Exotic cocktails waiting to be had, cheeky shoppers showing off their spoils, a half-eaten slice of apple strudel and freshly manicured nails (in the metallic hues that are all the rage) are just some of the images to make up a vibrant medley of posts on the social media hub 24/7. Developed by creative marketing agency Sister, the website has been put together for retailers in London’s shopping hot-spot Regent Street, with the aim to allow customers to communicate their shopping experience first-hand, as it happens.
The 24/7 initiative is innovative but by no means isolated as it forms part of a growing trend among UK retailers who are riding the mammoth social media wave to connect with consumers and more importantly, secure their share of the billions in revenue social media is expected to stimulate over the next year.
A study commissioned by online shopping giant eBay, found that direct sales through social media is projected to grow from £210m in 2012 to £290m by 2014, and is likely to influence £3.3 billion in revenue for the sector from £1.5 billion over the same time period.
The report predicts ‘social shopping’ will gain more prominence in the years ahead, inspiring new and interesting marketing and communications strategies that will connect with users on multiple customer touch points.
Already 46% of social media users are using networking platforms while thinking about a purchase, and a similar number of users are referring to these websites for reviews and recommendations to help make up their mind.
As a result, retail brands (whether high street or high-end) are stepping up their social media activities on popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc.
For starters, Burberry has a website called ‘Art of the Trench’ which lets existing customers upload photos of themselves wearing the trench coat, enabling visitors to the site to view details of the coat, comment on the look, and share the picture on their own social networks.
Luxury designer Michael Kors launched a ‘What’s in Your Kors’ interactive campaign last month where people can upload pictures of their Michael Kors handbag, and share the contents within, on Instagram and Facebook. The designer himself adds a personal touch by offering style tips and advice. The hashtag #WhatsinYourKors on twitter has helped create a buzz around it, and is an interesting peek into the kind (and number) of things people fit into their handbags.
Meanwhile, eBay has introduced a ‘Help me shop’ feature that enables users to upload photos of products they like from any merchandiser on to this platform and share it on their social networks. It lets users get opinions from friends and to vote the item in or out.
High street retailers such as Marks and Spencer, River Island, ASOS, Topshop and Zara among others, have launched similar interactive activities and have dedicated microsites on social media initiatives.
The shift to ‘social shopping’ is a result of the rapid growth in smart technology which now drives the way every sector does business. A report by Accenture, titled ‘From Retail to “Me-tail” stated: ‘Today’s consumers are demanding. But tomorrow’s consumers will be armed-and dangerous. Empowered by technology for unprecedented choice, they will demand products and services that meet a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of expectations, from convenience and affordability to a customised experience and sustainable sourcing.’
There is no denying that social media plays a big role in bridging the knowledge gap between a seller and the technology-savvy customer, but it is also worth keeping in mind that the wrong online strategy can damage a brand’s reputation in a matter of clicks. Word-of-mouth marketing, a by-product of the internet, can make or break brands with equal ferocity. It is therefore important for brands to carefully craft and monitor social media initiatives and embed it within a larger integrated marketing campaign.
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