8 Social Media Selling Solutions & The New e-Commerce Frontier

Social media e-commerce is a marriage that was bound to happen. With social media attracting more and more of consumers’ time and attention, and mobile technology allowing people to instantly connect whenever and where ever they want, it’s a no-brainer that businesses would try to turn all of that activity into sales.

With social media e-commerce, you can turn your social media accounts into online stores and run a profitable e-commerce business. While it is still advisable to maintain an online store hosted on your own website, since social media and selling platforms tend to change their rules a lot, social media e-commerce nevertheless allows you to get your foot in the door with little to no initial investment.

If you are new to social media selling, then there are several solutions out there that can get you up and running in no time. Here is a list of some popular options to consider:

Shopial

Shopial allows you to instantly turn your online store into Facebook and Pinterest storefronts. You can also use the platform to create and activate Facebook ads in order to generate more targeted traffic and sales. The system works with all the major e-commerce platforms, such as eBay, Etsy, Amazon, Magento and Shopify.

Olapic

Throw those stock photos away! Olapic allows you to boost sales with user-generated images from social media. The platform aggregates images submitted by users on various social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Then, using a curation algorithm and human editors, Olapic identifies which images are best suited to for use in your marketing campaigns.

Soldsie

If you are looking to monetize your Instagram feed, then Soldsie may be for you. Its selling solution, have2have.it, lets users shop your posts via a unique URL (have2have.it/yourstore). You just need to add the link to your profile, and customers will have easy access to a e-commerce version of your Instagram feed.

Soldie also supports an interesting Facebook app that turns the comments section into an e-commerce machine. Once customers leave a comment under a photo, Soldsie automatically adds the item to their shopping cart for quick and easy checkout.

Beetailer

Beetailer is another great social media selling platform for Facebook. The system quickly catalogs and imports all of your products on Facebook. The best part about Beetailer is that it is a set it and forget it system. Once the initial migration is complete, it requires no configuration or maintenance, and products are automatically updated as your website’s inventory changes. Beetailer also supports a wide range of marketing tools like campaigns and promotions, offers detailed analytics, and integrates with existing checkout systems.

Chirpify

Chirpify is an “engagement loyalty program” that integrates online and offline channels with social media. It works by using unique campaign hashtags to enable purchases across multiple social networks. The goal is to convert relevant social media activity into rewards for users while generating valuable data and sales for you the business owner. All users have to do is post the hashtag on their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram feeds to activate a purchase or take advantage of a promotional offer.

Facebook for Business

If you want to sell your products or services on Facebook, you might as well go to the source. Facebook for Business is a robust platform that allows you to create Facebook business pages and purchase Facebook ads and then integrate your Facebook campaign into a business website or mobile app. The platform also provides extensive analytics and reporting that will give you key insights into your campaign performance.

Pinterest for Business

Pinterest for Business allows businesses create branded Pinterest accounts. There are two important features that are valuable to businesses when it comes to Pinterest. First, businesses can add the “Pin It” button to any images of their products found on the web. When Pinterest users click on the button, not only is the image is added to their boards so their followers can see it, these pins also include the seller’s shop name and pricing information. The second feature is Buyable Pins. This feature allows you to add a Buy button on every pin you place on Pinterest. All sales generated are free of charge.

Twitter Buy Now

Twitter currently offers “Buy Now” buttons that allow followers to make purchases from your Twitter feed in real time. This means customers don’t even have to go to your online store to buy your products.

With one or more off the platforms mentioned above, you can turn your business’ social media presence into some serious social sales.

5 Social Commerce Trends to Watch Out For in 2016

While social media may currently be driving only a small percentage of online retail sales, all indications suggest that these channels will continue to expand in the future. In fact, social-driven retail sales and referral traffic are rising at a faster pace than all other forms of eCommerce.

According to the Business Insider Internet Retailer’s Social Media 500 report, the top 500 retailers earned a total of $3.3 billion from social commerce in 2014. That represents a 26% increase from 2013. The overall growth rate for eCommerce in the US, however, only rose by about 16%. Moreover, between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015, social platforms increased the number of eCommerce referrals by almost 200%.  Analysts are predicting an even greater surge in social commerce in 2016.

