From a small personal space for people to interact online, social media evolved into a powerful platform that not only commands attention and engagement but also influences and shifts consumer behavior.
Combined with rapid technological advancements, social media continues to push the retail industry into transformation. With the right social media and digital strategy, retailers have massive opportunities to better understand consumers, deliver meaningful engagements, introduce improved products, and eventually, boost conversions and sales.
Social media and consumers
Since the beginning of the 21st century, social media usage has been steadily growing. From just five percent of U.S. adults using at least one social media site in 2005, social media usage is now at 72% of the population.
According to the Pew Research Center, within the age range of 18-29, 90% of are using social media. This is followed by 82% of the 30-29 age group, and 69% of the 50-64 age group. Among the social media platforms, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram are the most widely used. In terms of usage length, 51% of Facebook users, 42% of Instagram users, and 36% of YouTube users visit the site several times a day.
Besides networking and mindless scrolling, the use of social media to find inspiration and shop products is becoming a norm, especially for young consumers. A millennial survey found that consumers find inspiration for purchases from external sources other than brands or retailers. From influencers and bloggers to friends and celebrities, social media plays a big role in directly connecting these sources to consumers, meaning that brands have a unique opportunity to monetize social media.
Figure 1. The moments that matter by category
Social media and the inspiration that consumers get from online content are vital in both stimulating and nurturing the customer shopping journey. In fact, baby/toddler (56%), home furnishings (40%), health/wellness (33%), electronics (31%), and apparel (29%) shoppers use social media in at least one step of the buying process.
Eventually, social media impacts purchase behavior, with consumers who use social media during the shopping journey are 4X more likely than non-users to spend more. In addition, consumers who are somewhat or very influenced by social media are 6X more likely to spend more than those are not.
How to monetize social media: the power of visuals
As consumers choose to follow their own digitally augmented and social media-influenced path, retailers not only have to master social media but also set up the right tools that support the shopping journey so they can monetize social media too.
Across social media platforms, what is consistent is the presence and power of visuals. From images and GIFs, to short clips and long-form videos, visual content usually receives more engagement. Easily digestible, 59% of consumers think visual information is more important than textual information. When it comes to shopping online for clothing or furniture, that percentage rises up to 85%.
Meeting consumers halfway, 84% of retailers see image commerce or visual search as important or very important to their future success. In fact, with visual technology, more than half of consumers are interested in using a photo of a product (they probably took while browsing social media or leisurely walking on the street) to find exactly what they are looking for or receive visually similar recommendations.
Leveraging social media and visual search, how can brands and retailers enhance the shopping journeys of consumers?
1. Add user-generated social media content to promote products
Make connections with current and future customers by adding a social element to your product pages. Putting up user-generated content enhances the spirit of community within and beyond your brand, letting customers not only add a more personal touch but also stimulate conversations and engagement with fellow shoppers.
Moreover, customers who post products and tag brands on social media almost always want to be recognized. They are likely more than happy to share thoughts about your products and recommend your brand (79%), especially if they have a positive shopping experience.
With visual-based recommendation engines, you can improve individual product pages with user-generated content from social media. Besides tapping into customers’ social nature, it also persuades shoppers by showing that people are indeed buying and using your products.
2. Look for trends to influence product pages and content
Consumers go to social media not only to find inspiration but also to look at the latest trends. As the new source of what’s in, what’s not, monitoring social media proves to be treasure full of potentially actionable insights that can be used to inform business decisions.
With visual search, specifically its automatic product tagging component, retailers can do it both ways. Enhance product pages with social media and understand customers better with analytics. By knowing which products customers are searching for or interacting with on your website or app, you can leverage real-time inventory updates across channels—both online and offline.
3. Prepare your website or app for product discovery
Having established that consumers go to social media before and during the shopping journey, it is then critical that your website or app is ready to deliver visual or textual search results once shoppers make the search, so that you can truly monetize social media and the effort you put into it. Regardless of the social media image uploaded or the keyword used, results need to be accurate for users to continue their buying journey on your site.
Visual AI solutions such as a camera search button and a backend deep tagging system not only simplify product discovery, but also ensure that the shopping experience is seamless.
Young, digital-savvy shoppers value convenience and relevance, and they are willing to pay more to get that kind of expectation. Revamping your website or app with visual search guarantees a lasting online experience that converts and encourages repeat and spontaneous purchases.
“Partnering can provide access to talent, upgrade technology, share investment and enable a retailer to move at a pace that is not possible alone. This is about more than selecting suppliers or technology partners – it reflects a mind-set that expands across the entire retail value chain.” – Google and OC&C Strategy Consultants
Farfetch, Marks & Spencer, Tommy Hilfiger, Argos, and Boohoo are just some of the 100+ retailers worldwide that have partnered with Syte in order to delight their customers with better product discovery and seamless shopping experience through visual search and social media. To learn more, contact us to see how Syte makes that possible.