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Can Social Commerce Boost In-Store Sales?


By Steven Kramer, [email protected]

Remember when shopping meant meeting up with a friend and going to the local shopping mall or department store? Well, as nice as it was, many consumers are too busy these days or perhaps live too far away from shopping companions to enjoy a shopping experience with their peers.

Consumers don’t want to abandon in-store shopping, particularly with their friends; they just want many ways to shop. Stores should be a vibrant and essential channel, but they need to evolve to keep pace with consumers’ rapidly changing needs. People are demanding more than just the status quo now that they are getting adept at using multiple channels to find what they want, peer reviews and opinions on that particular product and the best price for it. Retailers need to think about what experiences they are providing to consumers and the incentives they are offering to drive traffic into their stores.

Enter social shopping, a.k.a. collaborative shopping, a.k.a s-commerce, where people can shop with their friends, mothers, sisters, or brothers via a host of growing websites and e-commerce tools. Many social commerce technologies have a real-time feature such as chat or live browsing. Sounds like a good start, but surely we can expect more to come.

If social commerce is based on the fact that consumers don't have the luxury of going shopping with their favorite people, it makes sense to integrate social shopping aspects into the brick-and-mortar environment. But how can this be achieved?

A couple of practical – and fun – ideas for doing this could be, for example, having social media options in the fitting room. Imagine yourself as a customer, trying on an outfit for that all-important job interview or special occasion and being able to tap into your social shopping group from the fitting room to get opinions on the spot. And, how about adding things you like or want to your StyleFeeder profile while you are browsing in the store? Or, perhaps you could tweet your suggestions or comments to a retailer – while in the store. As a retailer, think of the opportunities you could have to help shape perceptions and/or encourage a sale at the moment the consumer is interested and engaged.

How can you as a retailer blur the edges between online channels, social technology and the physical store? The future is about options, experience, collaboration and using the growing choices of social shopping technology in new ways.

Some retailers are ahead of the curve in this area and already focus heavily on the experience they bring to their customers in-store to make – and keep – the shopping experience exciting and engaging. Nike figured this out a long time ago. Think of NikeTown with its multitude of experiences. When it launched golf clubs, Nike installed a driving range simulator, soon followed by trendy NikeID studios, and the very social core that is Nike+. All very interactive, social and cool, and given life is challenging enough, why can’t consumers parting with their hard-earned cash have some fun while doing it?

And it doesn’t just end at the point-of-sale. Another thing to consider is what can be done post-sale to stimulate social commerce. For example, when a consumer purchases a pair of shoes, a retailer can capture that information and then invite the consumer to write a brief snapshot about where she wore them and/or her experience with the shoes. This consumer could write about how she went to a party and received a lot of compliments on the shoes. With this customer’s approval, the retailer can then publish this on online, and can also invite the consumer to share the published story with her friends. In this instance, the story would then be shared with a larger network with links to the post and the product. This takes the idea of reviews and sharing – and social commerce in general – a step further. By stimulating post-sale social strategies, retailers can increase brand awareness and product visibility.

The above aren’t formulas for success for every retailer, but lessons can be learned, and innovative ideas can be instituted. By finding ways to incorporate social commerce into the brick-and-mortar environment, you can make going to the store more enticing. Create a “destination”, a place where you can tie consumers’ social needs into their physical shopping and make it worth the effort for them to come in. And sustain those efforts post-sale. Embrace the technology that is coming onto the scene, be creative with it, and make sure you have a strategy to keep it alive and evolving. With a positive customer experience as the core reason for leveraging social commerce tools, the sales will follow.

Steven Kramer, is president of Hybris North America, leading vendor of next generation end-to-end multichannel commerce software based on a single platform including managed and hosting services. He can be reached at [email protected].

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