Social shopping is becoming increasingly popular.
Online retailers like Gilt, Frank and Oak, and Trunk Club use it as a selling mechanism that revolves around the influence of consumer-generated media on ecommerce outcomes.
At Collective Bias‘ annual blogger conference, SoFabCon, I had an opportunity to listen to Dr. Annibal Sodero, Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management at the University of Arkansas on the impact that social media is making on shopping.
Below are key takeaways from Dr. Sodero’s session on the evolution of retail and what brands must know.
The Empowered Consumer
Everyone is a consumer. Today’s consumer has access to more information than ever.
Most consumers today are demanding and in touch with brands through multiple channels: social media, website, brick and mortar, etc.
Today’s consumer can do almost everything online that they can do in-store with the exception of the physical touch or feel product.
Today’s “always on” consumers have access to products – and reviews — via online, mobile, and in-store.
The Evolution of Retail
In the mid 1990s Amazon.com set up an online store, a disruptor in retail at the time, followed by Netflix with movies.
Early 2000s, “Bricks and Clicks” began to eat into the revenue, and eventual demise, of brands like Blockbuster Video and Borders Books.
Mid 2000s pioneers like MyHabit and Woot.com (both owned by Amazon) have placed an emphasis on buy now (and save) or it’s gone. What’s important is the social aspect of online communities built within these shopping sites. Consumers can build dialogue and read reviews of other consumers who’ve purchased the same products.
In 2007, the iPhone came out followed by the iPad in 2010. Mobile has disrupted how consumers look for, research, and purchase product in real-time. The future of what’s coming is virtual stores where consumers purchase product on a screen
— agoeman (@agoeman) May 9, 2014
The Needs of Your Customer
Many people are no longer looking for a specific product or service. Consumers are looking to satisfy a particular need. Brands need to focus on identifying the needs of their customers and provide information, solutions, and products. An example is Walmart.com. The search bar on Walmart’s website resembles what you find on Google, it’s big and welcoming to site visitors.
There’s also a “Trending Now” section that is connected to Pinterest and Facebook, it shows what online users are pinning and sharing the most. Brilliant!
An interesting stat to point out is the percent of shoppers who read reviews in the store using their smartphone:
- At Walmart 34% of shoppers in the store read reviews on their smartphone
- At Target 21% of shoppers looking at clothing in the store read reviews on their smartphone
- At Target 14% of shoppers looking at groceries in the store read reviews on their smartphone
Influence in Social Shopping
The community is the most important part to social shopping websites and for the social presence of retail brands.
— Ramona Collins (@monaspoeticwax) May 9, 2014
Consumers are brands too and they don’t want to be sold to. Instead, build relevant and engaging conversation around how your brand makes life easier, convenient, or more affordable for the end-user.
Identifying bloggers, and advocates already speaking about your brand, can help bridge the gap between your brand and potential customers.
Daily deal websites like Woot.com and others are forcing customers to stay engaged and “always on” with special offers received by e-mail, social, and mobile. Keep in mind, selling out a product is not necessarily a good thing however.
Consumers don’t want to be misled by going to your website to purchase a product only to find out it’s no longer available. sIn closing, influence depends not only on the ability of others to observe actions, but on the social network itself. Focus on the now, social media is a tool to engage and connect.
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