How Technology is Moving Us Away from Shopping Locally to Shopping Socially

watching-the-street-without-glasses.jpgIs it #ShopLocal or #ShopSmall? When American Express launched Small Business Saturday five years ago, it focused around getting consumers outside and into their local neighborhoods. The technological landscape has since transformed, and the shopping expectation is now rooted in an omnichannel experience. Seamless experiences from front door to online storefront to social media. The retail atmosphere is no longer solely a physical store OR an online store, it’s imperative for retailers to become multichannel commerce to grow their business. The key is that it’s no longer just about shopping locally for consumers of small businesses - it’s about shopping socially.

The Evolution Of The Customer Shopping Experience

Being active on social media for small business owners is only the first step. It’s about the community created across all channels and all throughout that customer’s experience. To put this idea of community building into perspective, let’s examine what this looked like previously. At a physical location of a small business, retailers had the opportunity to get on a first name basis with their customers to truly connect with them and build lasting relationships. This sentiment remains the same for shopping online, just digitally, and to a larger, widespread customer base.

How do online retailers capture and replicate the in-person relationship that is so valued in local communities? First and foremost, translate that experience virtually. This means building a strong brand that really resonates with customers and gives them a clear picture of ‘who you are’.  Being visible is crucial for the growth of a business in the connected commerce age. Nielsen’s president of global retailer vertical, Patrick Dodd stated, "Time-starved consumers want to use technology to make shopping faster, easier and more efficient.” This means becoming a multichannel retailer and having active social channels is critical to a small business’ success. It will make community-driven buying easier than ever.

Cultivating A Community Around Your Multichannel Brand

In a recent data report, we revealed that retailers who sell on a shopping cart (Shopify, Bigommerce, etc.) and a marketplace (Amazon, Etsy, etc.) experience a 38% increase in revenue compared to those that only sell on a shopping cart.

While it's profitable to have a multichannel presence, ominchannel retailers should leverage solutions that tie all of their eCommerce platforms together and provide them with the data they need to make smart decisions fastTo grow an online community and business, gathering and analyzing data in a concise manner is key. Housing data in one place gives businesses the context and ability to make more informed decisions about inventory, operations, customer behavior, and more.

Additionally, it's imporant to develop a level of comfort with online relationship building in order to increase community-driven buying. How is this done? The short answer is the social experience retailers give online.

There are a few easy ways to get on a first-name basis with customers, even if they are 1,500 miles away:

  1. Talk to customers online as if they are in front of a counter in a physical store. Did they comment on an Instagram photo? Comment back with an engaging question or comment and keep the conversation going. Utilize a social media monitoring system such as Sprout Social or HootSuite to keep a pulse of what your audience is saying and what the demographics of each site are. Learn who the audience is and which content they are responding to.
  1. Make referral traffic a nouveau social sales channel through Buy Buttons, which are now available on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The social commerce experience should be easy and seamless, critical to increasing conversions. With the “Buy” button  now living directly on social sites, you can make that shopping experience smoother and customers don’t even need leave your social profiles.
  1. Encourage them to share their favorite products via social media. This is a great way to leverage the network of your most loyal customers. If they love your products, they’ll have friends and colleagues who will too. This will drive the best type of traffic: the already engaged, interested, and ready-to-buy referred audiences.

Social media tactics are just covering the basic surface area. It’s important to remember that at the heart of business is the passion behind it. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it,” Simon Sinek echoed in his TEDTalk. Small businesses can not rely on ‘just’ selling products, they need to build a brand around their unique 'why' and a community will grow and continually expand around it.

Getting customers to shop socially is in line with getting them to buy the 'why' of a business. If they believe in the business and they'll want to be a part of it, share it, and grow with it.

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