Think about the last time you made a purchase. Whether it was a couch or a pair of pants, chances are you took time to research until you found what you wanted to buy. Maybe you browsed user reviews on the company’s website. Maybe you asked for feedback on Twitter or Facebook. Maybe you created a pin board of potential candidates on Pinterest. Congratulations! You’re a social shopper.
Shopping combines relationships, connections and conversations with purchasing. Sometimes it’s more about the relationships — when we take our best friend to go the outlets; other times it’s about the purchase — like when we want to get the best deal. But every time a consumer consults others in an effort to make a more informed purchasing decision, it can affect your company. What people are saying about you and your products can influence what people buy.
There is much to gain by leveraging the loyalty and sustained satisfaction that social media can bring. Successful social media campaigns start with understanding the behaviors associated with your audience. Here are some best practices designed to get the most out of social media as you launch campaigns to connect with customers.
Let’s define social shopping.
Social shopping refers to consumers who use social networking services and sites to share their latest purchases, deals, coupons, product reviews, want lists, and other shopping finds. It usually refers to e-commerce, like online shopping, but it can also be applied to in-store purchases as well.
Next, let’s look at who social shoppers are.
According to research by NetBase, social shoppers are social media users who strongly agree with the statement: “The brands and products my friends use influence my own purchase decisions.”
Research from Javelin shows that in 2014, 62 million adults have purchased on a social network in the past 12 months, and 1 in 5 are likely to do it again. Gen Y members are the most likely to make a purchase on a social network in the next 12 months.
If we look at friends from the perspective of social network, it’s a pretty big network of influencers, as the average number of Facebook friends of U.S. users in 2014, for 18-24 years old is 649, while those ages 25 – 43 have 360. That’s a lot of influencers.
Of course, not all friends are equal. Some have more clout than others when it comes to influencing others. Millennial Moms, for example, are decision-influencers. They are more likely than moms overall to provide opinions and recommendations. They also cite themselves as key advisors among their circle of friends.
Researchers at Oxford, Harvard and the University of Limerick observed a interesting phenomenon — they looked at the purchased on Facebook apps. They presented users with two kinds of information to help inform their purchase:
- “Cumulative information,” i.e. a bestsellers list
- “Recent activity information,” i.e. the apps their friends had recently installed
They found that friendship trumps research. Community members randomly copy the choices made by other members in the recent past so that products whose popularity levels have recently grown the fastest are the most likely to be selected, whether or not they are the most popular overall.
How can marketers leverage this: With social proof — showing the support of hundreds or thousands of “likes” can help. Same with testimonies from people that others may know.
How do social shoppers get influenced and influence others?
To better understand the behaviors of social shoppers, here are few different types:
The Efficiency-Sprint Shopper
- uses social media to help zero in rapidly on consumer-generated information to make sensible purchases
- looks at top rated reviews for best results
- relies of group think to make decisions
- uses sites like Yelp or reviews on Amazon
The Peer Shopper
- relies heavily on recommendations and tips from friends
- trusts their friends more than other sources
- uses Facebook as their primary network for gathering insights
The In-the-Know Shopper
- cultivates a following based on their insider status
- mentions or tag brands/companies
- craves connections with brands/companies
- uses Twitter, check-ins to broadcast
The Impulse-Buying Shopper
- suffers from FOMO — fear of missing out on great deals
- uses daily deal sites, search for coupon codes before buying
- shares deals to friends to receive incentives
- participates in online giveaways, contests and other social promotions
As well there are five different categories in which social shopping can be defined:
- Group shopping sites: sites like Groupon and Living Social, that encourage groups of people to buy together at wholesale prices, essentially a Costco-like model for the online world.
- Shopping communities: using the wisdom of crowds, users communicate and aggregate information about products, prices, and deals. Many sites allow users to create custom shopping lists and share them with friends.
- Recommendation engines: websites that provide customers opportunities to write reviews and offer advice to fellow shoppers.
