It’s hard to believe that close to 20 years ago, Amazon.com was an emerging startup with high hopes of selling books online. Yet fast forward to present day and the company is building $600 million cloud implementations for the Department of Defense, while simultaneously revolutionizing the physical act of reading through its introduction of the Kindle. In the same way that Amazon.com slowly but surely conquered books, eCommerce as a whole and beyond, social networks like Twitter and Pinterest and niche social shopping sites like Wanelo and Fancy are the likely torch bearers of online shopping dominance.
While many feel that further expansion in eCommerce may result in the extinction of brick-and-mortar locations, there is much optimism out there for smaller brands. With social media predicted to be contributing to over $30 billion in web sales by 2015, and more and more shoppers citing the influence of social networks on their purchasing decisions, smaller brands have a new medium through which to gain notoriety for their wares, at little to no cost.
By capitalizing on social networks and social shopping websites, smaller eCommerce brands can display their products alongside international competitors and achieve legitimate market share.
A Globally Curated Product Shelf
Deena Varshavskaya, founder and CEO of Wanelo, describes the purpose of social shopping networks as:
“Building a meta-layer on top of commerce, the industry is fragmented and we’re bringing them [the consumer] into an interconnected network.”
Wanelo currently attracts 1.3 million visitors each month, and they’ve done so through their intuitively designed product-feed that displays high quality imagery of products. One of the most interesting aspects of such websites, in relation to smaller up and coming brands, is the absence of branding or logo in the product-feed. For the first time ever, it is possible for an emerging brand to appear on the same shelf as mega-brands like Gucci or Armani.
Social shopping networks such as Wanelo and Fancy essentially democratize the online shopping process through their site design. Not only do they allow users to create profiles and decide which curated items should receive attention of the home page, but they also allow retailers of any size to create store profiles. Once a store profile is created, other users can discover your wares, and share and recommend them to friends inside of the network and beyond.
Like all emerging companies, funds are usually tight for eCommerce startups and new brands. By capitalizing on social eCommerce trends and strategies, a smaller company can forego expensive marketing investments in favor of a lightweight yet potent approach through social.
Shopping Through Updates
With the hiring of a Head of Commerce by Twitter, as well as J. Crews’ use of Pinterest to release their entire fall catalogue of 60,000 products, social media networks are proving to be a critical component of many eCommerce strategies. Given that 81% of respondents in a recent Market Force survey cited social media as a direct influencer on their buying decisions, social and commerce are becoming more and more intertwined. Smaller up-and-coming brands can utilize Pinterest, Twitter and other social networks to display their products, engage with markets through content, and even incorporate widgets and plugins so that users can buy directly through a news-feed or post. Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest already offer the potential for ‘buy now’ buttons which can be embed into posts, or to initiate transactions through hashtags or action-tags like #buy or #NeedVIP.
As an emerging brand, you should incorporate these tools in order to capture transactions and initiate conversions through social media engagement. By your simplifying the process of buying via a 140-character message, buyers will be more likely to follow through with a purchase. Successful eCommerce sites consistently search for a way to streamline the buying process and make it as intuitive as possible. There are countless sales lost every day due to poor design of contact information or payment credential forms.
If you make it easy for people to buy from multiple social media touch, your conversions and transactions will increase.
From eBay Store to Fastest Growing Retailer
One of the most successful online retailers to emerge as a result of strong incorporation of social media strategy is Nasty Gal, an online retailer for young millennial women. From 2008 to 2011, the company achieved “an 11,200% three-year growth rate.” Despite a lack of experience with anything fashion-oriented aside from a passion for clothing, Sophia Amoruso turned her eBay store for vintage clothing into the $100 million web retailer. Amoruso cites Myspace as a major medium for marketing her brand in its early days.
Her initial marketing strategy involved targeting fans of specific magazines that best represented her ideal audience. Today, her social media presence has expanded to all major channels, with lively community participation and engagement. Customers also routinely post pictures and feedback regarding their purchases. Amoruso’s success serves as a case study for the potential that social eCommerce has in leveling the playing field for emerging brands.
There are plenty of channels that can be incorporate into the overall strategies of an eCommerce company. From marketing to initiating transactions and conducting customer service, social media channels offer a cost-efficient alternative to pervasive and expensive marketing strategies used by larger brands to achieve market dominance. And can put you right up there with the majors.
Image credit: CC by Barry Thomas