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Social Media and Online Shopping: 3 Lessons to Get it Right

Online shopping and how consumers want information delivered to them is changing. Recently, Google announced its product listing ads will come to YouTube. Through the TrueView for shopping, marketers will get the opportunity to promote their products on YouTube videos. Ads can now appear at the right time alongside a video, which then encourages viewers to click and buy the product they’re watching in real time. For marketers, this means that we have to adapt to conquer these new opportunities.


Customers: Direct Search vs Description

In the past, consumers turned to Google, Amazon, and other search-based platforms to find specific products they needed, and they’d decide to buy or not based on specs, ratings, and reviews.

This search-based approach, however, doesn’t work with lifestyle products because consumers have a harder time describing what they want, such as a lipstick shade that goes with their dress. Instead, they’re more likely to make a purchase based on something that inspires them and makes them look good rather than simply knowing the hard facts.

This is part of the reason as to why consumers are relying more on visually-oriented platforms, such as Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Polyvore, which provides an easy way for products to be highlighted in a way that inspires purchases. Social media users around the world reached more than 2 billion in August 2014. With social media’s widespread use, its monetization is inevitable. And with YouTube and Google’s TrueView, it’s only wise for marketers to jump in and join the bandwagon. But as a marketer, how exactly can you get brand engagement on social media right? Here are a few lessons to keep in mind:

Inspire Through Experience

Consumers want a great experience, hence the updates that improve reading news articles on Facebook, ordering pizza direct from their smartphone, and reading through informational articles online.

When it comes to online shopping, one way to give consumers a great experience is by inspiring with content. You need to showcase products through content that people can relate to. It’s not enough to present product information in a bullet list, you also have to present the product in a way that makes it practical for them.

Moreover, you have to deliver the content early in the buying process before they’ve made up their minds. This is the principle TrueView capitalizes on. Very few buyers visit retail websites early in their purchase process because they know the content will be self-promotional.

TrueView presents the products to the consumers in a way that doesn’t force the viewer to buy. It simply presents viewers an option to buy the products they are seeing. With that simple option, however, users get a better experience because the products are presented to them at the right place and time. Display and deliver products through beautiful editorial content that’s appropriate for the social media channel you’re using.

Grow and Foster a Following

You don’t have to be everywhere, but you do need to be where your customers are. Finding and sticking to a few social media sites that are right for your business is always better than spreading yourself too thin.

It’s not practical to create inspiring content for every item you sell—that’s a lot of work especially if you have hundreds of products. A good way to scale up content creation is by fostering a community not just of followers, but brand ambassadors as well.

Find advocates who can create content for you. On Polyvore, Instagram, and Pinterest, for example, you can connect with influential users who are already using or featuring your products and engage them in authentic ways.

Simple likes, pins, regrams, and shares give your brand authenticity, which entices users to join. Any way you can grow your community is always a great way to engage users to become customers.

Paid Should Complement Organic

It is okay to invest in paid ad programs on social platforms, but make sure this goes with your organic efforts.

Facebook has sponsored posts, Twitter has sponsored tweets, Pinterest has promoted pins, YouTube has video ads and now Instagram is introducing ads. Ensure that these paid programs support your organic marketing strategies.

Promote posts of your key products on Instagram to boost awareness beyond your followers; promote pins of popular products on Pinterest to drive up re-pinning and traffic; and step up the sponsored posts on Facebook. The goal is to boost awareness and traffic to your site and social media profiles in more ways than one.

Retail and Social Media

Social media networks, as well as search engine big names, Google and Bing, are pushing for better user experience. Part of this is taking the businesses directly to the consumers. This gives retailers an opportunity to integrate social media and mobile for today’s consumers at reasonably low cost.

Businesses can engage customers on social media, encouraging conversations, interactions, and information exchange. This interactive relationship-building inspires long-term loyalty. By taking advantage of new features, such as Google’s upcoming buy button and YouTube-Google’s TrueView, retailers ensure they deliver on the type of immediate and optimal shopping experience that consumers demand today.

Moreover, the monetization of social media for mobile significantly shortens the sales funnel, bringing the customers (who have already gone through reviews and asked for opinions from peers) to the payment stage almost immediately.

Brands that take advantage of the new ways consumers find and engage with products certainly have better chances at succeeding with online retail through social media. Remember that inspirations, recommendations, and improved user experience on social sites play a key role in influencing shopping decisions.

By already being there during the inspiration phase, your brand gets the opportunity to drive awareness in an organic, authentic manner, which often leads to higher conversion.


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