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Drive Sales by Socializing the Online Shopping Experience

Still think social media is just another time-suck? It’s time to change your mindset — and fast.

A recent Shopify survey found that nearly two-thirds of all social media visits to the company’s stores come from Facebook. Furthermore, consumers redirected to a retailer’s e-commerce site from Pinterest are 10 percent more likely to make a purchase. Instagram, meanwhile, last year generated higher average orders than Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter — and that was before it introduced click-through ads.

“Social media is becoming a must,” said Tal Segalov, CTO at predictive marketing firm Mintigo. And as the spending power of younger generations grows, brands and retailers have to adapt and be where their target audience is, he continued.

“Traditional marketing channels are becoming too congested,” Segalov said, pointing out that while e-mail campaigns are still effective to an extent, it’s difficult to cut through the noise and avoid being filtered into a spam folder. “But on social media sites, people are much more open to content because they have the ability to choose what they consume. That’s the real opportunity of social marketing — stepping away from congested areas and doing something more unique that allows you to target a new age of decision makers.”

In February, rumors began to circulate that Pinterest would introduce a “buy” button in as little as three to six months, a feature that would allow users purchase products in posts from e-tailers without leaving the site or app. Facebook and Twitter began piloting something similar last summer but executives say it won’t be widely introduced anytime in the near future.

But that’s not say that companies can’t monetize their social media followers in the meantime. While a recent Gallup survey found that 62 percent of Americans say social media advertising has no sway on their shopping habits, friends’ opinions and referrals are a powerful tool. Social commerce start-ups such as ShopSocially and Bluecarat are popping up to help business owners move beyond “likes” and begin making real money from their social media efforts by encouraging shoppers to share their purchases with friends and followers.

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Likewise, several brands and retailers — Urban Outfitters, Steve Madden, Reef and Coach, to name a few — are collecting user-generated images that are tagged with a specific hashtag on Instagram and displaying them on their sites, where they can then be associated with a product for sale, which in turn can boost loyalty and drive sales.

According to Forrester Research, when people are impressed by a product they’ve seen in an image on social media or a physical product that they’ve seen in someone else’s possession, they want to buy it.

“You don’t have to re-write the book to be successful in the social commerce realm,” Segalov said. “Captialize on what consumers are interested in and make sure it’s accessible to them.”