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Industry Voices: Bazaarvoice

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Social Retailing: Driving Sales Online and In Store

One of the most important shifts we have seen with the rise of social is retailers’ reconnection with their consumers online.

Online, consumers guide each other to the perfect product. The digital shopping experience, both online and mobile, has become more social than ever. Social bridges the interaction gap for retailers online – when done right – replicating the face-to-face conversations with staff or friends that consumers have in stores.

Digital retail makes consumer knowledge collective. Online, you can look at what other consumers are saying and choose accordingly – based on their product ratings. Reviews “socialise” the product by adding customer testimonials and using consumer wording – not marketing or technical terms. For retailers and brands, data shows that well-informed consumers reading other shoppers’ reviews, questions, and answers show a 153% lift in conversion over those who don’t. So conversing not only helps you find the right product for your specific needs but encourages you to actually buy it.

Conversations on retail sites can get more specific. Say you only want opinions from your friends rather than strangers. Using Facebook’s open graph, you can reveal whether any of your Facebook friends have ‘Liked’ the product you’re looking at, written a status about it, purchased it, or reviewed it.

Or what if you only want opinions from people like you, who share your needs? Online, you can filter consumer feedback by relevant criteria such as geography, age range, family status, etc., and display only the most relevant opinions from customers like you.

The benefits of digital retail help you find the right product for you. But say you’d rather pick up the product on your way home from work than wait for it to ship. Smart retailers are finding ways to drive consumers to their store, versus buying somewhere else. Options like pay-online, pick-up in store are now commonplace.

Customer and product data gathered online can help guide offline selling. Online, retailers can track which items shoppers view, what customers say about them, which are the most popular and which are the least. This data helps them understand how to sell in the offline world – which products deserve endcaps, which to call out with signage, what in-store staff should say about the product.

The opportunity now exists for retailers to combine the advantages of digital marketplaces with the personal consumer interaction that takes place in store. For many retailers, social has been the trigger to the conversation opening up and reconnecting the retailer and its consumers to share and talk about their experiences, both good and bad. As importantly, consumers get the validation that their favourite retailers are listening and engaged.

The open digital conversation is a chance to bring back the best elements of the “old world” of selling: the triedand-tested techniques of word of mouth and consumer interaction. Combining the best of old and new results in strategies like incorporating customer conversation into SEO efforts to echo customers’ own language in search queries. Brands are also letting their advocates do the selling for them.

According to e-Marketer, consumer opinions are 12 times more trusted than brand-created marketing.

The ongoing migration to multichannel shopping is only feeding this wealth of consumer content. Econsultancy’s 2011 survey uncovered that 33.5% of respondents felt it was very important to be able to purchase from a retailer using different channels. UK digital marketing agency White Horse further reported that the vast majority of smartphone owners use mobile to enhance their in-aisle shopping (84%), for price comparison (83%), and for reading reviews (73%).

These statistics only confirm what we already know – digital shoppers are even more savvy and expect to be engaged by retailers in conversation whenever and wherever they are, meaning retailers need to be willing to give the human-orientated customer service of old in the online marketplace of today.

For more information, contact Bazaarvoice – providers of social commerce solutions that help capture and amplify user-generated content, driving social media ROI. Visit www.bazaarvoice.co.uk, read the blog at www.bazaarvoice.com/blog, and follow on Twitter at @BV_Intl.
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