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I love good marketing. Lately, while catching up on some sports, I was captivated by the Progressive Insurance commercials featuring Dr. Rick and “not becoming your parents.” I love this for many reasons, mainly because so many people I know don’t understand technology, and those commercials are so incredibly accurate — as well as hysterical. If you get time, head to YouTube and check them out.
I will say off the blocks in no way am I an expert at technology, social media platforms or marketing. My time on Facebook is usually spent as a creative and humorous outlet, leaving many of you to believe I cook, when usually I copy/paste an image from the Williams-Sonoma catalog and call it my own. Good fun.
Unless you are like me and wake up thinking that it is the same misinformation making people on social media channels believe everything they see or read online to be true. It made for a scary start to 2021 for sure.
With that being said, I retired my practice of social media humor (for the most part) and have taken a more purposeful approach. Change is always a good thing.
Back to business. In North America, consumers are usually accustomed to using e-commerce platforms to shop — whether it be Amazon or Homedepot.com. If you need to find a light fixture or faucet, many consumers head that way. It’s easy to buy, easy to shop and the shopping cart is virtually right there. A vast assortment awaits, and suggested products are placed before you.
Globally, the commerce world is changing. Shopping on social media platforms, as opposed to e-commerce platforms, is much more common and becoming the norm. Advertising rather than transactions currently dominates American social commerce. After all, influencer culture is Instagram’s most dominant force, built upon brand marketing.
For those of you who aren’t online much, an influencer is an online celebrity who helps persuade your shopping decisions by endorsing certain brands or creating a culture of values similar to yours. You’re pushed to buy products in his or her world and emulate that influencer.
People love to gather around an influencer who represents something they support or find aspirational. Joanna Gaines would be a great example — leading the sale of shiplap lumber. Those sales went through a homedepot.com sale, though, not through Instagram.
“Social commerce is a growing and changing field of online marketing that works in conjunction with social media and online shopping growth,” notes Investopedia (http://bit.ly/39U6V8Y). Fashion- and shopping-related blogs use social commerce and media to entice shoppers to purchase linked items online. Basically, you don’t need to change sites to buy.
“For example, many popular fashion blogs have Instagram accounts, that allow followers to like, share and comment on the offered product,” the publication explains. “The tagged article frequently links directly to the store’s shopping cart or checkout desk.”
Globally, when you look at the East, it’s a very different scene, with social commerce sales surpassing $200 billion in 2019. That’s 10 times the U.S. total, thanks to the deeper integration of content and commerce and its embrace by consumers. In short, the world is using social media differently than America.
Controlling the Sale
Whether it is resistance to change or lack of familiarity, soon showrooms will need to look at social commerce, as opposed to conventional e-commerce, as its preferred way to let the public know what they sell. Think of it this way — you could post a photo of a vignette in your showroom, and the consumer could click on the items in that vignette and buy directly. The technology is there for the product to head straight to the shopping cart.
There are benefits to this. For starters, when the customer clicks on a posting, you can control the sale — it isn’t redirecting to a manufacturer’s site or steering her to an overwhelming e-commerce site. The choices are narrow; the customer sees what she likes and buys from there. And it’s designed to be much faster; limited choices make for a quick decision, typically.
Social commerce can help the offline part of your business, too. More images of your showroom online should bring more shoppers to experience your offline, brick-and-mortar location. Once they arrive, you can assure the customer that your showroom is the right place to buy. This way, even if they leave without placing the order, they still can buy the way they want to — which could be back on social commerce.
Here are a few suggestions to help bridge your social commerce and brick-and-mortar businesses:
• Turn employees into social influencers. Put employees who deal directly with customers in the social spotlight through content series around products and what they love in the showroom. Customers will be delighted by the ideas, as well as meeting the employee in the store. Think of it as a mini lunch-and-learn session, only online.
• Bring screens or iPads in the store. They offer user-generated content such as reviews and in-person buying decisions. Doing this reminds customers that the brand has an online presence and provides an opportunity to get in-person customers looking online. This gives them a choice in what channel they want to buy
To create brand loyalty with your showroom, it is important to send traffic from your physical storefront to your social media pages — and vice versa. “Advertise an exclusive in-store special on your company’s social media page,” notes a Forbes Agency Council blog post (http://bit.ly/39Q5fgM); try to keep it simple. “This will not only incentivize customers to ‘follow’ you on social media, but it also will motivate [them] to visit your store and take advantage of the deal.”
“The single most important aspect of integrating social media presence with your in-store experience is customer service,” the post continues. “If your customer’s online experience is great but doesn’t match [her] in-store experience, guess what? That great social media presence will backfire as customers will go online and complain. Make sure there is a consistent brand experience online and offline.”
Nothing replaces a great in-store experience with well-trained employees. If you work your social media plan into the mix for increased traffic and eventual social commerce sales, you are headed in the right direction.