Retail, rebooted
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The rise of s-commerce

By Simone Castle
Social Strategist

Last month, The Verge reported that Instagram is working on a standalone “IG Shopping” app that will enable users to browse and purchase directly within the platform.

It’s a logical move following the introduction of shoppable posts in 2016 and shoppable Stories earlier this year. Keen to get a slice of the e-commerce pie, Snapchat has launched shoppable ad units and ‘Visual Search’ in partnership with Amazon while Facebook are busy working on features where users can virtually try on products before buying in-app, too.

These new features are a response to the growing number of users researching products via social media* and the businesses that are using social media to reboot the traditional path to purchase.

At a time when big retailers were dipping their toes in to social media with varying degrees of success, Lolly Wolly Doodle cracked it with the simplicity of its sales technique.

Ella Woodward, founder of Deliciously Ella, credits Instagram with catapulting her business from a recipe blog to the company it is today - encompassing supper clubs, best-selling recipe books, a deli, and branded products in over 5,000 stores. “Our app went to number one in the UK and the US and we are now in 5,500 stores, all done with no marketing team, no internal creative team, no advertising, and yet we are continuously outselling our competitors in almost every single store we sell in and that is all through the power of social media.”

Children’s clothing company, Lolly Wolly Doodle, was one of the first businesses to crack s-commerce. In 2008, founder Brandi Temple started making dresses at home and would post pictures of the items on her Facebook Page, inviting people to comment with their email address, size and personalisation request. Brandi would then email a PayPal invoice to those whose orders she could fulfill. Revenue reached $11 million by 2013. At a time when big retailers were dipping their toes in to social media with varying degrees of success, Lolly Wolly Doodle cracked it with the simplicity of its sales technique.

Although many traditional businesses still have a long way to go, some legacy brands are doing their best to keep up. Earlier this year, Nike became the first brand to sell on Snapchat when it pre-released a pair of Air Jordan trainers at a consumer event. Customers were able to scan Snap codes, purchase within the app and the shoes were delivered that same night.

Anthropologie’s US outpost uses social and web data to merchandise its in-store inventory around what’s trending and Nordstrom does the same, highlighting items that are popular on Pinterest in a ‘top pinned’ section in stores. Shop assistants are equipped with tablets that display trending items, enabling them to update ‘top pinned’ items throughout the day.

Burberry has long been revered as a purveyor of physical and digital integration. One example is the Burberry Facebook “chatbot”, which a customer can use to book an Uber to their nearest store. Here, they will be met by a sales assistant who has access to the customer’s purchase history and social media activity. This data enables the assistant to personalise product recommendations, so if Burberry knows a customer has bought a specific coat, assistants may show them a handbag which is popular with other buyers of the coat.

It’s clear that greater opportunities exist for a legacy retailer to integrate social and digital data with physical stores. To achieve this, retailers - and their staff - need to embrace the transition and restructure the business with technology at its heart. No mean feat, but time is ticking… using digital data to inform everything from product development to real world experiences will get people talking, but most importantly, buying.

Source: GWI

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