However, industry insiders at marketing agencies don’t feel like the technology is all quite there—yet. At South by Southwest and Shoptalk, Adweek talked to three different experts to see what they thought about social commerce and if it’s as relevant as recent campaigns make it appear to be.
“There’s a lot of friction from the user to go through the steps [to purchase] because there’s also this learning curve of buying something on this new platform,” said Octavio Maron, executive creative director at Fetch, a mobile marketing agency.
“So if you look at how many people Pinterest sends to an ecommerce site, it’s not a huge amount,” said Jason Goldberg, svp of commerce and content practice at SapientRazorfish. “But the people that they send have a much higher buying intent because they’ve already discovered something they want to buy, so it’s disportionately affecting sales.”
Though the technology still doesn’t feel quite ready, Maron thinks it could provide a means of verification for real people to buy items versus bots.
Goldberg also points out a key difference he sees between some social platforms and Snapchat: On Snapchat, users can pick sizes and colors more cleanly versus other sites.
“Almost every other social is one awkward integration,” Goldberg said. “Snap has oddly added a lot of robust commerce functionality. Snap organically sells you something on the Snap platform; they’re not chasing you off the platform, it’s not a referral.”
Social commerce is making brands rethink their website strategy
“Before, there [were] various factions within companies that think their website should be used for this or it should be a store,” said Steve White, vp of commerce strategy at SapientRazorfish. “As they shift to social to being the center universe for micro influencers and all that stuff, it allows their site to be more specific or more broad than they had originally thought.”
These social platforms open up the possibility of event-based opportunities, like the Snapchat and Jordan Brands partnership.
“It feels like there’s so many areas to experiment [with],” Liew said. “Like video; could that be the next QVC on Facebook? That could be interesting, creating urgency, making an event.”
Where will all that data on consumers go?
“The question is, are you going to be able to get the data back, and are you going to be able to control that end-to-end customer experience,” said Steven Wolfe Pereira, CMO of Quantcast.
So while it feels important to be on social, Wolfe Pereira cautions against going it into blindly when these tech companies already have a large share of digital advertising.
“[Retailers] might do experiments, but for a digital native vertical brand to build their full business on Instagram, or Snap or anything, I think it’s really detrimental, because they won’t have that first party data,” Wolfe Pereira said.
While some e-commerce retailers are turning to pop-up locations to engage with consumers, popular online men’s retailers like Mr Porter, Huckberry, and Best Made Co. are taking a different approach to influencer marketing, connecting to their customers through lifestyle content in the form of travel and adventure stories and even fashion tips.
Men Shop Differently
According to a study by IBISWorld and shared by Quartz, more men than ever are shopping online and online menswear shopping is projected to grow faster than other e-commerce verticals, beating out even computers for the top spot. Between 2010 and 2015, men’s online clothing sales grew by 17.4 percent, compared to computers and tablets at 11.4 percent.
“The top way apparel shoppers like retailers to communicate with them is via email and the best way for menswear retailers to connect with male shoppers is to customize their email campaigns,” explained Eric Feinberg, VP of marketing at ForeSee, a voice-of-customer company, in an interview with CPC Strategy.
Not only do men shop differently than women, says Feinberg, women are more likely to be motivated by sales, while men are motivated by content. That difference, in turn, can influence loyalty: “Bought loyalty is coupon-driven, instant gratification for a retailer—it feels good. Earned loyalty results in lifetime value, but it takes longer. It requires more content, nurturing, education, and differentiation.”
Show, Don’t Tell
When it comes to building a relationship with content and education, Mr Porter was early to the game with magazine-style articles to engage with their customers. Launched as the modern, stylish men’s version of women’s fashion and accessories retailer Net-a-Porter and geared toward a high-end luxury consumer who prefers Tod’s to Toms, Mr Porter customers still spend time reading fashion and lifestyle advice articles, watching video content, and keeping up with their online magazine, The Journal.
