Social discovery platforms have made marketing more trusted, cost-effective and widespread for the ecommerce industry, as user-generated content (UGC) has proven to be more successful in building brand loyalty that direct marketing done by retailers. In fact, marketing is done every minute, by everyone. Without your necessary awareness, that photo you Instagrammed and hashtagged is a marketing technique. Bloggers, consumers, photographers and product reviewers all contribute to the revenue of the brand they are exposing to the millions on the internet, or, a few followers if you're new to all this.
In light of EXPO's (online video review site) findings, sourced by eMarketer, February 2010, showing that consumer reviews are about 12 times more trusted than the manufacturer's descriptions - which is pretty surprising, given that the makers know the product inside out - retailers are competing for their products to get discovered through their consumers rather than through direct marketing. Why? You ask. It is the security of knowing that the product or service you're interested in has passed the tried and tested check, by someone you trust.
Paul Chaney, an Internet marketing consultant who specialises in social media for marketing recommends inSparq for small to medium retailers. inSparq offers three effective key ingredients for maximum exposure, besides engaging your customers - a Social Sharing Widget, Tell-A-Friend and Live Pinboard. The three products are designed to be integrated into your website as eye-catching, easy sharing tools. The Widget allows customers to share the content on their Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest account, as well (for the classy ones) via a text message and email. inSparq recommends merchants reward their customers for their laborious sharing efforts, as nobody wants to be seen as timeline troll, yet, it is a risk one is more likely to take in exchange for an incentive. The equivalent of 'Share and Win an X amount of free Doritos' trend on Facebook exists because deep under the doubt, is belief. Secondly, Tell-A-Friend is like manual word-of-mouth, but makes sure of it. If you like it and you're a good friend with a good friend, recommend a subscription to the mailing list. The final product re-invents your ecommerce site into a Pinterest look-a-like, with a look-book of trending products.
Shopalize is a similar service, offering a social sharing link that is compatible with most shopping carts and appears when the customer has made a purchase. Following Chaney's advice, the customer gets rewarded for letting the world of Facebook or Twitter know they have successfully placed an order. Shopalize is currently being used by the ecommerce brands Magento, Shopify and Bigcommerce, among others.
Referrals on social networks create the potential to make your brand awareness journey from one part of the world to another through increased traffic to your website. The more people share, the likelier you are to generate repeat customers. Therefore, customer engagement is important for maintaining an image that values consumers as individuals. More significantly, if your brand inspires a voluntary individual action, such as a review or a photo, you're in luck. In January 2009, eMarketer predicted that 'the number of user-generated content creators will reach 114.5 million in 2013, up from 82.5 million in 2008,' meaning that C2C marketing has peaked higher now than ever before. This is a great opportunity for start-ups to establish themselves as a trusted brand and develop communities of loyal brand fans. For example, Lish.com combines the taste of the masses, by letting you browse and buy products that are trending on Twitter and Facebook, namely through its exclusive ecommerce platform, Payvment. While the niche Curisma's slick, clear-cut website specialises in enabling the discovery of customer's shared passion for design and technology products.
Here's what one particular group will be most excited out - social fashion startups can seriously benefit from recommendation from fashion bloggers. Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarria is the co-founder of CHICISIMO and supports the work of fashion bloggers, as they are influencing our style consciousness and choices through their dedication in posting high quality images of stylish, well put together outfits worn in real life. Catering for women, CHICISIMO connects fashionable women around the world by creating an alternative platform that is a source of international inspiration, original looks and new connections - all by photo sharing - using gamification techniques and categorisation.
Gabriel Aldamiz-echevarria sees this as something that empowers users to find their natural recommenders for personal rewards. These can be followers and friends, but more significantly, business opportunities. As well as brands, young designers have the chance to be discovered, as their talent shines through showcases of unique styles and original harmonies. Muuse.com, based in Copenhagen, internationally scouts emerging fashion designers and produces exclusive collections in limited editions, with free shipping to the UK. Passionate individuals have the opportunity to express their style and bring back the essence of fashion most of us aspire for, as individuality is easily lost amongst the mass production of this commodity.
By now, the common denominator of indirect, social marketing is obvious - discovery is made by chance, not through a search. This is the blissful gift of our shopping experience. Ecommerce is an adventurous, boundless playground where demand meets something unexpected; the natural thing to do is ask a friend - with customer reviews and shared purchases, you can justify any amount of cuff-links and shoes. As the digital age grows into the intricate aspects of the fashion industry and other businesses, it appears that consumers are at an advantage to spread their wings of choice, judgement and action.