6 tips to engage the holiday shopper

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In an iMedia article I wrote earlier this year, I correctly asserted that 2011 would be the year in which social commerce arrives. Currently, there is more innovation within this field than ever before, as brands and agencies are able to close the loop between social and commerce.

According to comScore, e-commerce sales in the third quarter of 2011 reached $36.3 billion, which is a 13 percent increase over last year. This means that e-commerce sales have been growing consecutively for the past eight quarters, year-over-year.

E-commerce has grown successively because online sales and special offers are the new Santa, saving Christmas by enticing shoppers. That might sound silly, but think about it: The economy, while showing signs of improvement, is not where it should be in terms of growth and job creation. As a result, consumers are tightening their belts and being more careful with how much they spend. However, online deals help smart shoppers research products and find savings undiscovered elsewhere. In fact, eMarketer estimates that U.S. retail e-commerce sales during November and December will rise 16.8 percent to $46.7 billion. If Cyber Monday is any indication of what's to come in December, 2011 has already broken records. As reported by Forbes, this year's Cyber Monday reached $1.25 billion in online spending in the U.S., easily becoming the heaviest online spending day in history.

Consequently, it's important for brands to provide engaging content that encourages social sharing, thus driving sales. According to Nielsen, 90 percent of online shoppers trust recommendations from people they know, while 87 percent spend more online because of recommendations. Clearly, when brands offer special deals that people are likely to share, everyone wins.

Now that we've covered some compelling statistics, here are six tips to help your brand get ahead for the holiday season.

Keep it simple
Research from Buddy Media reveals that, on average, posts between one and 80 characters had a 27 percent higher engagement rate than posts with more than 80 characters. Yet, these shorter posts account for only 19 percent of all posts. Understanding why people engage with your content provides clues as to what will and won't work to drive social commerce.

Offer special deals
This may seem like a no brainer, but it's crucial and sometimes overlooked by brands. It's important to launch sales and deals via social channels that are specifically related to certain aspects of the holiday season. For example, post about early-bird specials, Black Friday deals, or daily gift ideas attached to fun news of the day. Encourage fans to create "wish lists" that can be shared on the social web. Content is king, but context is queen, and you need to stay relevant to your fans.

Use "soft sell" keywords
Make sure you're including "soft sell" keywords in every holiday update. Our research shows, when running a contest or promotional offer on Facebook, "soft sell" keywords like "event" and "win" resonate well with users as opposed to more direct or aggressive terms like "contest," "promotion," "sweepstakes," and "coupon." Who doesn't like celebrating a winner or a special event?

 

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