Few would argue that social media has proven to be a significant direct sales channel or that it is not as strong a sales driver when compared with other tactics. Though it cannot be tracked in traditional ways, social is indeed valuable to retailers for engagement, brand awareness and influence that unquestionably affect sales, according to a new eMarketer report, “Social Commerce: Influencing Shoppers and Assisting Sales.”
Since social media storefronts are now a relic—according 8thBridge, just 15% of retailers with Facebook apps had product browsing in 2013 vs. 62% in 2012—the hard sell on social sites has been replaced with new creative endeavors. Some are meant to engage and inspire. Others aim to motivate further down the purchase funnel.
Spurring shoppers to create, participate and share is at the heart of most retail social marketing. Consequently, adding social network sharing buttons on product pages is becoming standard. In 2013, 94% of retailers analyzed by the e-tailing group were doing this, up from 89% in 2012. And according to marketers surveyed by Adobe, social sharing was one of the most effective social marketing tactics for increasing conversions last year. User-generated content, whether product collections or images and videos, had similar rankings.
Now that retailers are accepting that the average shopper isn’t flocking to social media to purchase, they’re realizing that social can be a valuable research tool, and the opinions of online friends can be persuasive.
True enough, product reviews were the leading digital tool that influenced US internet users to shop at a specific retailer (39%), according to Q2 2013 polling by Ryan Partnership. Retailer social media was also relatively influential and performed especially well at inspiring users to buy products or brands they had not bought before.
While buying wasn’t a leading reason US internet users followed brands on social networks, according to December 2012 polling by Technorati Media, learning about products was. In fact, that was the top reason for following brands on Facebook, Pinterest, and perhaps surprisingly, YouTube, which had a strong 61%. If visual content aids shopping, the reasoning goes, then video has the potential to be even more compelling.