Social media and ecommerce make ideal bedfellows. Whilst one is geared towards self-promotion, sharing and discussion, the other is about developing a strong customer-base and driving sales. It’s almost as if they were made for each other.
All ecommerce sites are fundamentally standalone stores of course. So your job, as an owner, is to get as many people coming through the doors as possible. To do this though, you need visibility.
On the high street you can employ a wide range of tactics including:
- Billboard advertising
- Sandwich boards
- Attractive window displays
- Local media promotions
- Free samples hand outs
The Internet is an entirely different beast though. Whilst the logic is still the same, the tools and techniques are worlds apart. To generate interest, you have to get yourself noticed. This means optimising your site to adhere with search engine practices and getting seen on any platforms that potential customers are using – including social media.
So what do you need to be doing?
First of all, secure profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. If your business name has been taken, look for similar alternatives, such as “Store Name UK” or “Store Name Online”. However, it is important that any profile you create is clearly branded, enabling customers to recognise who you are and associate the accounts with your store.
Each of the aforementioned social networks allow users to create customised business pages, so make sure you take the time to create a design that is indicative of your business. This means incorporating clear imagery, colours and your company logo to tie all your properties to one another. Below are examples from the Gap.
A dormant profile is of little or no use, in fact it may even be damaging. So make sure you have a social strategy in place. Who is going to be managing comments, how frequently are you going to update your profiles and what will you say? All of these questions need to be answered before going any further.
Dell was one of the earliest adopters on Twitter and made headlines when it was announced that the company had made $6.5 million in sales solely through the social network. This was way back in 2009 though, and now hundreds of businesses are booming thanks to their effective social strategies.
To be successful, you need to follow a few key golden rules:
- Be human – nobody wants to follow an automated robot that endlessly pumps out sales messages
- Be responsive – respond to questions, compliments and criticisms in equal measure wherever possible
- Be creative – why not use your social profiles to create special promotions, using unique hashtags or requesting ‘likes’?
- Be interesting – give people a reason to leave a comment, share your content or visit your store
Once up and running, you can use these social profiles to funnel people towards your site. However, this is where your web pages and pricing need to deliver. After all, it doesn’t matter how many people come through to your store if nobody ever makes a purchase. So make sure your site is ready to deliver on these promises.
Social Site Integration
Assuming that everything is shipshape, you need to find a way of integrating social elements into your site. After all, now you’ve created these properties, it’s important that people can actually track them down. Most ecommerce sites and online businesses now integrate links to their social profiles in the footer, side or even top navigation, making them incredibly easy to find.
This form of cross-promotion makes it easier for visitors to keep up-to-date through their preferred medium. In time, this could lead to them becoming a loyal and valuable customer. The joy of social media (the major networks in particular) is the ease with which information can be shared. Every message you post will be seen by thousands, either directly or by others ‘liking’ or retweeting it. This only serves to help your brand’s visibility grow, making your future marketing activities easier and more effective.
It is important to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to share products and promotions, so include “share this” shortcuts on every page. These needn’t be intrusive or ruin the design of your site; but the more prominent that you can make them, the better your chances of having a product shared.
A number of ecommerce sites currently have this feature, although few are taking full advantage. Take Amazon as a good example. Here we have the product page for the iPad 2 (on the UK site).
The “Like” button is for Amazon customers to share recommendations, whilst the Facebook, Twitter and Email functions are buried on the right-hand side of the screen.
Gap (US site) place their ‘Like’ button alongside the product, above the price and specification even, for greater exposure. However, this has its own limitations, as it only allows Facebook users to share the product – effectively dismissing Twitter, Google+1, Delicious, Digg and the other bookmarking sites.
Finally, clothing store Office (again, UK site) give their share buttons the greatest prominence of any of the brands featured here. Both Twitter and Facebook have their own unique icons underneath the main image, whilst dozens of others are available by clicking the + symbol. As you can see from the figure, this has generated a reasonable number of shares across all platforms.
Nobody is going to claim that a few buttons are going to make or break your site, but as part of a cohesive effort to promote your business on social platforms, they can be hugely effective. Essentially, you should be helping your customers to help you. Their endorsements can be just as effective as your own marketing efforts, so give them the tools to do it without leaving your site.
Playing the Numbers Game
Social marketing really is a numbers game. The more brand ambassadors you can recruit, the more stock you can hope to shift. Your outreach though is almost unlimited. Whilst your ecommerce store may only have 10,000 Twitter followers, 500 of these may choose to retweet a promotion to their followers, who in turn may share it with their friends, and their friends share it with their friends, and…well, you get the idea. A single message can be seen by tens or even hundreds of thousands of people, offering unrivalled exposure with limited input or cost. As your own followers grow, so does your potential exposure, with one effectively feeding the other.
Ultimately though, you need to always remember why you’re doing this in the first place: sales. Whilst customer service, reputation management and online visibility are all extremely important, the bottom line for any business is to get a return on your investment.
Social media is an interactive platform on which you can promote your produce to an expectant audience. As with brick and mortar stores, there are a number of ways in which you can attract attention, with the only major difference being the platform(s) being used. So rather than using in-store staff and promotional teams to engage visitors, you can use Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to do much the same.