Retail Brands are Missing a Trick: Paid Social has Impact

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Paid social is brimming with first-party data. In other words, it offers the ability to target real people rather than just ‘cookies’.

What’s more, with billions of global users logging on multiple times per day, these platforms offer huge reach, alongside a variety of ad formats to encompass the full purchasing funnel.

Alongside the ability for granular targeting – which stands in stark contrast to what is offered by more traditional advertising channels – social media also represents an ideal platform for video; a medium which increasingly is the first choice for many.

Morrisons’ marketing director Andy Atkinson pointed to the inherent power of social way back last spring, when he noted that the grocer’s modernised approach to social and digital had helped it foster brand loyalty – as well as a pre-tax profit of £217m compared to a £792m loss in the previous year.

Admitting that Morrisons had come ‘a bit late’ to social, he also warned against using these channels purely to sell, adding that it rather is about ‘reaching out and building a relationship’.

Fast forward one year, and Sir Ian Cheshire, Debenhams’ chairman – speaking at World Retail Congress in Dubai – stressed that it’s hard today for bricks-and-mortar stores to compete with online rivals. Retailers need to up their game, he warned, by providing great experiences rather than just focusing on ‘selling stuff’.

“The next generation is behaving differently, spending differently and interacting differently,” he said.

It is certainly the case that consumer behaviour on social channels has moved on apace, even in the past 12 months. It is advertisers’ understanding around how to best leverage these increasingly important platforms which is somewhat lagging behind.

For instance, it has been well documented that the vast majority of shoppers conduct research online before purchasing a product. This in itself highlights the importance of social as a significant player in the e-commerce landscape. By utilising the engaging formats on social, brands can ensure that they are providing information in an informal and non-offensive manner within users’ news feeds.

What’s more, as new technologies increase the possibilities, formats such as virtual reality and 360-degree video will play a bigger role, enabling cut-through creativity and engagement on a vast scale.

Pinterest is already seeing great conversion rates for the likes of home improvement, travel and other considered purchases, while Twitter has long proven the role it can play in fuelling viral sharing of products or experiences. Meanwhile, Facebook is also delivering some impressive results, particularly for sectors such as insurance and real estate.

Again, it’s the simple ‘people over pixels’ concept of social that means it can be leveraged to drive a variety of e-commerce outcomes so effectively. CRM data can be used to target users within the platforms themselves, or to build out lookalike audiences. Overlaying third-party data increases the opportunities yet further.

The fact is that social channels represent communities where users flock multiple times per day for news, sports, inspiration and to chat with friends. Without a doubt, they will increasingly start going there to shop, too.

In the past, customers would pick up a catalogue and highlight items they might like to buy. Pinterest’s Buyable Pins mirror this experience, while Shoppable Instagram, too, has put inspiration at the core of its offering very effectively.

With online retail, as with bricks and mortar, convenience is key. It won’t be long before we see these channels leveraging AI and chatbots to allow consumers to buy in the most frictionless way possible. Millennials in particular want everything they can think of delivered in a quick and easy manner, whether that be news, products, or messages between friends.

If advertisers leverage these channels to their full effect, supplying the in-depth information craved by customers, such as product comparisons, reviews and delivery information, in combination with a smooth and secure check-out process, there’s no doubt that the shoppers will follow.

The original article can be found on Digital Marketing Magazine.