Debunking social commerce

Air tickets or boarding pass, passports, touchscreen smartphone with online airline tickets booking or reservation internet application, magnetic compass, credit cards and pen on world geographic map atlas

Social commerce has had several false starts in the past. So when United Airlines VP of eCommerce Scott Willson recently said that “social commerce, for the airline industry, is bunk,” we took notice.

We wanted to clarify that yes, adapting social commerce to some industries can have its regulatory challenges. But with a little imagination, social commerce can fly the friendly skies and be used even for highly regulated industries. I probably don’t need to remind Mr. Wilson that it was some forty years after Orville and Wilbur took their first flight that commercial aviation was a significant and economically viable form of transportation. I think social commerce having a meaningful impact on the airline industry will be an appreciably shorter span.

Securing online purchases

In regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, travel or financial services, the need of protecting personal identifiable information is one of the key challenges to social commerce. But the beauty of what we’re doing at Shoppost is that by providing a platform that is fully integrated with your back-end, you can sell directly through social media while ensuring that your customer’s data is secure.

Targeting your customers

We’ve talked a lot about using Facebook or Twitter’s built-in advertising and targeting systems. It is quite a straightforward process to use Shoppost to target potential shoppers. For example, if you’re an airline that wants to sell a SEA ✈️ LAS route, simply create a shoppost that is tied to that route on your inventory management system and make it function as a disposable URL. Once you have “sold out” of that fare, the link is no longer valid, which makes it so only a limited number of people can buy the route.

Additionally, because Shoppost is tied directly to your inventory management system, order fulfillment is streamlined and payment processing is tied directly to the purchaser’s identity. A customer can simply click purchase right from Twitter and is taken directly to your checkout page.

Accurately represent your products

With our ability to present full images in Twitter and functioning as an image in Facebook as well as a full detailed description on the embedded version, shopposts are able to provide in-depth information about the product or service being offered for sale. This eliminates the risk of misrepresentation as well as provides a platform for any disclosures that need to be made prior to a sale. Consider financial advisors, for example. They are able to utilize social media to solicit new clients through shopposts while also fulfilling the SEC disclosure requirements.

With the oversight on regulated industries and the emphasis on security, making sure that your ecommerce systems are not only easy to use, but also protecting your customer is crucial. We are certain that with the proper configuration, social commerce can quickly move beyond bunk and into material results. If you’re ready to put social commerce to work, try Shoppost now.

Give us a call, Scott. Let’s see if we can fill up some middle seats for you!

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Six Reasons Your Business Needs to Take Advantage of Social Commerce

Starting an online business takes a lot of work, and once you think you have everything down cold, a new way of doing business suddenly emerges, throwing a lot of your hard work out the window. Social commerce is one of those changes. Although it hasn’t come into its own completely yet, it is getting there and quickly. In this post, we are going to look at six reasons why your business should take a serious look at using social commerce as part of your overall strategy.

Social Networks are where the majority of your customers are spending their time

As of April 2015, more than 1.44 Billion people log into Facebook each month. This incredible  number demonstrates exactly where people are spending their time online. The sheer potential audience alone makes Facebook impossible to ignore. The magnitude of potential customers is just too compelling; every merchant needs to have a strategy for this vast marketplace.

Frequency of social media site use

Shoppost works seamlessly within the Facebook newsfeed giving your potential and current customers an easier way to discover, share, and purchase your products. According to Pew, Facebook’s large base of users continues to be very active. Fully 70% of the site’s users engage daily (and 45% do so several times a day). Sharing where your users are becomes crucial in reaching your audience. Continue reading

The Need for Social Commerce

Technology has turned shopping into an “in your pajamas” experience or something you can do on the bus on your morning commute. We spend more time shopping at virtual stores than we do in one we can walk into. I can buy my groceries, most of the things I wear and pretty much everything I read without leaving my desk.

Brands and merchants have now discovered that they need to become multi-channel in how they sell to consumers. And not just that, they have to be concerned with multi-screen continuity, as well. That is, the experience on your phone, tablet or laptop all need to have similar feel and functionality. You can’t rely on foot traffic alone for all of your revenue. You need to capture and engage with the consumer or prospect in as many venues as possible. Social media has allowed for the merchant to engage, not just with current customers, but future ones, as well.

Social media can be a major asset for e-tailers. But only if they can create rich content that allows them to reach their customers with engaging content.

Social media can be a major asset for e-tailers. But only if they can create rich content that allows them to reach their customers with engaging content.

Talking about people talking about items

Word of mouth is how we acquired our preferences – “this is what we had in the house growing up” or “that is what my friends bought.” That is pinnacle for a brand. The recommendation on a purchase from someone whose opinion you trust plays a very large part in our buying decisions. But those word of mouth endorsements can be easier thanks to Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and many other social media sites. In the past, you had to contact a friend for a suggestion. Now, you can simply check their Facebook page or quickly crowdsource out a question. Within seconds, you are inundated with suggestions.

