3 Experts Talk Social Media and E-Commerce Growth

April Davis By April Davis | 02 May 2018

Retail no longer follows a traditional shopping model; it has become a truly omnichannel experience. Power Retail talks to three experts about how to leave a mark on consumers in an increasingly social media-oriented world.

In light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, questions over the trustworthiness and overall usage of social media platforms like Facebook have been circulating much of the community, especially at a higher government level. However, facts don’t lie, with 2.2 billion monthly active users across the globe, Facebook, and similar platforms are still among the best places to interact with consumers online.

“The evidence speaks for itself. Social media has a huge role when it comes to digital marketing and conversions,” says Simon Kelly, the strategic partnership manager at ChannelAdvisor.

“We’re living in a truly omnichannel landscape where everything is connected, and social media is an enormous part of the customer’s purchase journey. Smartphone penetration, millennial purchase behaviour, customer service requirements, the way we search and research…it all leads back to social.”

This probably isn’t anything particularly unheard of for most pureplay and multichannel businesses, but successfully utilising these social channels to drive consumer engagement and ultimately, increase ROI, is still an area a lot of businesses struggle with.

According to Tim Davies, the online retail strategist at Zellis, social media shouldn’t just be an integral part of the communications process; it should also be used to drive brand awareness.

“When browsing social media we tend to be less defensive, less cynical and often more open to suggestion. This provides a unique opportunity for brands to flirt with their target customers, flying somewhat under the radar and influencing recall and acceptance,” Davies says.

“Trying to convince somebody they should buy a product is cold and mechanical. Warming them up first by demonstrating common interests, values and aspirations build trust and rapport.”

Effective Uses of Social Media and Visual Content

Finding the right social channel for your audience is the first step towards effectively promoting your e-commerce business via social media.

According to the CEO and Co-Founder of Commission Factory, Zane McIntyre, Instagram is the place to be.

“Instagram is the incumbent platform for retailers, as it provides strong conversion rates (around 4.5 percent). The use of tagging and Instagram stories only helps increase reach to online retailer’s potential customers. However, with AR applications becoming more widespread, Snapchat and Facebook can be new experimental grounds to try,” McIntyre tells Power Retail.

Kelly reiterates the value of Instagram and Facebook, but he also believes the channel you choose should be dependent on your e-commerce goals.

“Snapchat and Twitter can be great for brand building and engaging content but are you as a retailer going to make sales on these channels?

“Facebook, along with its subsidiary Instagram, is far and away the most popular — and most lucrative — choice for sellers looking to reach more consumers. They are the leaders in social media advertising market share, and retailers consider Facebook their fastest-growing marketing tactic and in the “Top Five” strategies for customer acquisition,” Kelly says.

Which platform you choose to use, and believe is the most suitable place to find your ideal customer, will also have an influence on any social campaigns, whether you’re investing a budget in a paid campaign, or doing your best to reach your target audience organically.

“If your audience is looking for inspiration on social media, it’s important that you inspire them, not ‘sell’ to them. From retargeting to dynamic ads, using a platform that removes the guesswork from promoting products on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest is essential for ROI,” says Kelly.

Your delivery method is also an integral part of this process, which is where visual content comes into play.

“Pictures are the ultimate weapon when it comes to endearment. Some find it irresistible to like, share or comment on a cute puppy photo, and humour can have the same impact,” Davies says.

“Since we tend to graze on social media throughout our day, content should be bite-sized and simple, reinforcing the brand values and aspirations, and resonating with the target audience. Presenting consistent personality and themes will have a better impact than just posting anything you find amusing or interesting. Try to see your social media channel through your audience’s eyes,” says Davies.

According to McIntyre, visual content is also beneficial, as it increases retention.

“Looking at an article published by TNW, [visual content] improves retention by 68 percent, generates 150 percent more re-tweets and produces 2.3 times better engagement rates than [posts] without visual content. The stats really speak for themselves,” he says.

One final point to note, however, is that visual content alone won’t be enough to get your brand over the line in your consumers’ eyes. A successful social media strategy will be all-encompassing, where everything from targeting to ad spends will come together to get you the results you’re after.

“We know that consumers head to social media for inspiration and ideas, and that works best in a visual medium,” Kelly says.

“Having optimised content and ensuring the right products are getting in front of the right customers at the right moment that they’re ready to purchase is a science. It’s about ensuring you have that visual component, absolutely, but also ensuring that you have everything else lined up so that the visual element can make the right impact.”

One last word of advice, marketplaces, social media and digital marketing strategies are all blurring together – adapting to the retail of today, and tomorrow, is where the true key to success lies.

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