As I mentioned in my previous post, a number of major social networks including, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, have all recently introduced “buy” or “shop now” buttons to their platforms. The goal behind this move has been to significantly simplify and streamline the purchasing process from these networks.

Aside from direct commerce, social networks are also being used to engage consumers in the beginning stages of the purchasing process. In this case, strategies are designed to bring highly targeted traffic from social media to retailers’ websites and mobile apps.

In this eCommerce landscape, here are five of the most significant social commerce trends to watch out for in 2016:

1. Increased spending in mobile advertising. Now that the biggest social networks have all jumped into the mobile commerce fray, and the media has been generating plenty of hype around it, we can expect more businesses to pump money and other resources into their social commerce efforts. Jumping in feet first is not necessarily a good thing, though. If you are running a small business with limited marketing dollars, then it definitely pays to research the most effective platforms and strategies before committing to any one promotion.

2. More integration between online and off-line, in-store experience. Perhaps one of the coolest things about social commerce, is that it allows retailers to merge the online and off-line shopping experience. Some examples of this in action include:

  • Offering product-specific, in-store discounts to customers while they are standing in the store and researching these products via their mobile phones.
  • Allowing customers to create a “favorite product” list of items they may want to purchase in the future
  • Offering customers recommendations for products that compliment what they are purchasing

3. Re-aligning the business around omni-channel experiences. This is not just about revamping marketing, but restructuring the business to have the flexibility to respond to changes in consumer behavior and preferences. This means a few things. First, you may have to re-organize your operational teams internally to maximize your business’ ability to recognize and respond to customer buying habits. Then, you should take advantage of the fact that people are often researching products on their mobile devices before they come into a store. This means your mobile and social presence are essentially the digital entrances to your physical store.

4. Greater reliance on local targeting. Social and mobile commerce often revolves around instant, real-time impressions and decisions. You want to make sure your business and its products are properly positioned at the time when your potential customers need them the most. So, locally-based mobile searches for the products you carry, for example, could trigger a targeted ad offering a promotion on those products.

5. Making intimate, data driven decisions. While big data has been a buzz word for some time now, the goal for business owners is to understand in a more “intimate” way what makes their customers tick. How do customers make decisions, where are they going for answers, and what are they feeling as they are doing it? As consumer attention is increasingly drawn to mobile devices and social media platforms, the vast amounts of audience data and information available can be used to give businesses a leg up on their competitors.

In short, social commerce, like mobile commerce, is set for explosive growth over the next few years, and businesses need to make sure that they are ready for it. Their customers already are.

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Is Your Business Tapping into Mobile Commerce?

With the end of the holiday season just around the corner, one emerging retail trend has been impossible to miss: the explosive growth of mobile-based commerce (or mCommerce) among consumers.

According to the Adobe Digital Index, online sales for Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday (November 26th-30th) totaled $11 billion this year. This represents a significant sales increase from 2014. Adobe’s statistics indicate that sales were 25% higher on Thanksgiving ($1.7 billion), 14.3% higher on Black Friday ($2.7 billion), and 12% higher on Cyber Monday ($2.98 billion) as compared to the previous year.

One of the big drivers of this growth in sales has been the increasing prevalence and reliance on mobile devices in the shopping process. According to the Adobe Digital Index, mobile purchases accounted for approximately one third of all holiday buying, with 37% of online sales coming from mobile on Thanksgiving, 33% on Black Friday, and 28% on Cyber Monday.

This trend doesn’t look like it will be slowing down any time soon. In fact, a recent study by eMarketer, predicts that 25% of all retail eCommerce sales in the U.S. will take place on mobile devices by the end of 2016.

Fueling the trend further, this holiday season also saw the rise of “social commerce.” Over the past few months, some of the major social networks including, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, have introduced “buy” or “shop now” buttons to their platforms. The goal behind this move has been to significantly simplify and streamline the purchasing process from these networks particularly for consumers on mobile devices.