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising. So what does this have to do with social commerce? It’s actually pretty straightforward: A brand or merchant can’t rely on organic conversations to be the only tool for marketing its products. They need to utilize tools to create proactive campaigns that help push the word out. And that is exactly what social commerce is all about.

Defining how to be social and sociable

So, what is social commerce? Marketing consultant Heidi Cohen says it “is the evolution and maturation of social media meets shopping.” I think she’s right on target. It is using social media to create word of mouth for your products.

According to Mashable, several distinct types of social commerce exist:

  1. Peer-to-peer sales platforms (Shopify, Etsy, Amazon Marketplace): Plugins that integrate ecommerce solutions with inventory management and payment processing.
  2. Social network-driven sales (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter): Sales driven by referrals from established social networks, or take place on the networks themselves (i.e., through a “shop” tab on Facebook).
  3. Group buying (Groupon, LivingSocial). Products and services offered at a reduced rate if enough buyers agree to make the purchase.
  4. Peer recommendations (Amazon, Yelp, JustBoughtIt): Sites that aggregate product or service reviews, recommend products based on others’ purchasing history (i.e. “Others who bought item x also bought item y,” as seen on Amazon), and/or reward individuals for sharing products and purchases with friends through social networks.
  5. User-curated shopping (The Fancy, Lyst, Svpply): Shopping-focused sites where users create and share lists of products and services for others to shop from.
  6. Participatory commerce (Threadless, Kickstarter, CutOnYourBias): Consumers become involved directly in the production process through voting, funding and collaboratively designing products.
  7. Social shopping (Motilo, Fashism, GoTryItOn). Sites that attempt to replicate shopping offline with friends by including chat and forum features for exchanging advice and opinions.

Encouraging participation

Being able to create immersive experiences that go beyond copy and pasting a link helps boost engagement and, ultimately, ROI.

The key to us is social network-driven sales. By including social media as a core emphasis of your marketing and product promotion strategy, you can see a greater ROI. You may think that you are already doing this because you include a link to your site on Facebook or occasionally tweet a product. In theory, this is a great introduction to social commerce. But there’s a lot you’re not seeing when you do that: inventory management, analytics of the clicks and even ROI calculators.

The issue with social network-driven sales is that if you go the route of a tab store you then have to create ways to drive users to that store which, really, defeats the purpose of having the tab store in the first place. You could just as easily send the consumer to your website. Now, you can add all of these tracking pixels and such to measure the engagement and conversions and then retarget the consumer at a later time, but is that really what social network-driven sales has come down to? Why can’t there be another way where you can reach the consumers where they are and engage with them there? Give them the means to make that purchase decision without redirecting them or having them have to go to a tab or see another site. Nothing kills a sale like additional friction in making a purchase. Every additional step is one more place to lose a customer. This, I believe, is where social network driven sales needs to go instead of where it is now — just about collecting likes and shares but not sales. Real ROI is where you see the post actually generate revenue without all of that redirecting and retargeting in hopes of getting a purchase made.

Social commerce is new and everyone is going to sample many of the tools I’ve listed above, as well they should. However, after trying all of them don’t forget your goal: driving sales.

Would love to hear your feedback and hear how you are using social commerce and the tools and practices that are working for you!

The 5 Must-Have Apps On Shopify For SMBs to Drive Sales

Set of Flat Design Icons. Mobile Phones, Tablet PC, Marketing Te

As a SMB owner you already know that it’s important to reach your customers where they are – online. Remember when buying things online was actually considered a novelty and “cool”? Now, everyone can buy anything from luxury items to toilet paper right in the comfort of their living rooms.

For retailers like you, this means that it’s more important than ever to make sure you’ve established a strong presence online to capture the attention of your potential customers and drive sales. You might think, “Sure, I know all of that, but how do I actually do it?” Well, believe it or not, establishing an online store is actually pretty easy with the help of online platforms like Shopify

Shopify is an easy-to-use e-commerce platform designed to help small businesses set up a webstore. What’s great about Shopify is there’s no programming involved It does it all for you which allows you to focus on what you like most in the first place – be that making homemade jam, customized jewelry or cool t-shirts. You can use Shopify to manage all aspects of your shop: uploading products, customizing the design, accepting credit cards, and viewing their incoming orders and completed transactions.

Another cool thing about Shopify is its expansive app store, which offers a wide variety of tools designed to enhance your online presence, reach more customers and grow your business. Here are the top 5 free apps to help you drive sales online:

1. Product Reviews
Did you know that 90 percent of customers say that positive online reviews influenced their buying decisions? Retail giant Amazon.com definitely got this right! If your customers like your products, they’re happy to tell others about it – therefore, it’s important that you capture all those good things! Produced by Shopify, this app allows you to easily add product reviews to your store, giving you a great way to engage with your customers to gauge their feedback, and in turn, encourage sales from new customers once they see how other people are with your products.

