In a crowded holiday marketplace, merchants must use every tool available to differentiate their brands — and that includes canny usage of social media to demonstrate uniqueness and value.
Shoppers are increasingly discovering Web sites via a variety of sources — and social is a key player. Technology researcher Forrester found that 25% of online adults have used Facebook to find information or Web sites in the past year, second only to natural search as a source of Web site leads.
And when it comes to holiday sales, consumers report that social media carries heightened importance. The MarketLive/E-Tailing Group 2015 Consumer Shopping Survey found that more than half of shoppers turn to social media to get ideas and referrals from friends and to share their own recommendations. Overall, 27% of survey participants said social media had led them to make purchases — a much larger percentage than last-click attribution statistics suggest.
Given that more than half of 2014 holiday shoppers said they were open to purchasing from new retailers and 41% actually did so, the impact of social media as the matchmaker introducing shoppers to new brands is potentially significant.
The action item
While showcasing product links and promotional offers is a key component of social strategy for the holidays, standing out from the crowd requires more than promo codes. Merchants should use social media to convey the credibility, service, and ethics behind the brands in order to convince new shoppers to commit to purchases. Among the content to highlight:
- Aspirational, inspirational content. Posting content that provides holiday solutions beyond the immediate gift list demonstrates that brands understand their audience’s priorities and share relevant expertise. Recipes, holiday craft ideas, travel tips, winter fitness inspiration, and cocktail suggestions can flesh out brand personas and increase the likelihood that new visitors will become followers.
- Craftsmanship and provenance. Highlighting artisanal expertise not only elevates the value of products, but can illuminate a brand’s commitment to sustainability and fair trade. More than two-thirds of shoppers say knowing the provenance of products is important, but just 15% believe brands communicate about it transparently, according to marketing firm Edelman.
- Holiday charitable campaigns. Another way to demonstrate brand ethics is to spotlight holiday charitable giving, and/or to invite social followers to donate or volunteer. Doing so can not only bolster perceptions of integrity, but inspire purchases as well: for more than half of shoppers, social purpose is the most important factor when evaluating a brand if price and product quality are equal, according to Edelman.
- Behind-the-scenes holiday fun. Merchants should use social media to pull back the curtain and reveal staff holiday hijinks and tips, both as a way of sharing useful holiday information and to demonstrate that real people stand behind the brand.
- Customer service essentials. Proactively establishing a forward position on social media with customer service content — from live chat links to deadlines for on-time delivery to return policies — eliminates the need for shoppers to hunt the eCommerce site and signals that the brand goes above and beyond to deliver satisfaction.
Throughout the 2014 holiday season, MarketLive merchant Title Nine, a women’s recreational clothing outfitter, engaged its social audiences with content that went beyond products — from a sneak peek of the staff Thanksgiving buffet the Wednesday before the holiday to service messages about last-minute shipping.