For social media marketers 2014 is a particularly exciting year. Social media has been around and growing to mass market and mainstream use now for approaching 10 years.
The fight is on.
Time has indeed flown by and social media’s commercial potential has long been cited, but in 2014 the battlegrounds are finally drawn and Christmas 2014 is the date.
Consumers can now be said to have accepted s-commerce or “social commerce”. Although the term is a bit of a misnomer as it specifically means the buying goods or services directly from a social network. The reality is that social network users have taken technology in their own way, which is to be expected.
Marketers have been playing catch up and second guessing how consumer behaviour will be influenced by social media. Finally the statistics and lessons from Christmas 2013 show the tipping point has been reached. Critical mass has been reached for social media users and trust in the platforms have them primed for spending.
We can now be certain that the majority of consumers use social media to influence, inform or directly lead them to making a purchase both on and offline.
The greatest challenge faced was for traditional retailers, whose challenge was running social media marketing activity online in an attempt to get them out of their homes and into store. This daunting task was faced with the stiff competition from online retailers like Amazon who provide a few click purchase convenience shopping experience in a time-starved world.
It seems as though they succeeded. Statistics based on a survey of 502 active (past 30 days) UK Twitter users shows*:
- 70% of users said they would follow a brand if they knew they would get special promotions
- 52% expect to get information directly from brands.
- 37% use brand information sent to them to decide what store to visit
- 42% tweet about a purchase they made in-store
*Source: GlobalWebIndex Twitter 2013
This scenario played out for specialist gift retailers as well as for the supermarkets. The winner was Tesco with a strong and highly visible online presence, matched with efficient and convenient online shopping. Tesco (with some speculation that this was matched by Sainsburys) achieved 1.4% overall growth compared to the market average of 0.4%.
The loser was sadly Morrisons. Why? Because they still have not built and established their online sales channel. With 18.6% growth in online sales compared to in-store it is easy to see why.
For social marketers this is good news as it means consumers use social media for all their purchase decisions both on and offline.
The commonality between online sales and social media is not in being online, it is sourcing information from people they trust.
So as you can see the stakes are high and consumers have now shown their hand about how they want to shop.
Unsurprisingly then 76% of the e-tailers surveyed are now using Twitter to communicate with customers, double the number using the channel in 2010. Sage Pay also found that 76% of e-tailers now have their own Facebook page.
Social media use by UK and Ireland e-tailers to market their products doubled in the year between Christmas 2012 and 2013. Three quarters of marketers are now regularly using Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to their online stores.
The winner will truly understand their customer’s behaviour on social media.
People mostly share and favourite things they were thinking about purchasing but had not decided upon (SagePay, 2013). The story now looks certain that social media ultimately helps convert people from interest to purchase.
But how do businesses actually convert people from interest to making a sale?
Mark Westaby Director, Spectrum Insight found that 50% of twitter users live less than 10 miles from each other and has become another form of word of mouth.
Westaby claims this relatively unknown fact has misled marketers in making assumptions about the viral nature of twitter driving purchase. The reality of how Twitter contributes to consumers buying cycle is in the close relationships people have with each other on and offline.
Westaby’s tips from conducting extensive research with thousands of participants helps explain:
1. Be prepared:
Things are going to change more in the next 5 years than the last 50. Be prepared and be flexible.
2. Avoiding social media marketing is a massive risk:
A constant urban myth about social media is that it is used primarily by people making negative comments and this has produced unfounded risk aversion of social media for many businesses. In reality people want to express themselves and do that for positive as well as negative reasons. Businesses task is to manage the views and reviews.
3. Sell to your customers where they want to buy:
Christmas 2013 saw retailers underestimate consumer demand for social shopping. Shoppers took to social media furious that they couldn’t buy what they wanted, how they wanted. People want to buy on the channels they use – social media and mobile and failed to see.
4. Understand your customer on social media:
Rule #1 (as it always has been) is to understand your consumer. To truly understand your consumer today you must use social to understand them and how they are responding to the changing technological landscape, as well as how they are adopting social media for informing and influencing their purchases.
The pace of change makes it difficult for retailers to keep on top of how and why people use social media to make purchases without hiring a specialist.
The fundamental rules of marketing remain, but understanding your new customer and how they use digital as well as social media is key to reaching and connecting with them today. A social media presence does not appear over night however. The big retailers have been integrating social media into their marketing plans for years already.
Do you have a strategy for Christmas 2014? If not you may want some free pointers or to see how Coffee Marketing can help.