How to Make Social Media Your New Sales Channel

For the past several years there’s been a surge in social shopping. With most consumers still reluctant to return to the in-store experience, will 2020 be the year social commerce goes mainstream? The post How to Make Social Media Your New Sales Channel appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Rieva Lesonsky. Copyright 2020 by AllBusiness.com. All rights reserved. The content and images contained in this RSS feed may only be used through an RSS reader and may not be reproduced on another website without the express written permission of the owner of AllBusiness.com.

How to Make Social Media Your New Sales Channel

Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store or an e-commerce website (or both), chances are your retail sales have taken a hit these last few months. And while most states have allowed their retail stores to open for business, consumers might be a little wary of shopping in-store.

Hopefully, you’ve amped up your e-commerce site and will continue to promote it, but that’s not the only online channel you can turn to. For the past several years there’s been a surge in social shopping or social commerce. In fact, eMarketer reports between 2016 and 2018 visits to retail sites driven by social networks doubled.

The rise of social selling was in evidence in the 2019 holiday season, which proved to be successful for social commerce. According to Smartly.io, a social media advertising automation platform, consumers now “not only recognize that social media presents a new way to shop for holiday gifts, they are also more likely than ever to purchase those gifts after being influenced by social advertising.”

Of course, the growth of social commerce stems, in part, from the overall surge in online shopping. But, Smartly.io reported 57% of holiday shoppers credited social media ads with helping them source new gift ideas.

Social selling is not going to supplant online or in-store shopping anytime soon. At the moment, says , “shoppers mostly browse social platforms to discover products and engage with brands but transact outside the app—typically on a company’s website or separate messaging system.”

And, reports Business2Community (B2C), leaving the social platform to shop “has always acted as a barrier to conversion. But with in-app purchases now possible, the future of e-commerce is on social media.” B2C calls this, “one of the most exciting e-commerce trends as it allows online sellers to woo browsers with influencer marketing and user-generated content as they shop.”

Robert Rothschild, VP and global head of marketing for Smartly.io, says “2019 was [the] tipping point year” where consumers are ready to buy via social commerce. Consumers, he added, who are “flocking to highly visual platforms like Instagram and Facebook as new marketplaces … expect the digital ads they encounter there to blend seamlessly into their browsing and shopping experience…. The brands that stand out are, ironically, those that design their ads to be as unobtrusive to the consumer as possible, and conform to the native content each placement has.”

Retailers, says Rothschild, planned to “allocate a whopping $65 billion to social media ads” in 2020—and that was before the pandemic kept many of us indoors.

Benefits of social commerce

Obviously one of the biggest advantages to social selling is the sheer size of the platforms—and their global reach. There are literally billions of social media users around the world—and the numbers are still on the rise, so it only makes sense to include social media in your company’s marketing strategy.

And then there are the added benefits of social media boosting your website traffic, which not only can drive sales from your e-commerce site, but those social commerce efforts can result in a higher search engine ranking.

Another advantage of social commerce is it connects you and your company with consumers—frequently. Social platforms enable consumers to easily talk with you, ask you questions, receive solutions, find out what’s new, etc. Engaging with them gives you the chance to show you care about what they think, increasing customer loyalty and building strong relationships.

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What works in social commerce

So what specifically influences consumers to make purchases from social media ads?

Smartly.io asked consumers what top factors influenced their decision to buy a product through a social media ad. The research shows:

  • Compelling or engaging video, animation or image: 35%
  • Customer testimonials: 32%
  • Influencer participation: 26%

The most popular product categories for social selling:

  • Apparel and accessories: 17%
  • Electronics: 15%
  • Beauty/wellness: 11%
  • Home goods: 10%

Best platforms for selling

Instagram is getting much of the buzz as an effective social selling platform. The growing importance of Instagram as a platform is likely to have a dramatic effect on the e-commerce landscape in 2020. Vishal Shah, the head of product for Instagram, says the company is increasingly pushing Instagram users to shop on the app. B2C adds that “online sellers need to regard Instagram as a major channel and dedicate their attention and resources appropriately. Over 80% of Instagram users already say the app helps them make purchasing decisions and discover new products. This number is set to grow even further over the next few years.”

Smartly.io’s research shows 59% of retailer marketers are advertising on Instagram, while 75% run ads on Twitter. But, Smartly.io says, “Facebook is far and away their favorite social advertising platform, with 96% adoption. In fact, 36% report Facebook is the platform they dedicate the most spend toward, and 41% say it also gives them the best return on ad spend (ROAS).”

Smartly.io’s social media advertising study also shows:

  • 29% of retail marketers say Instagram is the social network where they spend the most on social ads.
  • 48% don’t think their performance marketing and creative teams collaborate effectively in all stages of the marketing process.
  • 61% say that their creative production and ad delivery involves manual work that is often time-consuming.
  • 47% of retail marketers plan to increase their use of dynamic ads on social media.
  • 39% say they will manage social advertising in-house.
  • 35% feel their KPIs will change from how they were measured in 2019.

Businesses admit they’re not totally prepared for social advertising. The Smartly.io study reveals 83% of retail marketers believe they need to improve the automation of parts of their ad creation and deployment, but 66% don’t use any automation technology. The good news is 39% plan to tackle these inefficiencies by investing in more robust social advertising tools in 2020.

Will social commerce go mainstream?

Now that we’re in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, social media platforms could prove even more effective as a sales channel. Even when their cities and states “open for business” many consumers will still likely prefer to shop from home than venture out to malls, shopping centers, and Main Streets at least for a while.

