How Social Media is Like Shopping Foreplay

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By Mallorie Rosenbluth While we've come leaps and bounds in terms of measuring ROI from various social channels through link tracking and sophisticated advertising platforms, the retail space remains one key area where social efforts are still largely a mystery. But that doesn't mean retailers shouldn't be actively utilizing the space; after all, data shows that many people start their research for products they ultimately buy in-store online (stats below!). Here are three key ways retailers can use social media to ensure that their brands stay top-of-mind when users go offline

1. In keeping with the dating theme, the first thing is to get introduced, or acquainted, with your (potential) consumer early through online channels.  A study from eMarketer showed that 33% of people use social media to discover new brands, products, or services. There is no better tool to tap into than social media to attract highly customized and targeted groups of people and introduce them to your product.  By utilizing your current customer list (finally, that email list you've spent years building is good for something other than emails!) you can reach people through Facebook's Custom Audience tool to create a group of people who behave and act just like your customers.  Additionally, if you spend the time to build a community within Facebook, you can leverage its influence. Another study by Syncapse states that 85% of fans of brands on Facebook recommend the brand to other people (that's 15% higher than average users). By building and interacting with your community, you remain top-of-mind and are given the opportunity to exceed expectations. You're also able to prompt consumers to tell their friends (digitally or in real life) how great your brand is.

Tap into your customers, both quantitatively and qualitatively, before they even go to a location to find your product. 

2. Next, you have to stand out from others, or be the most eligible bachelor(ette) out there. And just like in dating, you can't stand up and tell everyone that you're the best out there and that they have to choose you. You need to rely on recommendations and reviews from others. There are many studies showing that people respond to recommendations and reviews, but it's not only personal ones anymore. BrightLocal's annual report states that the number of consumers who trust online reviews is as high as 79%. And it's not just the big brands that are impacted by these reviews. The number is even higher for local businesses, with 85% of consumers checking out local business reviews before stopping in to a location. So make sure you have something great for them to talk about--and a place for that conversation to live and be fostered. Getting reviews doesn't have to be tricky either--some of the brands that do this best simply ask for them.

Standing out from the competition isn't just about words on websites, but about images as well. Imagine a dating profile that doesn't have a photo attached to it. Would you take a risk and go out with a faceless stranger? Just as a photo helps when you're online dating, so too does it help on social media. Visual posts receive 50% more likes on Facebook and generate 50% more leads on Twitter. This doesn't speak to the quality of the visual content either, so don't feel like every image needs to be highly produced and obsessed over in Photoshop for weeks. You can keep it simple and still make an impact.

3. And finally, you have to seal the deal. All these efforts online won't make a difference if there's no proof that people won't actually put down their devices and hit your store (or store to buy your product). But there's hope. While up to 80% of consumers start their search for products online (Price Waterhouse Coopers) and 46% are exclusively using social media (Nielsen), 90% of transactions still happen in-store (PwC).  Social media is a tool that helps educate and engage your consumer and prime them for purchase. So use it!

Have you used social media to research a product before buying it in-store? Know any brands (retailers or products) that use social media phenomenally (there are lots!)? Tell us about your experiences and favorites in the comments.