It’s important to note that much of this increase in mCommerce is originating from smartphone users, and it is affecting even offline sales. According to research conducted at Google, over 80% of smartphone users say they consult their phones about the purchases they are considering while in a physical retail location. Moreover, the majority of purchases following a mobile search (73%) are actually taking place in a physical store.

So what does this all mean?

It’s not just about online sales anymore, and it’s not enough to just maintain a mobile friendly website. Consumers are increasingly looking for integrated, interactive buying experiences, and all indications point to the fact that the digital experience often precedes the physical one. So, just as you put in the time, money, and other resources into the physical experience of buying from your business- regardless of whether you offer products or services- you need to be investing in your digital experience as well. In this face-paced, noisy world, it’s the one area where your customers are directing their attention. You’ll have a better chance of being successful if you meet your customers there.

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Do Shoppable Hangouts Spell a New Era in Ecommerce?

A few weeks ago, four top fashion designers announced that they had agreed to host live shoppable video hangouts using Google+ Hangouts on Air. As those who attended the events relate their experiences, it’s very clear that ecommerce will look very different a few years down the road then what it does today.

Shoppable Hangouts on AirDuring each event, hangout participants from around the world were able watch their favorite designers talk about their products and hear about upcoming fashion trends. As the designers spoke, the featured items were available for shoppers to browse and purchase along the right side of the screen. There was even the option to add items to the Google Shopping Shortlist for those who weren’t yet ready to buy. The hangout also featured a Q&A session with the designers at the end.

Putting aside my personal opinions about what this is going to do to our off-line existence (why go to the store when you can have such a personalized experience from the comfort of your own home?) it’s very easy to see why consumers will be so attracted to this form of online shopping.

This goes way beyond the online shopping experience to be had on, say, Amazon.com where customers receive personalized product recommendations. As Belle Letz of IPG Mediabrands put it on Twitter, it’s the “Home Shopping Network for the digital age.”

I certainly won’t argue on that one.

The announcement of shoppable Hangouts instantly reminded me of another Google initiative that’s not officially open for business just yet: Google Helpouts. With Helpouts Google wants to connect experts via live video to those who are willing to pay for their advice or assistance. It’s a different service, but the idea behind it is the same: instant, personalized, “face-to-face” online commerce, and it promises to bring a “small business feel” to even the biggest of online retailers.

In short, Google’s Shoppable Hangouts will allow retailers, experts, and other influencers to communicate directly with customers and help to increase brand loyalty as a result. Whatever your personal feelings are about this new trend, if you are running a small business, it’s something definitely worth paying attention to.

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E-commerce: The New Royalty of Retail

ecommerce-150x150Online transactions are the preferred shopping method of today as this generation spends most of its time online. The prevalence of smart phones has only increased this phenomenon. In the past few years mobile payment services have become a norm increasing the already high volume of online sales. FastPivot Ecommerce states that online purchases from mobile devices increased from 2% to 8% within a two year period. According to statisticbrain.com, there is a steady, annual increase in online sales with time saving as the number one reason consumers choose to shop online. 83% of internet users have purchased one or more items online in 2012! So how can you cash in?

Having an online store you will guarantee that you reach a much wider and varied clientele. A recent survey by Lab42 Market Research revealed that:

  • 73% of online shoppers do at least half of their shopping online.
  • 66% prefer online shopping to store shopping.
  • 4 out of 5 online shoppers feel they have access to a broader selection of items online.
  • 45% of shoppers bought items online that they would not have bought in person.

If you have competitors (who doesn’t?), odds are that they already have an online presence. If you find them on Google your potential customers can find them as well. Make sure that your business turns up and stands out online. It’s relatively easy, inexpensive and quick to set up a basic fully functioning e-commerce site. The top e-commerce software packages come with all the features you need to set up an online store with a mobile version to boot and various options to help spread your online presence with social media. So if you are technically proficient, you can probably set up an e-commerce site on your own. If not, you will probably need a web developer to get your online store up and running.