- Shopping Marketplaces: sites like Polyvore or Etsy that bring sellers and buyers together to connect and transact. The marketplace brings together independent sellers and creates a forum for them to display and sell their wares to buyers. The marketplace affords buyers and sellers methods to connect and communicate whilst also performing the role of e-commerce facilitator for sellers and discovery engine for buyers.
- Shared Shopping: sites that allow shoppers to form ad hoc collaborative shopping groups in which one person can drive an online shopping experience for one or more other people, using real-time communication among themselves and with the retailer.
What Social Shopping Looks Like
- Facebook: social shoppers are more likely to have Facebook profiles over all other social networks.
- Twitter: 75 percent of social shoppers have Twitter profiles
- Instagram: on Instagram, 45% of social shoppers are influenced to purchase a product in at least one category
- Pinterest: 52% of social shoppers indicated that they look to Pinterest for product inspiration.
- Blogs: Before making a purchase in at least one product category, 64 percent of social shoppers consult message boards or blogs for inspiration
- Reviews: 75% of social shoppers prefer consumer reviews, over expert reviews, before making their purchases.
Best Practices for Influencing Social Shoppers
How can retailers connect with shoppers? Marketers can leverage social shopping to drive traffic, sales, and loyalty and become the ultimate influencer.
Show social proof: Convince visitors to take an action by showing the support of hundreds or thousands of “likes” or testimonies from people they may know.
Make sharing easy: Make it easy for customers to share their shopping experiences with others. Encourage customers to share what’s in their cart after checkout. Offer promotional codes to those that share their purchases with friends and family. Ask or reward customers to Instagram or Tweet their wares after purchase.
Analyze sharing behaviors of customers: What are customers saying when they share information about your product? is it positive or negative? What products are they sharing the most? What networks are they sharing to and what networks are driving traffic to your site? When customers ask questions about your products are you responding? Are your customers responding? What do you know about them? Could you be rewarding them for their assistance?
Create a new vocabulary: You can see what products people are pinning from your website and how they are categorizing them on their boards. What words are the using to describe them? what can you learn? If they’re adding them to boards called wishlist — perhaps you can offer promotions? randomly reward customers? maybe they’re using products in unique ways. Use what you’re learning and add these words into your messaging or incorporate these keywords into your social advertising campaigns.
Integrate online and in-store experiences: Does the online experience compliment the in-store experience? When you’re in-store is it easy to connect to Wifi? Have you leveraged location-based technology to offer promotions when customers are nearby? Can mobile coupons be redeemed easily at checkout? When online, offer to let customers pay online and pick up in store. This can make customers become more familiar with the in-store experience. Will they feel as welcomed?
What is Showrooming?
Show rooming is when customers use a mobile device to compare prices online to in-store prices, and then leave the showroom to buy online. (46% of people in the US showroom.) Reverse Showrooming is when consumers go online to research products, but then head to a bricks-and-mortar store to complete their purchase. (69% of people in the US reverse-showroom.)
As more shoppers use mobile devices while they shop, brick-and-mortar retailers need to be maximizing every customer touch point throughout the store. Here are a few things to help you use consumer mobile devices to your advantage.
Amazon.com remains the No. 1 place where showroomers end up making their purchases, but it’s an even more popular destination for reverse showroomers who ultimately buy elsewhere.
Location-based technology can engage customers while they are in-store and provide them with personalized offers on the item they are looking at or mobile-only promotions as they walk by a store. Personalized mobile notifications can turn browsers into buyers.
42% of consumers using a mobile device while in-store spend more than $1,000, while only 21% of shoppers without a phone spend as much.
No matter how you choose to leverage the power of social shoppers, it’s important to first understand the behaviors of your audience to figure out where they are online and what they’re doing there. Then, you can learn how their social behaviors can help drive traffic, cultivate relationships and build loyalty.