Why is online retail so popular? We’ve reached an era that, if somebody has goods to sell, they’re more likely to sell them via the internet than through ‘traditional’ means of a storefront in town. It’s an industry that is quietly exploding, forecasted to have a global revenue of £2.1 trillion ($3.02 trillion) by 2018.
For the consumer, there’s a lot of pros to shopping online.
- Shoppers want low prices and online they’re able to compare product prices across multiple outlets at once.
- Shoppers want convenience and they can do all their shopping in their dressing gown without even needing to put deodorant on.
- Shoppers want to browse the latest products and Google summons vast swathes of fresh material for them.
- Shoppers want to make a more private purchase and online they can avoid the public eye comfortably.
“Shoppers want convenience and they can do their shopping in their dressing gown without even needing to put deodorant on.”
The list goes on.
But for the retailer, it’s not all ASOS-in-your-dressing-gown fun and games. Yes, the overheads of a physical store might (most retailers aim for a storefront and online presence) be avoided, but selling online is no easy task.
So let’s say you’re a burgeoning eCommerce business. Chances are, you’ve looked at successful online retailers to try and get an idea what they’re doing for their business to perform so well.
And you may notice that on these successful retail websites, there’s always some iteration of this:
Click through and there’ll be a platform full of customer service, non-pushy promotion and a whole lot of industry-related knowledge. With so much activity, it’s clearly a priority to these businesses.
But how does that stuff actually help with sales?
Let’s take a look at what successful online retailers do on social media, and determine the effect:
They show passion that their audience feels too
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) January 21, 2016
Check out Oreo’s Twitter and you’ll see an array of branded content that’s been crafted to appeal to the type of person who’d follow a delicious cookie company. Instead of trying to sell you Oreo cookies, it’s assuming you’re already a fan and providing you with ideas that – being a cookie fan – you’re likely to enjoy.
This works for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the confident exclusion of any sales-related language reassures readers that this isn’t a ploy for their money – it’s something informative that appeals to cookie fans everywhere.
Secondly, the subject matter itself shows that Oreo is actually passionate about its products – it’s finding new ways to enjoy it! What makes you feel comfortable buying from a brand more than the knowledge that they actually care about their product?
By sharing recipes like this they’re promoting Oreo without boring potential customers with, well, boring promotional stuff.
Why it helps business
- Encourages customers by demonstrating passion for product
- Shows it’s not all about selling – reassuring customer trust
- Customers feel they have common interests with business
They Speak their audience’s language
People will browse social media almost unconsciously these days. It’s a talent show where people show off how well they can perform individualism. You could argue that the reaction to viewing the content of a social media profile boils down to:
“This person/company shares my values, I like them,” and,
“This person/company doesn’t share my values, I dislike them.”
Of course our perception of one another is more complex than this, but on social media, things – initially at least – are simplified. And one of the first things we as humans will judge on social media is the language used.
TOPMAN’s demographic ranges from teenagers to young adults and it generally pushes a brand image of young, hip and modern. TOPMAN utilises its social media marketing to promote products using language that will resonate with its audience.
In the tweet below, the colloquialisms “freshest”, “fresh” and “drops” are going to capture the attention of teenagers and young adults – TOPMAN’s demographic – because it sounds like a member of their squad or their bae is like sending them a cheeky DM or something. It’s essentially saying, “Hey man, I get you and I like your style so here’s some more cool threads.”
— TOPMAN (@Topman) April 18, 2016
Speaking a similar vernacular to your audience suggests to them that you share the same cultural heritage.
Why it helps business:
- Customers feel the business shares their values & culture
- No off-putting language that suggests the business doesn’t ‘get’ the customer
- Customers see familiar language as trust signal and are more willing to purchase
They right any wrongs
Customer service is an integral part of social media – disgruntled customers are quick to swoop down on a company’s Facebook & Twitter accounts to bemoan their experience. It’s faster than a phone call and is in the public domain for all to see and sympathise with.
Smart businesses use complaints on social media to their advantage by showcasing great customer service skills for the world to see. Even complaints that are bordering on hostile can be taken advantage of by responding in a respectful and composed manner.
“Smart businesses use complaints on social media to their advantage”
Embracing the customer service element of social media shows potential buyers that your business cares about its patrons. It shows reliability and a solution-oriented attitude.
Why it helps business:
- Customers are more comfortable ordering knowing any issues will be resolved
- Business appears to care for its patrons, fostering loyalty
- Showcases reliability and trustworthiness
They show knowledge
Some eCommerce businesses (well, most really) are jostling to show their value against competitors. Showing off great products and tailored branding is great, but it’s important to acknowledge the wider context of the industry to demonstrate up-to-date understanding.
— Midas Media (@Midas_UK) April 15, 2016
Even information from third-party sources can be valuable, as it shows your audience that you’re constantly researching and refining your own business approach.
Why it helps business:
- Portrays business as industry-leading, encouraging customers to choose over competitors
- Shows up-to-date knowledge of the marketplace, suggesting the customer will receive the latest products
- Highlights that the business isn’t stagnant – it’s constantly trying to figure out what’s best for the customer
Social media fulfils a variety of roles in enhancing a business’s brand image.
After analysing these traits of successful businesses, we can see that social media covers three primary community virtues. It shows that you have things in common with your customers. It shows that you’re reliable and it shows that you’re knowledgeable.
By demonstrating these things on a customer-facing platform with incredible potential for visibility, eCommerce businesses can encourage custom and build their brand.