2. Plug-in SEO
A good SEO strategy helps your business be less of a needle in a haystack. Since a good portion of online product discovery comes from Google searches, you need to make sure your online store is optimized. This plug-in checks your store’s homepage SEO automatically on a regular basis, so you wouldn’t have to spend time doing manual checks and focus instead on actually improving your site.

3. Shoppost
We spend 114 billion minutes a month on Facebook in the U.S. alone, which isn’t too surprising given how fun it is to keep up with friends and interesting things on social media. Everyone from your best friend to your mom is using social media– and that includes your customers. Since they’re there already, shouldn’t your products be there, too? Shoppost allows retailers to easily sell their products in Facebook’s newsfeed via an interactive post. It turns your Facebook followers’ newsfeeds into a virtual “window shopping” experience, not to mention it’s free, easy-to-use and makes the selling process as easy as post, shop and done. Go ahead and give it a try!

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4. Chimpified by MailChimp
Email marketing is a common (and not to be overlooked) way to engage with your customers on a regular basis. As consumers, we’re used to receiving email offers, coupons and promotions from big retailers like Nordstrom and Macys Chimpified makes it easy for SMB to level the playing field with larger retailers via email. With this app, you can create targeted email campaigns based on buying behaviors to promote your store, notify them of special offers and promotions, or send recommendations to customers based on their purchases.

5. RetailTower
Now that your Shopify store is up and running, how do you get more people to check it out? RetailTower provides integration between your store and shopping comparison engines; it automates feed submission the popular shopping engines such as Google, Amazon, Bing, TheFind and more. In other words, people can find your products even if they are not searching for your site. Reaching more prospective shoppers is now a piece of cake.

Do you have other favorite apps on Shopify? Let us know!

Welcome to Shoppost!

screenshot-2-shoppost-previewWith the release of any new product, it is traditional for a company’s founder to share his or her thoughts on what they intend to achieve, or how they see their product impacting the world.

Now, I’m reluctant to call this sharing my vision, as that’s a slippery slope to referring to yourself as a ‘visionary.’ And that’d lead to hearing things at home like, “honey, visionaries don’t roll the trash down the curb,” which is a road I do not wish to travel. So, rather than sharing my vision, let me just tell you what Shoppost is and what I hope it will do for you.

Shoppost is a social commerce application that lets merchants sell goods from their Shopify or Big Commerce stores on social media networks. With just a few clicks, you can showcase and sell your products directly on your followers’ Facebook and Twitter feeds, as well as on Google+ and Pinterest, letting your customers shop and interact with your product without ever having to leave the site.

We know that people spend an enormous amount of time on social media every day, and this trend will only continue. We’ve seen that consumers follow merchants and product lines they like and, in turn, want to share their experience with their peers. But until now, there wasn’t a simple, effective way to do this within a social media platform, or offer a seamless experience that moves the customer from one platform to the others without frustrating consequences.

Until Shoppost, the solution has been a series of redirects, cumbersome processes and time wasted, resulting in lot of abandoned shopping carts. But now that Shoppost is available, these are problems of the past. Building your Shoppost takes just a minute for you to set up, and purchasing and sharing couldn’t be easier for your customers.

Shoppost lets your customers preview your product with an image or video of the product that’s located directly on the social media platform – they can even interact with the product by selecting a size, color or any other variant. And all of this happens without a redirect. Your customers on Facebook don’t have to leave the site until they land on your secure checkout page.

There’s nothing else out there that’s even close to this functionality. It takes just a minute to promote a product, and even less time for your customers to buy. And additional integrations and enhancements to Shoppost are rolling out all the time. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Shoppost costs nothing and can only increase your sales and brand awareness. So give it a try – then be sure to drop me a line to let me know how we’re doing for you.

Happy Shopposting!

David Robb
CEO

5 Ways Small Businesses Can Boost Their Online Sales

Woman Working At Flower Shop Smiling

Sure, ecommerce platforms work fine for the large retailers who already have a built-in customer base and following. But what about the small business or new startup? How can you establish an online foothold in an increasingly more complex and difficult sales environment?

We’ve got you covered. Here are our five tips to jumpstart your online sales.

Set Up a Website

If you haven’t done that yet, stop reading and get one set up!
Okay, that wasn’t much of a first tip. Let’s call that one a freebie.

Get Mobile

Mobile is the wave of the future, and it’s either time to ride that wave or get out of the way. According to StatCounter.com, mobile web usage is at approximately 30 percent, up from just 3 percent in 2010. If your online presence only caters to desktop users, you’re missing a huge—and growing—part of your audience.
Always optimize your site for mobile users, and consider launching your own app. Engage this growing section of your customer base.

