The world of commerce produces an endless cycle of change and progress that forces companies to keep up or risk being left behind. At first having a brick-and-mortar store was enough to attract customers and generate profits, but as sales and marketing migrate to online platforms, ecommerce capabilities have taken on a heightened importance.
Last year, ecommerce sales rose during the holiday season by 12%, more than triple the increase in overall retail growth during the same period. But the mass expansion of retailers to the web has made standing out nearly impossible, especially for small and medium businesses competing with major industry giants.
The best product and most user-friendly websites are only as effective as their ability to garner traffic, a difficulty when competing with the massive online advertising budgets of large enterprises. One potential solution to the overcrowding problem is for companies to focus their attention on the internet’s equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising – social media.
Social media is the great equalizer for SMBs because it doesn’t privilege traditional ecommerce models. While most companies have Facebook pages and Twitter handles, the particularities of the medium and the emphasis on organic interactions create a unique opportunity for small businesses.
Social is different for the same reasons that make it special. Quite simply, people don’t go on Facebook or Twitter to shop, they go there to interact and engage. Social commerce has less of an impact when we treat these platforms purely as shopping destinations and fail to see them for what they are – incredible avenues for word-of-mouth marketing and the organic spread of information.
To make your brand’s social presence count, follow these three rules for improving your social presence:
Find your niche. Over 1 billion people in the world engage on social networks. With such a massive audience at their fingertips, large corporations often try too hard to cater to everyone, spreading themselves thin and stripping away their differentiating factors. Small businesses can use this as an opportunity to target niche groups in order to cultivate a substantial, loyal following. Having a well-defined customer base makes it easier to execute targeted campaigns, promotions, and marketing strategies. By finding your niche, you can secure customers who will be happy to buy your merchandise.
Speak your customers’ language. Don’t just set up your brand’s page or storefront and then leave it to consumers to generate discussion. One of the best features of social commerce is the ability to engage personally and directly with your customers. Responding to customers’ questions or complaints quickly and effectively within the infrastructure of a Facebook post or Tweet gives the impression that you are more than just a business- that you truly care about your customers. Likewise, updating your page or feed with relevant and entertaining content can go a long way in nurturing a following on social media that will then spread news about your business to all of their friends and generate more sales. Allowing customers to shop via social media and learn more about your brand from the comfort of a social atmosphere is likely to earn their trust and attention, and they will appreciate the ability to shop and socialize simultaneously on one platform.
Get to know your customers. Companies rely on customer information to better tailor their service and advertising, but it is often difficult or controversial to do so. However social media lends itself to data aggregation because people inherently seek to share information about themselves on those sites. Engaging with your customers on social networks gives you access to a goldmine of data that will help you refine your sales and advertising strategy for the future, and allow you to further personalize your customers’ experience, leading to a loyal fan-base that will keep returning for more.
With so much to gain and nothing to lose, any business that wants to be successful should take advantage of social commerce and the benefits it has to offer. So take the leap, and embrace the commerce of the future.