What do you need?

A domain & Hosting Plan
The domain name should be as similar to your store as possible. Domains usually cost between $10 and $15 a year and can be purchased from several online registrars. Hosting plans generally cost between $4 and $6 a month. There are hundreds of hosting companies. Choose one with good customer service and you’re in good hands.

Shopping Cart Software
There are dozens of free shopping cart software packages. The packages that are most commonly used have the most features, better online assistance and helpful user forums. Magento, OS Commerce and Open Cart are just a few examples of widely used e-commerce platforms. E-commerce platforms also have a built-in option to hook up to various payment gateways. Most small businesses start off with PayPal as it is the simplest and safest payment method. Once your site reaches a high rate of sales you might want to consider other payment options such as direct credit card payments.

Images

Once your system is ready, you will need to insert images of all your products – with a digital camera or smartphone this should be a breeze.

 

Content is King
You want potential customers to find you by searching online for products that you can provide them with. Search engines like websites with compelling and relevant content so it is well worth your time to write good descriptions of your store and your products. The content you write must be authentic and not copied from a similar website. In order to stay on top of search engines, your website has to constantly be updated with new content. The best practice for writing about your store items is to use a short yet catchy headline in order to capture the attention of the reader. After that, use a professional yet conversational tone to further describe your product using as many key words as possible. There are professional content writers and bloggers who can be hired to perform this task. As we mentioned in the first section, online shoppers often end up buying products they hadn’t intended on. Good content and exciting images are the best way to draw shoppers to new and unexpected products.

Social media
Once you have customers, they can help promote you by liking a Facebook page dedicated to your store and by clicking on share, tweet and other share buttons that you can easily display on your site. Your Facebook page can contain coupons and information on new products that will encourage customers to visit and revisit your site.

In this day and age e-commerce sites are a must, especially for small businesses. As long as you put together a quality, customer friendly site you are guaranteeing an additional source of monthly income. If you already have a site, make sure to keep it up to date and interesting as well as offering the same kinds of promotions you would in your brick and mortar site.

Essential Small Business Web Tools for the Novice

In order to be successful these days, many small business owners are recognizing the importance of not only establishing a web presence, but actively using the Internet as a marketing tool and business platform. This can be a bit challenging, however, for those business owners who are not so tech-savvy and cannot afford to hire a professional IT consultant.

Fortunately, there are several web tools (many of which are free or low-cost) to help the Internet-marketing novice along the way:

Website and Webstore Builders

These website builder programs allow inexperienced users to easily create their own websites and online stores. By manipulating the simple user interface, the novice can almost instantly produce a professional-looking, versatile website with no programming or HTML knowledge.

  • Sitecube– Website builder and ecommerce solution offering over 9 thousand templates and several stunning features.

  • Bluevoda– free, fully- featured, and efficient website builder and hosting with instructional videos

  • Homestead- Provides a collection of easy-to-use website design tools and web hosting services to help get your online business up and running.

  • Sitesell.com– Provides an extensive collection of tools and services including website building software and instructional Internet marketing videos.

  • Netidnow– Comprehensive website builder and ecommerce shopping cart solution

Website Optimization and Analytics

  • Google Analytics– Google’s powerful, yet easy-to-use set of tools is the hands down winner of website optimization and analytics solutions, and the best part of it is that it’s free. Innovative and customized reporting used in conjunction with Google’s sister product, the Google Website Optimizer, provides a powerful one-two punch that easily competes with other enterprise-level packages. This analytics package is a must-have for any small business owner operating on the web.

 Internet Marketing

  • Google Adwords -This easy- to-use, affordable, and powerful Internet marketing program is well suited to the needs of small businesses. In particular, Adwords provides several helpful tools, such as keyword choice assistance and keyword replacement as well as comprehensive reporting features. Be sure to also check out the AdWords Learning Center for information on using AdWords for your business.

  • Aside from Adwords, you should also check out, BidVertiser. This site allows advertisers to choose which website they want their ads displayed on.