Earlier this year, eBay predicted that the value of social media within the retail sector will more than double from £1.5bn to around £3.3bn over the next two years.

Traditionally, social networks have not been used as a tool to directly drive e-commerce sales, but as Nielsen reported in its Global ecommerce report in August 2014, an estimated 61% of people spend a considerable amount of time researching products through online channels before making a purchase. And interestingly, a significant 43% of consumers revealed that they specifically browse through outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+ to seek inspiration for the types of products to buy.

This last statistic reveals just how powerful social media can be in terms of enticing shoppers to make a purchase, both through its use of visual content and product descriptions. But while many consumers still have reservations about purchasing items through social channels directly, the social shopping phenomenon is clearly only going to grow and it’s apparent that this growth will eventually have a positive impact on a retailer’s bottom line.

One retailer which enjoyed success by promoting its products via social media is ASOS. At the start of 2014, ASOS previewed their summer sale through a Facebook application, allowing fans to play a series of games to accumulate points, getting them to the front of the virtual shopping queue. The winners gained first access to the sale, and through the support of sponsored ads ASOS was able to generate 1 million views through the application, growing their fan base by 32%.

This example shows how much potential there is for brands to drum up organic publicity for their products whilst engaging through fans across social media channels. Furthermore, it proves that social media outlets have evolved not only as a tool for driving community growth, but also as a revenue driving commodity to boost business performance.

Retailers mustn’t underestimate the power of social engagement as a method of generating sales. This was proved by Wanted Shoes, who recently worked with us to design and integrate a ‘social catalogue’ onto their site. The social catalogue depicted real-life images of products that customers had recently purchased. When hovering over a post, users of the site were then directed to a link to buy the exact shoe displayed in the picture, or alternatively, were able to shop for other shoes from that designer.

Supporting the concept that that social media engagement can facilitate purchase orders, according to Nielsen, 77% of shoppers say ‘social exposure’ and validation to a product is the most persuasive source of information, and does indeed drive them to make more purchases. After all, we mustn’t forget how powerful the trust of our peers can be, and this has a direct impact of driving revenue.

As Wanted Shoes experienced, by showcasing its products in a customer driven catalogue, they were able to boost revenue and encourage more people to engage with their brand. Following this example as well as the other retail giants that have enjoyed impressive results through social channelst, the retailer that ignores the power of social engagement in 2015 could potentially miss out on a substantial revenue stream – one that could decide the difference between success and failure in an increasingly competitive retail landscape.


By Andy Mallinson, European Managing Director of Stackla. 

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