Be Social

Recently, we talked about how you could use Facebook to drive sales. This just underscores the need for your business to have a social media presence. It doesn’t have to be every single social media network, but you should know which networks your target audience is using and make sure you’re active and engaged there.

Focus on the Customer

Companies like Zappos have become legendary for their devotion to customer service. And in a world where everyone has a story about being routed to a call center halfway around the world, only to wait on hold for what seems like hours, this Business 101 staple should not be overlooked.
No matter your platform, you should have clear means for the customer to contact you with any issues, and a plan in place to satisfy customer returns, complains and questions as quickly and effectively as possible. Buying from an online store is one thing – knowing what to do when that item is returned is another. A lot of companies spend all their time on the buying part of the equation, and not the post-sale customer service aspect. Don’t be like a lot of companies.

Identify Trends, then Jump on Them

You should always have an ear to the ground for “the next big thing.” The Internet is a fast-changing place, and new ideas, memes and methods are popping up every day. The now overly-clichéd Wayne Gretzky quote is nonetheless apt here: “Go to where the puck is going, not where it’s been.”
What are some of the trends that might affect your small business? Digital couponing, for one – this sales tactic jumped 141 percent in 2013 to 66 million digital coupons redeemed. Retailers with a strong digital coupon strategy are the ones reaping the rewards. Another is video, which is projected to generate more than two thirds of all Internet traffic by 2018. While not all businesses need to utilize video, those that do are opening themselves up to a much larger potential audience.

Use Shoppost

Come on, you didn’t think we wouldn’t put this in, did you?

What are your online selling strategies? Has your small business had success selling online? We invite you to share your stories with us in the comments below.

3 Ways Your Business Can Use Facebook to Drive Sales

Thumbs up or like symbol in coffee frothAh, Facebook. It’s long been the place you could go to connect with estranged high-school classmates, if you needed a cat video fix, or if you were just dying to find out that the Star Wars personality quiz Aunt Matilda just took says her closest match is Jabba the Hutt.

Of course, you already knew that.

But the one thing Facebook wasn’t was a place you go to buy or sell things. Sure, you might find a coupon code here or there for 15 percent off, or even a sponsored link, but a sales platform it was not.

“Was” being the key word.

Today, Facebook has significant potential as a place to sell your products, which is one of the reasons why we created Shoppost. We believe that the surefire way to turn people off from your products is to make the sales experience clumsy and unintuitive, so we focused on making Shoppost a seamless experience that fits right in with the existing Facebook news feed. The less disruption from the traditional Facebook experience for the customer, the better. And we believe that Shoppost can help you provide that experience to your customers.
What are some other ways your business can use Facebook to drive sales?

Actually Use Posts and Photos to Your Benefit

Sure, you have photos and posts. Chances are that you have a great designer who put together your awesome Facebook profile picture and cover photo. But are you really using your photos and posts to your full advantage? Cover photos can and should be changed regularly to promote particular products, with a direct link to the product page in the caption of the image – not to your general website, but to the product itself.

Jon Loomis has some suggestions on how to improve the reach of your posts, as well. He recommends creating your post as a link share while using an appropriately-sized image to display prominently in news feeds – thus getting the benefits of an image-focused post while still maintaining a link to your product. He also suggests limiting the text to 90 characters, so that your call to action shows up on mobile devices.

Fully Optimize Your Approach

We are in the age of big data, and if there’s one thing that Facebook generates, it is a mountain of data. In scouring over this information, we can glean some ideas on how to approach a Facebook strategy. For one, Adobe’s Social Intelligence Report recently found that engagement on video posts is up by 785 percent from last year. It used to be that video based posts didn’t see much traffic – that seems to be changing.

But when to post? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best day of the week for Facebook engagement is Friday between 2 and 3 p.m., when a sizable segment of the workforce has begun to mentally check out for the weekend. Tuesday would appear to be the worst day to attempt to engage with your audience. But in order to get your product onto somebody’s newsfeed, you need to…

Utilize Paid Promotion

Like it or not, recent changes to Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm mean that brands basically have to utilize paid in order to reach customers. (You can count Eat24 as one of the “nots.”) But there are advantages to this. You can reach a more engaged audience by not only tailoring your content, but also defining the reach of the promoted post to an audience that you define. And after you’ve seen results, you can further optimize the paid reach through tweaking and testing, in order to get maximum value for your dollar.
Need more proof? Adobe found that the click-through rate on Facebook ads in the U.S. has increased by 160 percent over the past year alone, even as the costs per click have declined slightly. Those are two trend lines going in positive directions for your business’ bottom line.

Have any Facebook selling tips? Share them with us in the comments below!