In the meantime, impressive sales figures can be generated via social media. And not just for fun products or cheap everyday items - I myself, for example, signed my last two leasing contracts via Facebook Ads. And young people in particular almost make no purchase decision without first searching on Instagram and YouTube.
Reason enough for online retailers to deal extensively with the possibilities of social networks. There are four approaches in this article.
1) Use the e-commerce functions of the channels
It is not just since yesterday that social networks want to get more of the e-commerce cake or intervene more deeply in the customer journey. And they try to do that with power.
- Facebook has been offering a shop function for years. If products have been uploaded or created, you can advertise them in ads or mark them in posts and thus bring potential buyers directly to the landing pages.
- Instagram followed suit last year and introduced a shop functionality. Every business account that has created a product catalog in the Business Manager can now also link their products to Instagram posts or stories. At the moment, the link leads to the landing page or the online shop, analogous to Facebook. However, Instagram plans to introduce a direct checkout so that the entire customer journey - from discovery of the product to the final purchase - is mapped in the Instagram app.
- Pinterest also offers a similar function ("Shop the look"). Products used in posts can be linked directly in the posts. Here, too, targeted visitors can be generated for the online shop.
- Twitter has also experimented in the meantime with a "Buy" button. It is to be expected that these possibilities of the channels will be expanded further and further in the future, so that social media can become not only a source of impulses or an alarm clock, but also a real sales channel.
2) Messenger marketing as a shopping channel
Messenger marketing, especially with Facebook Messenger, is currently used more as a service channel or newsletter tool. But there is still a lot of potential. Because messenger can also be a powerful tool in e-commerce.
A good example of this is the Zalando bot. With a relatively simple decision tree structure, the bot leads potential customers (currently the bot is aimed at women) to the right product. The bot is not even particularly intelligent, but only responds to clicks on the links offered. In the end, however, the customer contains the right products for him, including a direct link to the landing page in the online shop.
Such bots are particularly useful when the customer is in “browse” mode. If he wants to eat but doesn't know what exactly. If he wants to see a film but has no idea which one. When he is looking for a gift, but has no idea in which direction it could go. Messenger bots can be very helpful here and lead the customer to the right product for him.
3) Social media advertising
Probably the biggest lever for e-commerce is paid advertising on individual social networks. Regardless of whether Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn or YouTube, the performance marketing options are now extremely distinctive and extremely complex.
All channels have very detailed targeting options. Would you like to address mothers over 40 who are interested in cats and live in the Munich area? No problem. Are you looking for HR managers from large companies in the automotive sector who are interested in further training? Another no brainer. Teenagers between 18 and 22 who like to shop online and are interested in the latest movies. Just a few clicks away.
But these are just the basics. The possibilities for e-commerce companies are almost limitless on the targeting side as well as on the side of advertising. Almost all social networks can not only create targeted custom audiences (e.g. people who have viewed a video or a specific product in the online shop), but also similar target groups based on them (lookalike audiences). And especially retargeting strategies (e.g. addressing shopping cart dropouts again or selling upsell products to existing customers) work extremely well in e-commerce.
A lot has also happened on the advertising side. In addition to the normal link ads that lead directly to the online shop or product details page, carousel ads or similar formats can also be displayed. The dynamic ads also offer particular potential, with the product portfolio generating very individual and dynamic ads that perfectly match the potential customer. As much customization is possible as would never be possible with manual ad creation - in the end everyone sees exactly the ads that suit them.
4) Customer loyalty and community building
Clever retailers understand that the customer relationship does not end with the purchase, but actually begins there. After the purchase is before the purchase. Customer loyalty, customer care, the prevention of "buyers remorse", prevention of returns, the recommendation, cross-selling, upselling - all of this can be promoted with social media. There are lots of approaches:
- The game manufacturer Ravensburger offers its customers via chatbot on Facebook, for example, the option of reordering lost individual puzzle pieces and not only relieves the service hotlines, but also ensures happier customers
- Vorwerk uses various Facebook groups (eg "Fit with Thermomix") to retain customers and create a sense of belonging. In addition, the customers provide themselves with recipe ideas, solve their own problems and become enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
- In the USA in particular, e-commerce retailers use regular unboxing videos on YouTube, for example, to stimulate new products and trigger new purchases.
These four impulses are just a small selection of what social media now offers retailers, whether online or offline. If you neglect these options, you are also leaving a lot of money and the potential for enthusiastic, happy and lasting customers. But if you take advantage of the opportunities, you can set yourself apart from your competition and do business more effectively. I wish you success.