In the beginning there was the store, and it was good for retailers. Then came the rise of ecommerce, followed by mobile usage and showrooming, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as retail traffic and sales suffered.
Now it’s the time of the Buy button on social media, which portends fresh challenges for etailers.
Buy buttons are popping up on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube’s TrueView platform, and you’ll also find them via Google search. These buttons are intended to capitalize on shoppers in the heat of the moment, when excitement and demand are at their peak, whether it’s purely an impulse buy or a specific search.
With the Buy button, everybody wins!
Consumers get the convenience and satisfaction of immediacy to act.
Social networks get proof of value by showing a direct conversion, and perhaps will get a cut of the sale.
Etailers minimize the chance of losing the sale by enabling the customer to buy right away, without leaving the network.
But is the win a shallow one for etailers?
If it’s a one-and-done transaction, the etailer loses out on the potential of an extended engagement on their own website—one that allows for greater discovery and a bigger shopping cart at its conclusion.
Just as retailers had to rethink stores with rise of ecommerce and mobile, which have offered cheaper, more convenient shopping and delivery for today’s pajama and yoga pants-clad couch potato shoppers, etailers will have to evolve as social shopping takes off.
Retailers adjusted to showrooming by placing greater emphasis on physical trial and experience; merging retail/etail inventory via apps and in-store technology; providing mobile-friendly innovations such as the Walmart Savings Catcher to reward shoppers; updating store formats with enhanced Wi-Fi for a better experience; and blending the convenience of online purchase and in-store pickup. But how will ecommerce evolve in the face of the rising social commerce dynamic?
The answer for etailers lies both in form and function:
Exclusive products: Create a niche for specific products that are only available via the website
Customization: Build on current programs and leverage more shopper-specific data and social shopping opportunities on your site to ensure optimal personalization and peer-approved satisfaction
Choice: Provide the maximum long-tail opportunity, with an ability to access and order from a full product inventory on the website
Experience: Craft a playground for rich experiences and engagement with branded content, celeb integration, unique sponsorships and partnerships, etc.
As technology and data applications continue to evolve, the purpose of retail, etail, and social—and the sales opportunities within—will be continuously redefined to complement and gain an edge over one another.
Murphy O'Brien is an associate creative director at Momentum San Francisco