Will 2020 indeed be the year social commerce goes mainstream? Mobile Marketer certainly thinks so, saying, “2020 may be the year when social commerce becomes a more mainstream shopping channel, allowing brands new opportunities to engage users on the go and offering a fresh revenue stream.”

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The post How to Make Social Media Your New Sales Channel appeared first on AllBusiness.com. Click for more information about Rieva Lesonsky. Copyright 2020 by AllBusiness.com. All rights reserved. The content and images contained in this RSS feed may only be used through an RSS reader and may not be reproduced on another website without the express written permission of the owner of AllBusiness.com.

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How direct-to-consumer delivery is an opportunity for businesses during the pandemic and beyond

The pandemic has brought about significant changes in how businesses operate - no doubt about it. Read more: How direct-to-consumer delivery is an opportunity for businesses during the pandemic and beyond

How direct-to-consumer delivery is an opportunity for businesses during the pandemic and beyond

The pandemic has brought about significant changes in how businesses operate – no doubt about it. But there’s a difference between temporary, reactive gains and genuine, considered improvement to futureproof the business.

James Langan, managing director at Natures Menu explains that his company falls in the latter camp.

As a premium pet food company, we’d always had a strong presence in-store. But people want a back-up for bricks and mortar now, and quite possibly in the longer term, too. So we had to ramp up our direct-to-consumer (DTC) offer, which entailed selling our goods straight to customers through our own channels, rather than through a traditional retailer or wholesaler.

In an environment where the official advice can change at short notice, people want to feel safe – and many are still more likely to do so at home. While pet stores weren’t closed during the lockdown, there was a noticeable decrease in footfall for obvious reasons; so continuing to focus all our efforts on the in-store experience would have been to ignore the concerns of our customers, and the performance of our brand.

As such, prior to lockdown, Natures Menu anticipated people’s change in behaviour. We ramped up our online capabilities, which accounted for 12% of our overall sales in March. In April, our online DTC trading accounted for 19% as lockdown measures impacted purchase behaviour.

As a business navigating lockdown and beyond, you have to look at the bigger picture and be honest about where you can up your game – and look at how you can genuinely offer something different.

To shift your operations like this, the business has to flex.

To cater to evolving consumer needs, we had to evolve with them. And to bolster our online offering meant changing many aspects of our operation. Demand for more home deliveries meant putting in place a broad range of logistical measures, from warehouse to doorstep; to optimise delivery, we used a mixture of our own fleet and our trusted third party, but we made a decision initially to put a cap on the number of orders we could deliver per day.

At a time like this, it’s important to set expectations. We gave our customers realistic delivery times and explained how things were working – the increase in DTC demand meant that, in order to deliver the sheer amount of food as hygienically and safely as possible, we initially had to put a limit on the amount of daily slots. Because we communicated clearly and openly, the reaction of our customers was overwhelmingly positive – everyone understands that safety has to be a top priority. We also reassured them that there was no need to panic buy and that we had plenty of availability.

Our ad agency HeyHuman also gave us valuable insight on how our customers were likely to be feeling, and therefore how we should communicate with them. They have a sophisticated range of neuroscience and behavioural research tools that really help businesses like us get to the bottom of what people want and, more importantly, why they want it.

On the back of HeyHuman’s advice, we tweaked our customer mailers and social media to be empathetic and entertaining as well as practical. We ran a cute survey asking people how their pets were reacting to having their owners home for much of the day; we also provided helpful tips for people to keep their pets entertained during lockdown.

Regarding the deliveries, we also spelled out exactly how our drivers would be keeping themselves and our customers safe; they’d be adhering to social distancing, they’d be disinfecting, they’d be asking for middle names or taking photos of packages rather than asking for handwritten signatures. The entire product journey, from production line to doorstep,  followed the highest hygiene standards and we made sure to communicate that to our customers.

Maybe that amount of communication sounds like overkill, but reading the room is so important. HeyHuman’s advice was invaluable, advising us what to say and do – and more importantly, what not to say and do! When you’re making these shifts in tone and approach, it’s vital that a third party sense-checks, critiques and advises you on your messaging. What’s obvious to you and your business might not make sense to your customers.

DTC has built trust with our customers now, and lays a promising bedrock for the future.

We found that 87% of new customers who tried Natures Menu during the pandemic, via our DTC channel, planned to continue buying it once everything goes back to normal – I’m hesitant to call it ‘the new normal’, but you understand where I’m going.

From the feedback we received, the reason why this drive has been so successful is down to how transparent we made the process. Customers felt safe, they felt cared for, and as a result, they felt confident buying from us.

If the service is convenient and reliable now, people are likely to continue to appreciate having the choice either to buy directly from us online, or at their favourite pet store when we come out of this pandemic. We believe they will shop with a refreshed appreciation of, and loyalty to, our brand both online and instore, as a result of the support we’ve provided in these difficult times.

And this isn’t about replacing bricks and mortar stores – in fact, we’ve made it a priority to support our retailers as much as we possibly can. We are developing a Natures Menu accreditation system for certain pet stores covering training and product knowledge so that customers know these retailers are recognised as best in class.

Because as awful as this pandemic is, it’s bolstered Natures Menu’s relationship with its customers. We’re not going back once this is all over – we’ve found ways to complement our traditional, pre-pandemic practices and operations. DTC has allowed us to be more flexible, and talk directly to our customers about their needs – and their pets’ needs.

It’s a better way of doing things, and that’s what every business should strive for.

Read more:
How direct-to-consumer delivery is an opportunity for businesses during the pandemic and beyond

Source : Business Matters More   

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