By John Squire
Director, Product Management, Enterprise Marketing Management Group
IBM Industry Solutions
A couple of weeks ago when I wrote about online shopping trends and predictions for this holiday season, I focused largely on the rise of the mobile shopper. Today in honor of Black Friday, I’d like to focus instead on social shopping.
Social shopping, as I’m sure most of you know, refers to those people who turn to their social networks for advice or research when they’re considering a purchase. Seems like a pretty intuitive concept. But the fact is that I’ve spoken to far too many retailers who have either discounted the notion that social shopping will ever make significant contributions to their bottom lines or who throw up their hands in frustration and say something along the lines of “I just don’t understand how to use it to drive revenue.”
These are the kinds of perspectives that drive retailers out of business. Here’s why. IBM data shows that people who arrive at a retailer’s site from Facebook are nearly twice as likely to buy something than other people. Put another way, social media’s ability to influence consumer behavior far outstrips that of other channels.
The reason lies in the very nature of social media. Social media is built on the premise that one person’s opinion is not only as valid as anyone else’s, but that it’s authentic and therefore trustworthy. People tend to trust someone (even a perfect stranger) who has taken the time to post an opinion on a Facebook page much more than they trust an ad. More to the point, IBM data shows that people are willing to act on the opinions of strangers. It turns out that even on the Internet, it’s the human relationship that matters.
What we’re talking about is the evolution of the Internet from a click-based experience to a people-based experience. Rather than clicking through pages and pages of Google search results, people are turning to their social networks for advice. Consumers have the ability to exert influence over brands in ways that weren’t possible before the rise of social media. What’s more, they know it. IBM’s Yuchun Lee has often said that social media is like “truth serum” for businesses. Use that to your advantage.
The implications for retailers (or any business) are clear: you must identify, nurture and promote brand advocates, ratings and reviews, and social conversations. These are the people whose opinions will influence your sales across a network of people everywhere. Social shopping matters for one achingly simple reason: in the age of the empowered consumer, you are marketing and selling your goods and services to people who have a multitude of ways to broadcast their opinions to thousands upon thousands of other people (and potential customers).
If you don’t care about social shoppers, you’re in the wrong business.