Social media can be used to
engage consumers and create a
stronger network of engaged shoppers.
A number of major retailers tried to use social media as a direct storefront to sell products to customers. Although it was an interesting idea, the concept didn't have much staying power - according to a new report from eMarketer, the number of retailers using Facebook in this way dwindled from 62 percent in 2012 to 15 percent last year - but that doesn't mean social media is irrelevant to merchants
In fact, many retailers have found that interaction and engagement with shoppers via social media can spur purchases at online stores and bolster brand relationships. Whether companies simply want to interact with fans on social media or use it as a sales funnel to drive more purchases, there is no denying that social media can still play a pivotal role in the overall retail experience.
Social media is about interactions, not purchases
When asked how they are leveraging social media, retailers gave a variety of different responses. Many merchants rated social sharing features (e.g., adding Facebook and Twitter buttons to product pages) as being a very effective tactic for improving conversion rates. Other strategies, such as using social media for live chatting and instant messaging, allowing customers to create custom collections for sharing and purchase, and encouraging user-generated content, such as reviews an images, were all rated as being effective as well.
"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," eMarketer explained.
Customers don't follow retailers on social media because they want to buy straight from these pages; they do so because social media is often an effective means by which to learn about products. Retailers can do video previews of new inventory, relay the reviews of satisfied customers and convey specific information about products that may encourage customers to make subsequent purchases.
Retailers need to realize that social media isn't simply about offering customers another online store they can purchase from. It's about learning more about shoppers and connecting with them in a way that's mutually beneficial. Retailers can educate customers about their products and services, which in turn helps customers feel more comfortable making a purchase. The result may lead to a sale, but that shouldn't be the intent from the outset.