INSIGHT: Spreading the Word – Social Shopping
The retail world has evolved as it relates to the way consumers become aware, are engaged with, and consume new products. This evolution became even more apparent recently when posting a picture of my new favorite beverage, VitaCoCo, on my Facebook page with the tag, "Best stuff on earth, hands down." Instantly my post was "liked" and commented on by friends within my social network. Comments included, "I love this stuff, you are right...can't live without it!" and "So funny, my boyfriend's hooked too...guess I should hop on the bandwagon."
More importantly was the affect that my post had on friends that were not aware of the product. With such a compelling response from those within my network, it is inevitable that some will be encouraged to try VitaCoCo for the first time. Those that do could possibly become life-long fans as well, making VitaCoCo the beneficiary of what is now referred to as "social shopping."
With the vast majority of Americans researching products on the Internet before they purchase them in stores or on the web, it's no surprise that a whole new form of shopping has emerged. Social shopping is the intriguing offspring of social networking and online shopping.
Retailers are exploring a new frontier in social commerce as they go beyond simply offering Facebook pages and Twitter profiles for their customers to follow. E-Commerce has gone social. Gone are the days of one-way, private, online shopping.
SO WHAT IS SOCIAL SHOPPING ANYWAY?
It's where shoppers' friends and trusted sources become involved in the shopping experience. Social shopping attempts to use technology to mimic the social interactions found in physical malls and stores.
This all happens through peer-to-peer recommendations to deliver credibility. Social shopping websites allow for word-of-mouth marketing to work at its best. The Internet empowers consumers and accelerates the flow of information. Product recommendations that come from peers may be more trusted, so site visitors may return more often and be more likely to spread the good word and purchase the products they learn about. Social shopping sites reflect users' personal tastes and allow for online conversation. Visitors can learn what's popular, get shopping ideas, and follow links to products they wouldn't necessarily find on their own.
WHY IS SOCIAL SHOPPING SO IMPORTANT?
Companies no longer have total control over their brand's message. That responsibility now falls in the hands of the social web. Most shoppers prefer relying on peer reviews rather than retailer descriptions, so the influence over sales is very strong.
When online retailers engage in social media correctly, both they and the online community benefit.
4 REASONS WHY SOCIAL SHOPPING HAS BECOME SO ATTRACTIVE TO CUSTOMERS
It's Immediate: I don't want to wait for things on the web. For example, if I decide I want to buy a new swimsuit, I will immediately go to a site like Victoria's Secret, look around for a suit I like, find a coupon code on CheapTweet or RetailMeNot, and buy it. I want the suit right away, and I expect that I can use a social shopping site to help me buy that suit for less the moment I decide I need it. And if I can find a coupon for free upgraded shipping, that's even better. That's one reason Zappos is so successful - their stuff arrives fast.
It's Social: We want to talk about our purchases before and after we buy them. While I'm looking at swimsuits, I want to check with others who already bought the same or a similar suit before making the purchase. I need to know how it fits, what the color and fabric actually look like, or if someone found a better deal somewhere else. And I will definitely share my purchase experience on Twitter or the store's website if things went especially well or particularly not well. When the suit finally arrives at my house, I'll want to talk about it online.
It's Personal: We expect that our shopping experiences will be customized to our own needs and preferences. If I have a question about a swimsuit, a one-size-fits-all FAQ may not answer it. Instead, I might want to talk to a customer service representative. But I would rather do that on Twitter than by calling a help line, because calling 800 numbers takes forever. I want Victoria's Secret to remember the items I purchased and viewed today, so that the next time I visit their site, they've already got suggestions ready to help me find something new.
It's Simple: I want to be able to find things I like with a minimum number of clicks, and I want to easily understand just what it is that I'm buying. I don't want to be automatically signed up for an email newsletter, but if I decide that's how I want to receive updates, then that signup form should be short and simple to find. If I'd rather receive updates through RSS, the site should support RSS. I shouldn't have to sign up for an account to buy something, and I should be able to tell what's in my shopping cart at a single glance. If the site is designed so poorly that I can't easily navigate it, I'm going somewhere else.
Basically, social shopping interactions mirror our other online interactions. We expect simplicity and speed, but won't sacrifice a social, personalized experience to get it. That's the environment both shoppers and sellers find themselves in right now, and we expect that we're going to see a lot of changes over the next few years in both how we shop and where we shop.
Source: Social Shopping, David Dorf Four Important Characteristics of Social Shopping, Jenn Deering Davis Social Butterfly, Kim T. Gordon, Entrepreneur Magazine Opportunity is in the Bag, Dorsea Banning
For more retail perspectives, please contact Thomas Walther.