Reality today is more digital than physical. Everything is online, all the time. Digital is expected to surpass television as the biggest advertising category by 2017 (according to Interpublic Group’s Magna Global). Social media has shaken up and reshaped the consumer industry! Social now influences more shoppers’ buying habits decisions than retail websites. Retail has certainly reacted to the social age and almost every brand has some form of presence online.
Companies with higher levels of engagement on platforms are tending to grow their online sales faster than their less clued-up rivals, turning the traditional fashion hierarchy on its head! Social platforms and customer-generated content plays a major role in ways today’s retailers engage and maintain a loyal customer base and attract new customers. Web and social media gives consumers much more control, information and power over the market process, posing retailers with a number of problems – speed, connecting online with offline, how to maintain individuality etc.
Social media platforms were originally used to support websites, stores etc., but their growing dominance has caused a reversal in strategy, focusing on content directly tailored for social media apps. The appeal is simple; for brands it’s cheaper, more personal and authentic, and draws in a new typically younger audience than those who use dot.com or shops. For customers, they’re getting a peek inside a previously exclusive and private world – like a walking, living magazine. Prospective buyers’ purchasing power and willingness to buy can only be triggered when a retailer entertains them through a digital experience. Thus why online retailers are doing their best to reduce the gap between the real and digital world, bringing them together. Using social media to reach millennials, optimising their shopping experience, is proving to be one of the most effective ways.
Here are some social media trends we predict we’ll see in 2016:
Social media’s role in the customer’s shopping journey will continue to grow in 2016. Retailers will adopt more social selling solutions, like Curalate’s Like2Buy (user generated content galleries) and Soldsie (selling through comments). Since Like2Buy’s launch, Sephora, Nordstrom, GAP, Target, and Charlotte Russe, amongst other brands, have purchased and used its services on their Instagram accounts. But, no other social platform has been able to dominate shopping – it doesn’t mean they won’t! Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all released buy buttons in 2015 and other commerce focused features. Whilst none gained widespread adoption, we expected social platforms to continue investing into social commerce.
Social media is fast-moving; we’re expected to keep up. The window time for response is becoming increasingly smaller for real-time engagement. Brands need to respond faster. Advances such as social listening and automation tools are being used to speed up this service. If you’re not quick enough, one of your competitors might be!
In-store experiences, done correctly, are invaluable for the coming generations. When shared on social media, the popularity for the brand multiplies. Online retailers don’t need lots of content. Imagine an opportunity for customers to explore stores without visiting the physical space – retailers could embed a virtual tour of their store online, showing products on offer – this would take the online customer experience to the next level. Tommy Hilfiger in October announced it will offer a virtual reality shopping experience at some of its outlets!
Virtual reality and retail is something we’re going to explore in more detail later.
Live streaming is the next big thing thanks to apps like Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat. It opens the window between brands and customers further, revealing a more authentic side of the business, which consumers love! It’s unedited, unfiltered and unprompted. Burberry was the first fashion house to live stream their catwalks, sharing behind-the-scenes images and videos. On some of their platforms, users can even click-through to buy certain garments as soon as they see them on catwalks.
Already part of how you measure social media success. This will go even further in 2016 and help personalise messages and focus on building stronger loyalty and long term engagement.
For the very distance future, users will continue to use social platforms to discover and talk about products so retailers must keep investing in social media initiatives!