“We knew we had to create a men’s world that didn’t seem too fashiony,” Jeremy Langmead, brand and content director at Mr Porter, told the Wall Street Journal in 2016. His experience as a former editor-in-chief of the longstanding men’s lifestyle bible Esquire informed not only their editorial direction but the direction of the company overall. The site’s most popular articles tend to be the how-tos, like “How To Trade Up Your Skinny Jeans For Wide-Leg Pants.” But the lifestyle section covers everything from cooking to work life, much more like a magazine than a sales promotion. Stylish and aspirational content is the goal, from the helpful “Holiday-Booking Hacks from the Experts” to the thought-provoking “The End of Sharing Dishes.”
“With women, you can say, ‘the Celine bag is the must-have bag of the season,’ but if you say something to that effect to a guy, you’ll just a get a blank stare,” Langmead explained to GQ. “Five different ways you can wear something, where you can wear something—it’s about facts and practicality. It’s more information than inspiration.”
Whatever it is, it’s working. According to the WSJ piece, Mr Porter’s typical customer spent around five minutes reading articles and other content before shopping, where they spent on average of eight to ten minutes selecting purchases.
When it comes to online shopping, companies like outdoor and lifestyle brand Best Made Co. are not afraid to engage with this desire. Founder Peter Buchanan-Smith, a former art director who felt the need to be outside more, started Best Made Co. as a workshop, but soon turned it into a catalog-driven business.
“My love is storytelling, and a print catalog is one of the best and least expected places to tell stories,” Buchanan-Smith recently told Forbes. “Catalogs have become so product driven, formulaic, and transactional. We are giving our customers a much more meaningful experience.”
With stories told in beautifully shot, high-quality, large-format photo slideshows, the result is akin to visiting a friend who has just had the most amazing trip to Belize. In a sense, it’s influencer marketing done by individuals who are marketing their own lifestyle. In addition to products, the company also offers actual adventures, trips, and workshops at their NYC and LA locations (like knife-sharpening or indigo-dying). Best Made Co. is not just selling an experience, it’s literally selling an adventure. Their story resonates because it is true to their aesthetic and purpose—get outside, learn and do things, survive—not just a slick maneuver to purchase their products.
Social Influencers Impact Buying
One reason that adventure and lifestyle content is connecting is most likely due to a generational shift in how men engage with fashion. The second reason is pretty simple—men take fashion tips from other men.
According to a 2016 Boutique@Ogilvy Men’s Shopping Report, millennial men are more likely to take tips from friends, Instagram, or celebrities when it comes to inspiration for fashion. By comparison, 18 percent of millennial men favored Instagram, compared to only 4 percent of gen Xers and 0 percent of baby boomers.
As more and more influencers dominate social feeds, they bring their fashion sense with them. “Digital media and a constant stream of imagery of stylish iconic men—from successful entrepreneurs to funny YouTube personalities—have encouraged the socialization of men’s fashion,” Tammy Smulders, global managing director of LuxHub, a division of Havas Media Group, told Digiday. “Social media and being ‘always on’ has made it so that everyday men have become more focused on their look.”
When it comes to lifestyle and influencer marketing, Huckberry’s combination of retail and lifestyle inspiration makes you forget that you even came to this place for clothes. The company defines itself as “an online shop and journal that inspires more active, adventurous, and stylish lives through members-only sales, original story-telling, and unique experiences,” and their site does just that. The journal offers the men’s guide of how-tos and Q&As, but they also have a highly cultivated influencer community of “ambassadors” and “artists” with whom they collaborate on products and ask to tell their own adventure and craft stories.
Rather than just having a community of influencers, the site shows you the community of customers who are seemingly living the lifestyle that the brand is selling—creative, adventurous, and willing to spend money on well-crafted products. With a strong Instagram presence, the ambassadors and artists allow the Huckberry story to spread and increase its audience.
Like the retail catalog giants before them (think L.L. Bean or J. Crew), these brands are selling a lifestyle story: You too can be adventurous or stylish and learn how to live this story (and BTW, please wear our products). Whether through newsletters, online journals, social media, or email campaigns, they are tapping into a market of male consumers who are increasingly ready to be influenced.
