eCommerce works. Customers using social sign-in spend more on-site time as well as make more purchases than people using traditional sign-ins. According to a Facebook report, the referral traffic of Levi’s saw a 40 percent increase after incorporating Facebook “Like” button into their product pages in April 2010.
These are only a few examples; there are several other benefits of syncing a social media experience with your eCommerce store. But it is important to do this rightly. Here are 3 secrets to create a happy marriage between social media and eCommerce.
Share Plugins on Product Pages
It is the most common and simplest way to make your eCommerce site more social. Adding sharing buttons on product pages has become a general trend over the past few years. These small icons barely affect your existing design, but their impact on visibility and engagement has been highly measurable.
The major issue here is to identify which buttons to include and where to place them for maximum impact.
It’s recommended to select a few social plugins; popular choices include Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Place them as close to product images as possible to highlight sharing features.
Social sharing buttons are a great tool for social penetration and organic engagement. Seeing their benefits all top brands and thousands of smaller ones have integrated social plugins into the product pages.
Invest in Content Creation
Content, especially that generated by users, plays a great role in influencing people in the social space. The Chinese market, for example, demonstrates such strong reliance on user-generated content that there are over 300 million people who make purchase decisions only after getting their peers’ consent via social networks and forums.
Though the country is still behind the United States in terms of eCommerce revenue, China is said to be 5 years ahead of the Americans in integrating social and shopping behaviors. Dominant China-based brands like Alibaba and Tencent are embracing the value and social influence of user-generated content on their eCommerce platforms.
Leveraging the online recommendation/review system, Chinese companies are transforming their social commerce landscape. Instead of using social media to push marketing messages and ads, they are engaging these channels to deliver utility and services.
Online retailers should focus on taking advantage of the positive user-generated content such as text updates, photos and video files about their business/products by highlighting them on their eCommerce site through a hashtag. Displayed in a feed, such content can be moderated and highly curated by retailers to show the best fan-generated content. Such social mentions help brands in reputation management and also in generation of sales through recommendations.
As mentioned earlier in this post, social sign-in offers immense possibilities to increase customer engagement. Signing up with different websites is a time-consuming process; besides, people don’t like to share their personal email address on different sites. These factors often derail purchases. With a social sign-in (the most common are Facebook and Google+), you not only cut down on the time factor but are also offering a trustworthy solution, recognized and respected by Internet users.
It gives a real-life identity to comments, which helps potential buyers to relate better. It enhances feedback, as people avoid making controversial statements just for the sake of grabbing attention when the comment is tied up to a real-life identity. Integrating social sign-ins in your comment systems also facilitates discussion.
Disqus and Facebook Comments are good options to allow social sign-in. They both feature a voting system whereby other users can promote or demote a comment. They not only foster conversation, but also create social activity and build customer engagement, resulting in better product awareness and traffic.
Putting It Together
Integrating social media with eCommerce is a great way to build public awareness and customer loyalty. If used properly, businesses can gain market insights including shopping trends that further facilitate brand building. As social media becomes more prevalent, incorporating it with eCommerce should be the focus of every online retailer.