Five Reasons Social Retailing Will Explode in 2017


For a long time, social wasn’t a closed-loop system. But with the shift of e-commerce to mobile-first, brands can now use the data and features of social media to create hyper-personalized connections that get users to buy. And as a result, retailers can better track in-channel purchases, as well as multi-touch attribution.

Yet, the failure of aggressively promotional formats, from 'Buy Now' buttons and pins to creepy, Big Brother-ish ads is a clear indication brands need to deliver content more contextually so users want to act on it.

Urged by conversion – the only metric that truly matters – five emerging trends will support the impact of social retailing on the bottom line:

1. Social as a shopping cart: People are no longer just browsing on social, they’re shopping – cart shopping. Whether it’s on Pinterest, Facebook or even Google, social users can find, categorize and save multiple items they can buy at their convenience. Until the users complete their purchase, retailers have the opportunity to grow these shopping lists by suggesting additional products that are matching behaviors and interests.

The proliferation of ‘social carts’ means more product bundling in the future and platforms like Facebook are already testing out formats that feature multiple products in a single ad, triggering content based on real-time inventory and making it possible for retailers to intelligently sell more throughout the social journey.

2. Social as your personal shopper: People grow more comfortable and fluent with messaging as a form of transaction every day, and with increasingly sophisticated notifications that are context-aware, predictive chatbots will start to function as our personal shoppers. Not only do apps like Facebook Messenger and WeChat provide advanced, faster access to inventory, but they also have integrated seamless payment layers that drive people to spend and allow retailers to track and interpret sales trends.

And as with any personal shopper, chatbots leverage visual and conversational analytics to build knowledge over time about any particular consumer to provide greater personalization. Soon they will even be able to pick up on emotional cues, enhancing customer service and achieving a real value exchange.

3. Social as a store: Social media are not only rivaling the Amazons and eBays of the world – they’re clearly mirroring the physical experience itself. And the way retailers merchandise products on social will favor the immersive, to the intrusive. None of us likes to be pushed to choose a product we don’t know, anywhere, and buyer uncertainty will be progressively resolved with virtual and augmented reality.

For instance, a social user who is shopping for home furnishings can project a virtual bed or lamp to see how the item would actually look and fit in their home. AR/VR will make it easier for people to visualize and explore their options. As for any brand experience, the success of social shopping will be determined by the discovery and customization factor.

4. Social as the offline bridge: With the advent of ads showing real-time pricing and product availability based on people’s location, social will spur and help quantify brick-and-mortar visits and sales. Retailers can already match transaction data from their customer database or point-of-sale with Facebook or Pinterest campaigns.

Other social apps like Waze or Instagram are helping connect the path-to-purchase with nearby destination recommendations and search. A huge chunk of opportunities will arise from social “SEO,” such as the bundling of shopping trips with friends through Snapchat and Vurb.

Likewise, ‘snapcodes’ and encrypted pieces of content will have people scan and redeem discounts and giveaways in-store. Furthermore, physical rewards in return for tagged social interaction will not only increase footfall but also UGC, amplifying brand messages. And once in-store, people will continue to reference what they’ve seen on social, pulling up saved images and pages while they shop.

5. Social as the universal data: Social that sparks intent isn’t new. Social that helps map out and act on the physical journey is a game changer. Take Foursquare for instance. It aggregates location data from Snapchat, Uber, WeChat, Pinterest, Twitter, and even Apple, and can help retailers see the different places their audiences stop by while shopping.

Similarly, image recognition helps brands identify and connect with close-by social users posting about their products, or competitors. The blooming value of crowd-sourced, social data, as it relates to location, time of the day, and passion points will give retailers the ability to truly have a 360-view of their audiences – and drive the entire omnichannel experience from social media.

Benjamin Bourinat is the global director of social media at Kinetic, a WPP advertising agency. Follow Benjamin @benjibourinat.


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