The writing has been on the wall for years now: Retail is moving, en masse, to the internet. Ecommerce sales in the United States have been increasing steadily over the past decade and are predicted to top $4 trillion by 2020.
One of the harsh realities of this widespread shift in consumer behavior is that the very concept of competition has changed. Retailers are no longer just competing with stores near their geographic location. They are going up against everyone else throughout their industry.
What’s more: In the incredibly fast-paced nature of online browsing, potential customers are quick to jump to conclusions. With so many options for them to choose from, the first impressions that you, as retailer, give them, are everything. Oftentimes, it’s these (seemingly) small elements that play a huge factor in people’s purchasing decisions.
With this in mind, there are several crucial components which you must invest heavily in, to keep a competitive edge. Here are three of the big ones.
All kinds of studies have been conducted on how quickly the human brain processes images. While the conclusions vary, one common one says that people process visual effects much faster than text. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to budget for high-resolution images.
In ecommerce, after all, presentation is everything. Regardless of where you place photos on your site, they will inevitably be the points to which people’s eyes gravitate. Right off the bat, these pictures should be captivating and provide an introduction to what your brand is all about.
Even more, those photos should clarify the visual hierarchy of your content, to persuade visitors to take further action; photos should never just be decoration. In addition to capturing attention, these images should help advance the navigation and flow of your ecommerce site to get consumers on the path to conversion.
If you’re not a professional photographer, there are plenty of resources online providing you high-quality images. You can browse the vast libraries of royalty-free stock photos to find visual effects that fit your exact needs.
Your home page is more than just the first impression of your online business. It is the face of your brand and the central hub for all of your operations. Going the cheap route here can quickly render the rest of your efforts pointless.
Luckily, we live in a time when you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg to have a fully functional ecommerce homepage. DIY ecommerce platforms like Shopify will supply the critical functionality you need — such as a shopping cart, inventory tracking, payment records and hosting — while providing a mobile-friendly or multi-device storefront
For more complex or larger stores, bringing in a few expert developers may be necessary. And this can benefit the bottom line. “Online shopping behavior is truly unpredictable. It’s amazing how a minuscule tweak on an ecommerce homepage can result in a huge increase of sales,” says Tristan King, founder of Blackbelt Commerce.
Developers provide specialist services in the form of web development, UX consultancy and management for ecommerce sites built on Shopify. Such platform-specific specialization allows for the discovery of subtle changes that can help you grow sales to the next level.
Ultimately, the home page of any website should be designed in a way that encourages visitors to dive deeper into the store’s offerings — be they categories, products or the latest end-of-season sale. If you’re going to invest heavily in your online business, this is the place to do it.
Ecommerce and content marketing go hand in hand, both on-site and off. Once you’ve wowed visitors with compelling images and assured them with reviews about reliable user experience, you’ve got to prioritize the written content that makes the sale. This is where you’ll truly provide value for your visitors.
By nature, the writing of marketing copy is a subjective art. However, there are many universal blunders that separate the good from the bad. On an ecommerce website, the need for topnotch writing is foremost, in terms of crafting product pages, blog posts, email blasts, information pages and checkout processes. In one way or another, all of this content factors into your sales strategy. The copy you use must be flawless, concise, informative and consistent.
If you’ve been in the game for a while, you probably know just how much content is needed for your ecommerce site. To get that content, owners, many times, must dedicate a team of writers to the task, or outsource it to locals in multiple countries when the product line happens to be international.
Regardless of content needs, the most important thing is that all of your content must reflect the brand persona you’ve worked so hard to define. Online shoppers are smart and critical beings. Even the smallest blemish in your copy can wreak havoc on your credibility.
In sum, brick-and-mortar businesses have been around for centuries. Ecommerce, on the other hand, is so new that there isn’t yet a specific playbook to ensure a fruitful outcome. There may never be; and even the savviest owners may be puzzled by their online sales results.
Yet, while there are no guarantees with ecommerce, it’s been proven time and time again that investing the proper resources into the above three areas can do wonders to set you up for success. You should get started doing that today.