The Social Era is now fully upon us. Online shoppers are now seeking…no, they are now demanding more informative, engaging and personalized experiences online. Here are some rules that online retailers should live by in order to create value for their customers and ultimately for their business.

  1. Create connections. Find ways or implement on-site tools that connect visitors/shoppers to their friends and family. Ideas include making it easy for visitors to notify friends of valuable promotions or somehow allowing visitors to involve their friends in their purchase decisions online. When you create better connections between people, they in turn feel more connected to you. This in turn results in greater likelihood for visitors to buy as well as loyalty to your brand.
  2. Engage(ment). In terms of engagement, the first wave of best practices that came in the Social Era involved being proactive on their Facebook and Twitter pages in asking followers or fans about their thoughts, opinions and involving them in decisions (big and small). The rapid emergence of on-site social has added some new facets to the phrase “social engagement.” Online retailers need to keep visitors on their site as long as possible. By doing this, they greatly increase the chance that visitors will buy. The best way to do this is by implementing things like rating/reviews systems, social wish-lists, product tagging to improve site searchability, a gamification layer involving badges & perks, etc. These things give visitors a greater incentive to stay longer because feel like they are more involved with a retailer’s brand/business and creates unique shopping experiences.
  3. Add surprise & discovery to the shopping experience. There are millions of products and services being sold and marketed to us on the internet. With all this noise come difficulty, confusion and frustration in finding the best products for your needs. Online retailers can create great value by helping people navigate through all the noise that people are constantly bombarded with online. This can come in the form of socially powered recommendations showing people what their friends have bought or “liked.” This can also mean finding ways to connect them with people who have similar interests or goals.  However, this can go beyond just connecting people to their friends and family. Imagine shopping on a website that knows you are a 35 year old, female with two kids who lives in Los Angeles who loves to bake is able to suggest products (that you never knew about) that fit perfectly for your needs in that context. I believe that this level of personalization is the future of online retail…a topic that deserves its own blog post (soon).

Online retailers should use these ideas to focus on creating value for their visitors…those who don’t will see themselves slowly but surely falling behind those that does in the Social Era. The tools and platforms that are available to online retailers today can easily make these a reality. With that said, this is by no means a comprehensive or exhaustive list. Leave your thoughts about any other ways retailers can create value for their visitors in the Social Era in the comments box below.

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