On a recent trip to New York City I was reminded of my up bringing in the US and the scale of retail at Christmas (let alone Thanksgiving, BlackFriday, CyberMondayetc….). It made me think, what is the future for all of this? With Google, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest all experimenting with ways to encourage consumers to buy directly from their platforms, surely physical retail is going to be an Ikea style experience at best for all physical stores.
I consulted with Google and looked into this a little more whilst observing the behaviour of my peers on social platforms.
To begin with the closest thing to touching a physical product is seeing it in action - a video. My Facebook timeline is saturated with shared videos, and I have had to take the precaution of leaving my phone in a different room when I sleep or I find myself watching ‘greatest misses by pedestrians’ for 10 minutes when I wake up (slight exaggeration but you get the point). I am not alone, 8billion videos are watched every day on Facebook and since 60% of US shoppers will use a smartphone to research gifts this Christmas, video is a very convenient way to advertise and capture shoppers’ attention. If Facebook had figured out that I do not know what to buy three sisters for Christmas, I would probably be receiving some different video content (that is for another time regarding WhatsApp) and make my purchases on Facebook…
This leads nicely onto the next element of social driving retail. Adverts have been on social medium for a while now and whilst video is becoming more prevalent, Instagram have introduced 30 second videos (the average length of a television advert) the objective being to convert a prospect. I recently wrote a post about effective call to actions, the most obvious being the ‘buy’ button. The leading social platforms have been experimenting with ‘buy’ buttons with retailers. There is a huge opportunity here for ecommerce platforms to enable these capabilities. Shopify are working with both Facebook and Pinterest (imagine the richness of the data!). Both of the aforementioned elements combined surely demonstrate the future of retail. We are all time poor, we are driven by social peer groups and our role models. Social Media cleverly and efficiently captures and exploits each psycological driver.
So who are the retail leaders in this space. If I had to single one out it would have to be Asos, who provide a pure digital market place for clothing. The shop offers content on Snapchat, Periscope to Instagram. Oh, and they also introduced a social loyalty card! Take a selfie in an Asos outfit, postiton Instagram and use the hashtag #asseenonme (that is as-seen-on-me) and you are rewarded! The list of options are endless and until enough data is gathered it will keep evolving (Facebook carousel adverts, stoppable ads etc.).
Social commerce sales of the Social Media 500 list grew by 26% last year to $3.3bn. If you are in retail my advice based on the numbers being reported is as follows - create and execute a digestible social content strategy or risk being left behind having to open an eBay business account to flog your gear.