TECHNOLOGY

Survey: Social media driving shopping decisions

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Thirsty for meaningful brand interactions, consumers are turning to social media more regularly.

While it’s still largely used for socializing and product discovery, social media is increasingly influencing consumer purchasing decisions, according to “Shopping’s Social Influence,” a new report from digital advertising and analytics firm Adlucent.

Consumers still largely kick-off their shopping journeys on search engines or Amazon, but social media is having a growing influence as 39% of respondents said social media posts/ads at least somewhat influence their purchase decisions.

Another 45% said they at least somewhat base decisions on product recommendations from influencers/celebrities they follow on social media, the report said.

While consumers seek out social interactions, they aren’t actively engaging with brands. Across six major social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Periscope), 75% of respondents follow no specific brands, according to the report. However, they could be persuaded.

Across seven major social media sites, 46% of respondents said they would prefer tailored social media ads. Specifically, 68% want tailored Facebook ads, 63% want tailored ads on YouTube, and 67% want tailored Twitter ads, the report said. Consumers stated that personalized ads are less disruptive and give them more control — factors that encourage more frequent and genuine engagement. This could be a huge opportunity for brands that are focusing on social engagement, but may not be investing in social ads, the report suggested.

Consumers are also thirsty for social commerce. While today’s consumers still purchase primarily through marketplace sites like Amazon (56%) or physical retail stores (34%), 43% said they would be at least somewhat willing to purchase a product directly through Facebook if given the option, followed by Twitter (27%) then Pinterest and Instagram (26%). If brands can find a way to take advantage of this demand in an organic and personal manner, it will open up a new revenue stream that has yet to reach its potential, the report suggested.

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Home furnishings brand bolsters live customer service

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Digital retailing is on the rise, but sometimes you just need to speak to a human being.

Online home furnishings retailer Wayfair is making this task even easier for its growing customer base with the opening of a new customer service center in Bangor, Maine. The facility will employ 450 full-time customer service positions, a workforce that will reinforce an already-reputable retail experience among its rapidly growing customer base.

“Outstanding customer service has been a key driver of Wayfair’s success and rapid growth as a go-to destination for everything home,” said Liz Graham, VP of sales and service, Wayfair. “We have always oriented our business to best serve our customers, and are confident that the expansion of our world-class service team in Bangor will help us continue to raise the bar on customer service excellence.”

The new facility is the company’s second office to open in Maine this year, following the launch of a sales and operations location in Brunswick in May.

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Home goods retailer offers private label, co-branded credit cards

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As retailers industry-wide search for the ideal customer engagement program, Williams-Sonoma is getting back to basics.

Through a new partnership with Alliance Data’s Columbus, Ohio-based card services business, the financial firm will acquire Williams-Sonoma’s existing credit card portfolio — a move that ensures that all existing and new co-brand and private label credit card accounts will be consistent with Alliance Data's credit quality standards. The portfolio acquisition is expected to close by the end of the third quarter of this year.

In addition to streamlining payments, the chain will use the new payment vehicles to drive engagement and long-term customer loyalty. The partnership will “build a comprehensive credit card program that bolsters our ongoing efforts to foster strong, long-term relationships with our customers, and provide meaningful rewards as they pursue their home and culinary aspirations," said Janet Hayes, president of Williams-Sonoma.

Supporting this goal, the chain will employ in-store, online and mobile acquisition tools to target highly qualified customers. Meanwhile,Williams-Sonoma will leverage Alliance Data's proprietary, customizable MyLoyalty App capabilities. Besides delivering a brand-immersive experience, the app gives Williams-Sonoma shoppers the ability to apply, earn and connect at home or on-the-go.

Alliance Data’s credit marketing tools and predictive modeling will also help the chain to build programs that motivate card members to increase spending and frequency of visits across multiple channels, especially as they make purchases to celebrate milestones, including graduations and weddings.

"Leveraging Alliance Data's loyalty and marketing expertise, paired with our high standard of customer service, we're confident our new credit card program will provide a value proposition that is unparalleled in the home and lifestyle category,” Hayes said.

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