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EDITORIAL Don’t be anti-social

It used to be all about sharing photos of your dinner, humble bragging about “Here I am again at Terminal 5”, or the propagation of Fake News. Now social media is increasingly becoming a factor in online and real-world retail that can’t be ignored.

Yet it is by many retailers. At their peril.

Like it or not, social media is playing a somewhat disproportionate role in the shopper journey, from discovery, right through to purchase – and then on to recommendation and beyond. It is becoming a force to be reckoned with.

According to a survey by Bazaarvoice of more than 2,000 consumers across the UK, US, France and Germany, one third of UK consumers now express the ability to discover and buy products is of critical importance to their experience of social platforms.

It found that the number of consumers who place high importance on the ability to discover and purchase directly through social media platforms, such as Instagram Facebook, and Pinterest has risen by 38% in 12 months.

More specifically, a study by Nosto focussed on how fashion shoppers use social has found that, while they drive relatively small amounts of traffic, Pinterest and Instagram deliver the highest average order values from mobile devices for large online fashion retailers – bigger than Facebook.

With social playing a disproportionate role in driving sales from etailers, especially, but not exclusively, in fashion, it comes as a surprise that a third survey out this week finds that many retailers are not devoting any time to thinking about social at all.

Research by Visualsoft out this week finds that almost a fifth of leading UK e-retailers are missing out on potential sales due to a lack of connection with their customers’ extended social circles.

Worse, these figures show a decline since a similar study was carried out 12 months ago.

The research, which assessed 250 of the UK’s leading brands across a range of sectors, found that 17% of those analysed were missing out on valuable business by simply not adding clear social sharing options for their customers’ purchases – a 4% decline year-on-year.

The picture this paints is clear: shoppers are shifting again, moving to social as a key part of their shopping process – and that includes sharing and recommending, something which also leads to sales.

While retailers are increasingly now getting the message about going mobile – Edeka in Germany, Bon Prix in France and Iceland in the UK all revamping sites and apps as they tap into an increasingly mobile customer base – shoppers are now taking to social (often, to be fair on mobile) to find what they are looking for, tell others what they are looking for an, in some cases, actually buy what they are looking for.

Retailers need to look closely at their social strategies to avoid missing out –or losing out to competitors that are more socially adept. It doesn’t even take that much to make it happen. Simply making things easily socially shareable is a start that can yield immediate results.

Taking it further, retailers can get into the realms of user generated content and taking social engagement to new levels of interaction, but for now just being part of the social fabric is enough.

While much attention over the winter has been turned to how the High Street has lost out to online retail, online retail itself has seen a change. Online is no longer a cake-walk, it is competitive and hard to crack as the High Street. And like the High Street, the only way to win is to be where the customers are: and right now that is on social and mobile.

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