Even if your small business isn’t selling retail products online, the fast-moving revolution in social shopping on the Web has applications for any company.
Pinterest may be the first widely accepted social network to have figured out the money problem inherent within social media. Whereas people go on Facebook to hear and see what their friends are up to or Twitter to relate to their favorite celebrities and speak their mind, people actually go on Pinterest expecting to shop.
Of course, Pinterest is much more; it’s also full of crafty DIY ideas and artistic photographs. Still, because the advertising is subtler (to the point of being nearly wordless), it avoids the problems inherent with marketing on Facebook. When it comes to sharing words, someone whose primary motivation is to get us to open up our wallets will not last long before we stop following their posts. But a photograph? We don’t seem to mind.
On the heels of Pinterest’s success, other outlets are realizing the potential for combining social with visual shopping. Online retail’s biggest challenge has been to replicate the pleasure and experience that people get when shopping with friends. It’s the positive (or negative) reinforcement we receive that often leads to purchasing decisions (and I’m not just talking about the classic ‘women in the shoe store’ scenario here—guys in a sporting goods or electronics store can be influenced just as easily).
By combining the conversational, sharing aspect of social media with the thrill of discovering new products and receiving feedback from actual friends before making purchases, online retail is poised to drive what could be a fatal blow into the heart of some brick-and-mortar stores.
Although the key players are changing by the month, these sites are currently at the forefront of that movement:
Similar to Pinterest in its sleek, grid layout, The Fancy differentiates itself from its big sister by sticking exclusively with items for sale. You won’t find a bookmarked article from the New York Times here, but you will find a stylish pair of rabbit fur slippers. When users click-through and make a purchase, the site receives a kickback for the “recommendation.” Merchants (like your small business) bid to sell a product that corresponds with the user-posted images, and each item is ranked with a real-time popularity score by viewers.
With its innovative method of spawning sales, if The Fancy continues to grow like it has so far this year, it might be taking on more than Pinterest. Amazon, watch out.
Essentially a hybrid spinoff of The Fancy, Lockerz attracts rabid followers through its use of reward points. Similar to Facebook loyalty programs like PunchTab, Lockerz awards points (PTZ) to users for promoting the site and the products it contains. Even logging in earns users 2 PTZ, while connecting your account to Facebook can net a cool 250 PTZ. After users accumulate a stash, points can be redeemed for coupons and discounts on items tagged and offered via the site. By offering rewards, Lockerz generates return users, as well as giving merchants the added perk of free promotion by point-hungry users across social media platforms. If you like the idea of loyalty programs (remember the ‘Buy 8, get 1 free’ sandwich cards?), Lockerz may be worth looking into as an outlet for your online sales.
Yet another site utilizing a user-generated grid of bookmarked items, Svpply has already garnered over 75,000 participating retailers who post their products to the site. Like status updates on Facebook, posts that receive more clicks remain stickier and are more visible on the site. Merchants can create pages (for free) within the site to highlight their products in one place, where the popularity of each individual item across the site is visible via the number of ‘Wants’ users have tagged it with, essentially creating their own wish list from the site’s wide, curated collection.
If your business sells anything, you may have already heard of Shopify. By streamlining the process through which individual online retail stores are created, Shopify eases the burden of setting up a retail website. Best of all, it streamlines the addition of new products to your online store, something most small businesses do only rarely unless they manage their website in-house.
For brick-and-mortar retail, Shopify may be the link to the online world that allows many business owners to manage their own growth to the Web and continue to thrive in a changing retail world. With a host of new applications constantly in production that better the experience, including product review bars and real time data about which products receive the most views and comments, Shopify is growing at the necessary pace to remain relevant.
While social media and online shopping continue to grow more integrated, the old guard platforms like Facebook may find themselves being supplanted by competitors that are able to subtly focus more specifically on sales.
Get Busy Media is a blog and resource center that helps small businesses and entrepreneurs build smarter companies. For more information on how to jump-start your small business marketing, please visit www.getbusymedia.com or connect with us on Twitter, @GetBusyMedia.
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