The social sphere continues to demonstrate how word of mouth can positively and negatively serve retail brands, but its potential for search and gift guiding is coming to life in the months moving toward holiday. Online shoppers have indicated that they’re increasingly tapping social networks for gift ideas, as 27% of holiday shoppers last year used social networks for clues on what gifts to buy friends and family, according to eMarketer. Even more online shoppers are expected to tap social networks like Facebook for gift-giving ideas.
“A great way to drive gift purchases this holiday is to use Facebook and Twitter to launch ‘gift guides’ tied to promotions,” said Clay McDaniel, Principal and Co-Founder of Spring Creek Group, a Seattle-based social media strategy and marketing services agency.
McDaniel encourages retailers to use social networks as a forum to publish offers with verbiage that includes calls to action for particular gift purchases, like “Save 10% on Best Gifts for Grandma,” or “Find Dad’s Gift – and Save 20%.”
“You can require participants to take social action (such as becoming a follower or fan, retweeting the gift guide URL, or posting it to their Facebook page) to be eligible for the discount. That way, on top of driving immediate sales through the promotion, you also capture increased search traffic from people looking for gift ideas and increase your long-term followers and fan base.”
McDaniel added that retailers’ social strategy needs to be an integrated approach to offering deals to customers. “Retailers need to go beyond thinking of the social channel as a way to disseminate deals, and think of them more as an integral shopping tool for their customers, who will rely on their social networks for gift ideas and recommendations,” he said. “This year, it’s about encouraging an ongoing conversation around your products and deals, not just amassing one-off purchases.
Changing it Up on the Social Sphere
While spreading coupon deals to Facebook fans, or offering special contest on Twitter are all standard forms of customer engagement online, it takes more than just deals to secure the sale.
“In order to win holiday buyers, it is really important for the retailer to differentiate its brand on social media platforms,” said Patrick Simon Bouaziz, Chief Visionary Officer at I Love Velvet. “Particularly, retailers that are able to connect the in-store experience to their online presence are well poised to strengthen their bond with their fans and followers, and increase the level of engagement with the brand. This kind of relationship building should come months before the holiday season, and could be as basic as holding contests that get socially-connected fans to actually come into the store to redeem special deals.” Bouaziz said creativity in relationship building is key.
Another social media expert agrees that it’s important for retailers not to simply push out “messages,” but rather engage with your fan base. “Instead of telling fans of the retailer what they ‘should’ be giving as gifts, ask the fans what they think,” said Chris Carfi, VP, Edelman Digital, and author of The Social Customer Manifesto. “A conversation starter such as ‘What are the coolest things and gifts you are seeing?’ could start a long-running thread on either Facebook, Twitter or a blog that would actually involve the community, instead of pandering to it. Then, provide an easy, unobtrusive way to purchase the items that the customers themselves highlighted.”
“With the growing adoption of Facebook Connect and the open graph, consumers expect an increasingly relevant social shopping experience,” said Blake Brysha, Sr. Marketing Manager, PowerReviews. “Rely on traditional holiday merchandising tactics such as Customer Favorite lists and Top 10 Gift Ideas (Customers’ Choice) but incorporate Facebook data to add an element of social relevance that consumers have come to expect. Make it easy for shoppers to Like/recommend lists to their friends and see people within their network who’ve endorsed the lists.”
Brysha offers these key tips to optimize social media for holiday shopping.
- Integrate ratings and reviews across marketing efforts. Consumers remain budget conscious and reviews play a vital role in helping them make their purchase decisions.
- Be sure to send post-purchase emails and back-email blasts to customers who’ve previously made a purchase (especially on products forecasted to be hot holiday sellers) now to boost review volume during this time of year.
- Ensure a consistent experience between Facebook and your web site. Leverage features such as the ‘Like’ button and Facebook OnSite (for reviews) to help consumers easily see others who’ve endorsed products and bring the trusted Facebook experience to your product page, where they’ll ultimately make a purchase.
- Shine the spotlight on the customer’s voice and make sure that you’re integrating their language in your marketing wherever possible and letting their friends or people with similar interests do the marketing for you.