Platforms Roll Out New Features to Connect Shoppers and Merchants
The second quarter of 2015 has just begun and already we are beginning to see those New Year’s marketing predictions evolving into actual retail and retail real estate trends. We could start with all that’s happening with mobile but that platform has moved out of trend status into business as usual. If you’ve got any doubts, just consider the growth in mobile-only Facebook users last year: a whopping 34 percent. Trend watchers observe that mobile is no longer a secondary channel but a primary conduit to the marketplace. And on mobile, social media plays a major role. Let’s take a look at five of the new moves happening in that fast-changing medium. How many of these have you spotted?
Paid Amplification: The Growing Cost of Social Media Marketing
Facebook and Twitter, the big players in social media marketing, are feverishly monetizing their platforms with promoted/sponsored posts and tweets. Given the new algorithms in place on Facebook, marketers can no longer rely on organic engagement to get their messages out. “Free” posts are simply lost in the torrent of updates on most feeds – particularly those of active social media users. Facebook and Twitter are costing more, but media dollars invested in sponsored posts are paying off in sharper demographic targeting and deeper user engagement.
Instagram: Where Images Rule
There seems to be no stopping this image-based network which now boasts 200 million monthly users. No longer a place to just share pictures, Instagram has captured the attention of marketers promoting brands with strong visual appeal. A recent Social Media Marketing Industry Report (http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/SocialMediaMarketingIndustryReport2014.pdf) says that 42 percent of marketers surveyed plan to increase their Instagram use this year (up 6 percent). With video and targeting options now available, Instagram looks more appealing than ever. Some of the big names embracing this retail trend include Victoria’s Secret, Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, Tiffany & Co, Anthropologie, Nordstrom, Gap and Target.
Blogs and Vlogs: Engaging the Audience, Building the Brand
Retailers’ blogs are proliferating and growing ever more sophisticated in terms of design and content. Among the leaders of the pack are “The Blender” (William Sonoma), “The Apron” (Home Depot), “Aerie” (American Eagle) and “The Thread” (Nordstrom). These e-zines showcase merchandise but also offer DIY advice and opportunities for users to add their own content through themed events and contests. Video is making inroads here, but to see an outlier in retail “vlogging” check out Wine Library TV on YouTube. Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of the online wine retailer, does a weekly review in typical YouTube style – authentic, offbeat and far from slick – but very popular. Trend watchers say more retailers large and small will be “vlogging” in the future as video continues to dominate contemporary communications.
Social Shopping: Buy Buttons Promise Increased Sales
Tested successfully by Twitter last year and soon put into trial by Facebook, buy buttons on posts and tweets will enable users to order items seamlessly (see it, buy it). It’s the impulse buy taken to new heights. The sharing aspect of social media promises to amplify the message and lend the all-important endorsement of a friend or follower. Other platforms are following the leaders in this retail trend with Tumblr recently announcing a test. Pinterest, seemingly a natural for buy buttons, also plans an exploration. This is one retail trend that’s poised for takeoff.
Interest-Based Social Sites: Sharing Things That Matter
Emerging social platforms like Foodie and Fitocracy are building their online communities around shared interests. Like the special interest magazine of the print world, these up and comers stress focus. While they will initially provide a place for people to share their enthusiasms, experiences and inside tips, it probably won’t be long before promotional opportunities open up in sponsored posts.
With three quarters left in 2015, expect to see these retail trends take the role of social media marketing to a new level.