The next generation of people (those born between 1995 and 2010, who account for 27% of the world population) is starting to enter the workforce and has spending power. They are less inclined to trust companies and brands, expect to be heard and involved and are quick to switch preferences to brands that offer authentic and transparent experiences. Selling via social media is a potentially revolutionary way to access this fragmented demographic of young, engaged buyers – but how and where should retailers start?

By tapping into the nuanced social-media lives of younger consumers, retailers have unprecedented access to multiple platforms allowing them to share compelling, and persuasive content, that provides these shoppers with an e-commerce experience that can feel tailored to them as individuals. Social platforms are offering increased e-commerce functionality, integrating services like Shopify to provide shopping functionality on content based platforms, for example. This represents a huge opportunity for retailers, but where should they start?

Many retailers are preparing to jump from creating social content to selling via these platforms. But for retailers and shoppers to truly benefit, retailers need to understand how the customer data they already hold can inform a personalised social selling strategy.

Research released this month shows that 19% of 18 to 24-year-olds are happy to share more data in order to receive a more personalised shopping experience, compared with just 9% of 45 to 54-year-olds. Social selling is particularly suited to a younger generation of shoppers who are comfortable with e-commerce. This generational gap isn’t unexpected, but younger shoppers’ ‘open data’ attitude ultimately helps retailers to display relevant, interesting products on the right channels for the audience.

Once retailers understand how to access and, crucially, process the wealth of data that social platforms and their own e-commerce sites hold, then they can start targeting niche pockets of social influence to drive purchases and loyalty. This personalised and seamless shopping experience on social media fosters a customer loyalty that is often difficult to foster among younger buyers on the high street.

What are the opportunities for social media and e-commerce?

Whether it’s through blogger endorsements or engaging advertising, social media is already influencing a huge number of online purchases. Research shows that up to 74% of purchasing decisions are influenced by social media, so it’s important for retailers to be present and personalised on these channels.

It can also work the other way, with in-store shopping experiences affecting online sentiment and e-commerce sales. Research conducted by RichRelevance last year revealed that 42% of people think that interactive changing room mirrors that model outfits on your image are ‘cool’.. Fashion retailers can use these interactive mirrors as an opportunity to invite conversation on social media, with shoppers sharing favourite items with their friends and being shown other items currently trending on their social networks. Eight out of 10 Millennials use their phones in-store, presenting an opportunity to influence social purchasing from the shop floor.

Ultimately, social media makes e-commerce more engaging. Consumers will always be drawn towards a sensory purchasing experience – and we’ve seen a focus on interactivity gradually extend into the social shopping space and in-store. On Instagram, for example, there are interactive ways to reduce the friction between a shopper and a purchase; embedding product information, using influencers and tagging products in images, clickable review pop-ups and e-commerce basket links via an Instagram advert all decrease the friction between a customer and purchase. Pinterest also has ‘buyable pins’. This all drives shoppers to e-commerce sites more directly and the interactive element continues to build a sensory and visual experience that enhances the customer experience and drives sales.

Is social selling actually gaining any traction?

Retailers have been in a period of testing how different customers want to receive content. It’s important for retailers to recognise how effective – and achievable – it is to personalise shopping experiences for specific demographics using social media data and by creating engaging content for the platforms that their target audiences use. Retailers are just getting started but the market is certainly poised for huge growth.


By Matthieu Chouard, EMEA managing director at RichRelevance

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