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PREDICTIONS How retailers will use social media in the coming year

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Each year, InternetRetailing starts to look ahead to the coming new year in a series of predictions. Today’s predictions, from a wide range of industry commentators, explore the growing importance of social media, why brands should have a social presence – and how they might use it. In a future edition we’ll look more specifically at social media marketing.

Making the case for social media 

Jack Richards, brand and consumer intelligence expert at Talkwalker says: “The year ahead will see consumers become more willing to explore new shopping channels, as the rising cost of living drives increased demand for affordability and a greater focus on price.

“With the rapid growth of social media platforms like TikTok, the coming year will see consumers influenced by an even greater number of micro-influencers – everyday people. Social commerce strategies will become crucial to help drive sales. Much like the popularity of influencer marketing a few years ago, there is a growing emergence of social commerce. In regions such as China nearly half (49.5%) of social media users have made a social purchase and the UK is set to follow suit in 2023.”

Why it’s worth targeting customers on social

Deann Evans, director of EMEA expansion & partnerships at Shopify, says: “In 2023 and beyond, commerce will continue shifting towards what we call Connect to Consumer (C2C). This vital model for ambitious and nimble retailers not only surviving, but thriving, during the economic downturn involves using all pathways possible to reach their customers, both online and offline – from social and community commerce to web stores and the high street. C2C places authenticity, loyalty, and trust at the heart of every consumer interaction to create more meaningful relationships between brands and their customers.

“Having an understanding of both Direct to Consumer (DTC) and C2C models as a way to build direct relationships with customers who now shop everywhere. In fact, our study found 91% of UK consumers are just as likely or more likely to shop in an online store than a year ago, 88% are purchasing the same or more in store, and 72% are just as likely or more likely to discover new products to purchase through social media advertising than a year ago. It’s now more important than ever for brands to maintain their presence on every commerce stage.”

Get creative on social 

Bukki Adedapo, UK country manager at Fiverr, says: “With the fallout of Brexit, ongoing supply chain issues and the economic downturn, it’s a tricky period for both businesses and consumers alike. Businesses are going to have to get creative to get consumers to part with their money and nearly half of businesses we’ve spoken to are looking to up their social media advertising spending to try and increase customer spend. Despite the cost of living crisis though, over 70% of UK retailers expect an increase in sales this Christmas compared to 2021. 

“In 2023, we’ll continue to see a highly competitive retail market and businesses compete for consumer attention and retention whilst battling with ongoing macroeconomic challenges. In particular, I think we’ll see an increased rivalry between small and large businesses. We will also see a greater appetite from consumers to support local business owners and, demand for bespoke products on sites like Etsy and the rise of social shopping platforms like TikTok shop which could mean a shift in how retailers market themselves.”

Emerging social media platforms – like BeReal

Zarnaz Arlia, CMO at Emplifi, says: “Remember the Clubhouse craze? Part of social media marketing is all about experimentation. If you don’t try new formats, new platforms, or new trends, you’re already out of the loop. Not every test will work, but that’s exactly why it’s a test. With the success of TikTok and overall Gen-Z online behaviours brands will become more confident in dipping their toe into emerging platforms. 

“BeReal is a great example of an up-and-coming platform with a lot of promise. Similar to TikTok, when the app debuted brands were sceptical. But those that got onboard, and especially early saw the effort paid off. We’re already seeing creative strategies with brands like Chipotle who are using BeReal as a way to offer exclusive promos and discounts. This is just the start. More brands will look to apps like BeReal to grow their Gen-Z community with an authentic approach to marketing.”

Influencer marketing gets personal

Sara Varni, chief marketing officer, Attentive, says: “The first wave of influencer marketing built on niche blogs gave way to the second wave which used image-based content to foster discovery of new products and brands. Video has taken over as the third wave.

“Major influencers are suffering as consumers look for community and a more ‘unfiltered’ style of content driven by TikTok – which is more affordable for brands. Brands will likely move towards micro-influencers targeting local markets to save money and increase loyalty.”

The customer as influencer 

Zarnaz Arlia, CMO at Emplifi, says: “We’ve long been saying influencer marketing will continue to play a more important role in marketing campaigns. And that’s happened. Companies of every size have leaned in, cooperating with influencers to help drive brand awareness and online sales. We watched the footprint of micro-influencers grow, but what about micro micro influencers? Think everyday customers here. 

“Authenticity is such a powerful force with customers. Brands don’t always need to pay out of pocket for materials that can make a real impact on their KPIs. In 2023 we will see more brands embrace word-of-mouth marketing, using social media as a vehicle to source user-generated content from customers. With UGC resulting in 29% higher web conversions compared to campaigns or websites that lack this format, it’s a no-brainer for brands to utilise the treasure trove of real-life testimonials. Not only does this save valuable time and resources (as content is plug-and-play) but it shines the spotlight on a brand’s most loyal customers while at the same time helping prospective buyers make informed purchasing decisions.”

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