The influence of social media on commerce is now undeniable, even if the revenue attribution models remain fuzzy. During the holiday season, it’s more important than ever that merchants use their social media savvy to stand out from the crowd and engage shoppers — and it’s not too late to tweak campaigns for maximum relevance and impact.
Social media has become a popular resource for product ideas and recommendations. When asked where they turn for shopping inspiration, close to 40% of consumers chose social media — putting it ahead of individual merchant websites, marketplaces, and price comparison sites, according to research from consulting firm PwC; overall, nearly 80% of consumers globally report making a purchase influenced by social media. Overall social usage continues to spread: fully two-thirds of U.S. online consumers belong to at least one social network, making brand outposts a necessity.
During the holidays, social media can help brands differentiate themselves from the competition by showcasing authentic voices and unique, festive content to inspire gift purchases. While marketing calendars have been in place for months, social media is a responsive medium that allows merchants to tweak ad placements on the fly in response to performance and to create posts based on up-to-the-minute content needs. Merchants should take advantage of this flexibility to develop up-to-the-minute campaigns and spotlight the content most likely to resonate with shoppers. Among the strategies to try:
Build energy around new and noteworthy items with user-generated buzz.
By now the benefits of user-generated content are beyond dispute: shoppers who interact with reviews, endorsements, and other product content contributed by their peers are 98% more likely to convert, according to Bazaarvoice, and merchants offering user-generated content achieve revenue per visit 106% higher than sellers who don’t.
Merchants should take advantage of the credibility and word-of-mouth boost from user-generated content to spotlight new products, seasonal favorites, and exclusive items on social media. Hashtag campaigns inviting customers to share why products are ideal gift picks and contests that require participants to promote their submissions to earn votes can spread the word quickly through social networks. Invitations to popular influencers to spread the word and incentives to customers who review products can also be beneficial, though merchants should be transparent about how such content is solicited and clearly label ad and promotional content as such.
Once they have a storehouse of content, merchants should take full advantage of it by using that content across touchpoints — from email marketing campaigns to in-store signage. And they shouldn’t neglect social-to-social synchronicity; popular Instagram campaigns and stories should be cross-posted to Facebook, Pinterest, and beyond.
Ride the coattails of trending hashtags.
While creating brand specific campaigns to solicit contributions from customers is a great way to generate buzz among existing followers, merchants should also use social media to pique the interest of new audiences. One way to do that is to create content that capitalizes on trending memes and hashtags beyond the brand. In addition to flagging posts related to big promotional events such as #blackfriday, merchants should be on the lookout for hashtags that are of-the-moment and offer a natural tie-in to their brands. Tools such as hashtags.org and merchants’ own social listening platforms can help identify popular terms, as can watching the feeds of key influencers to see what topics are generating the most chatter.
Kibo merchant Title Nine, which sells women’s recreational apparel, scored a two-fer during the recent solar eclipse. Customers posted images of themselves marking the event in outfits they’d purchased from Title Nine using the seller’s #MyT9 campaign, which the company used to tie in to the popular #eclipse hashtag.
Showcase charitable giving.
During the holidays, local and national non-profits make appeals through events such as the #givingtuesday event in early December, in the hopes of benefiting from the generosity of the season. For merchants, there’s no better time to showcase charitable efforts or community benefit programs, and social media can help such messaging reach far and wide.
Not only do charitable campaigns raise awareness and funds for worthy causes, but the brand’s reputation benefits: 60% of consumers believe doing good should be part of a brand’s core mission, according to Edelman, while Nielsen found that two-thirds of consumers overall and 72% of teenagers say they’re willing to pay more for goods from brands that support social and environmental sustainability. Social promotions that spotlight holiday giving initiatives or “buy-one, donate-one” drives are good candidates for merchants, as are campaigns inviting followers to share their own stories around a charitable theme.
Pitch social campaigns to Baby Boomers.
Often considered the new-fangled domain of the young, social media’s fastest-growing age demographic is actually those age 50 or older. Given that the large and affluent Baby Boomer population controls 70% of disposable income in the U.S., and given that more than 70% of those aged 69 or older have purchased online in the past three months, it makes sense for merchants to court this segment as least as diligently as they do to Millennials.
In addition to offering gift suggestions for grandchildren and adult children, merchants should spotlight holiday-centric content that emphasizes swift and convenient service. Seniors are actually less tolerant of inefficient customer service transactions than the young, Forrester Research, Inc. found, with 54% of Baby Boomers saying they’ll abandon a purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question — a higher percentage than Generation Z. Campaigns can focus on easy gift card purchases or quick store pickup for online orders, while retargeting campaigns should enable picking up the purchase process where shoppers last left off.
Looking for more holiday readiness tips? Read the first, second, and third blog posts in the series here. To better integrate social and brand content in 2018 across touchpoints, check out Kibo’s omnichannel commerce solution and gain access to strategy expertise during the holidays and year round.