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GUEST COMMENT Improving retail sales via real life stories

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When social media first emerged as a phenomenon, many viewed it as a craze for sociable teenagers with nothing better to do, one that would probably disappear as quickly as it had materialised. But the apparent ‘fad’ rapidly spread across the globe and became somewhat ritualistic within our daily lives, and as a result, businesses took note and started to think about how they could leverage social media as a way to generate sales.

Although many businesses have boosted engagement with their customer base through the creation of independent social media profiles, many brands in 2015 are wondering: “So what’s next?” This isn’t to suggest that social media in its base form isn’t as powerful as it once was because this would be incorrect. It’s just that brands across social media need to start acknowledging the real benefits that social media has for their business and how they can harness positive engagement with fans as a way to promote additional sales.

While social media channels are still yet to evolve as purchasing destinations in themselves, Nielsen’s most recent global ecommerce report indicates a significant rise in the number of shoppers browsing through products on social media before making a purchase. This alone shows that retailers should no longer be viewing their social media presence as a separate entity, but more of an extension to their retail experience.

For London Fashion Week in 2015, Stackla powered TopShop and Twitter’s partnership to display real-time tweets across billboards in several high profile locations around the UK. Grabbing the attention of passers-by in such places like Oxford Circus, shoppers were informed of the most popular fashion trends coming out of LFW on social media while offering them purchase recommendations. Each billboard was cleverly located nearby a local store, thus tempting passers-by to go in and make a purchase directly on TopShop’s website. Looking at the numbers, the brand experienced a 25% uplift in sales across all featured trend categories versus the previous week. Furthermore, the #Modernism featured category experienced a 75% increase in sales against the previous week.

Marc Jacobs provides another example of a brand that recently used social media as a device to boost sales. In its Manhattan launch last year, it encouraged customers to tweet or post an Instagram photo about the new line using a specific hashtag. Those that did so received a free gift, which included perfumes, jewellery and accessories. This activity ultimately drove sales and through the campaign, the brand received almost 14,000 mentions on Twitter and 4,300 Instagram likes and comments.

Putting these strategies into numbers, last year, the Aberdeen Group revealed that more than half (55%) of retail leaders have successfully expanded their customer base using social media, something that was inherent in boosting sales. It’s clear from this that social media has therefore evolved into more than just a run of the mill marketing channel, but instead, a platform for retailers to organically showcase their products through their own fan base. Looking at a brand that has identified this growing trend is another of Stackla’s clients, Wanted Shoes.

Wanted Shoes brought Stackla on board to curate a social catalogue of real life images taken by its customers for its customers. When hovering over a certain image, users were directed to a link to buy that particular item or to another section to browse similar products by that designer. The implementation of the social catalogue was so successful that Wanted Shoes have now decided to build this feature permanently onto their website.

Wanted Shoes’ bounce rate on its Social Scene page is now only 5%, making it the most engaging page on its site, and 95% of users now click through to specific product pages in the online store. In revenue terms, eCommerce conversion for anyone that visited the Social Scene page is 20% better than the site average, which shows just how powerful social shopping has become for the brand.

At the end of last year, Nielsen reported that social media engagement can undeniably be used to increase and drive sales, with 77% of consumers claiming that ‘social exposure’ and validation from an existing customer is the most persuasive endorsement of a product. Clearly, based on the huge success brands have had with encouraging more social media engagement between brand advocates and fans – retailers in 2015 should be careful not to underestimate the power of peer endorsement as a driving force to higher sales.

While retailers are steadily mastering the art of listening to what their customers say about them and have also improved substantially at quickly responding to customer service queries, now is the time to go one step further. The opportunity lies next in effectively harnessing all the positive recommendation about them across social media and using this to engage improved sales through the power of peer recommendation based on other customers’ real life experiences with the brand.

Andy Mallinson is European managing director of Stackla

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