By Richie Hecker, Chairman of inSparq
It has been widely believed that the in-store social experience of shopping with friends and asking for recommendations has been replaced with endless online page views, countless inventory and indecisive shoppers. Monetate estimates a whopping 75 percent of online shopping-cart purchases are left abandoned, due in part by the lack of encouragement and validation a shopper feels about the purchase from friends. Many online retailers lack the excitement of the in-store experience and struggle to connect customers to friends with whom they trust for feedback.
The key to building a great online shopping experience is to bring back the sense of discovery customers feel when shopping with friends at a mall and finding great products or bargains. The excitement of sharing these finds is what make shopping in the real world so much fun, and we’ve laid out five easy ways to replicate it online.
1) Bring Discovery Back to Shopping
Adding social functionality on your site also creates data you can use to uncover your most trending products. We’re a big fan of Fab.com’s live feed that allows shoppers not only to see what the hottest products are but also to filter to see what their Facebook friends are buying, sharing or “fav”-ing. Using a user interface similar to Pinterest’s visual layout, customers can browse and discover new products like never before. The results are impressive: 15 percent of all users who visit Fab.com’s live feed each day end up buying on the site. By bringing a similar functionality to your online store, you can drive the same impulse purchases your customers tend to make when shopping in-store.
2) Let Your Customers Ask for Advice
Shoppers love to discover products they think would be useful or provoke reactions with friends. They also need an outlet to ask for a second opinion on a purchase they’re not so confident about. Beauty brand Sephora has revamped the company’s digital strategy to merge online and off-line worlds together. “Have you ever tried to decide which moisturizer to use while standing in front of a wall of options?” Julie Bornstein, VP of digital asked. “Our customers love to use their devices to talk [about products] and hear what others have to say.” Sephora is revolutionizing ways to make it easier for customers to read reviews online and ask friends for recommendations. They’ve overhauled their website earlier this year with specific search functionality and a commitment to install iPad’s in 100 of its physical stores by the end of this year, making information easily accessible and allowing their customers to reach out to people they trust for opinions.
Integrating social sharing buttons on product pages allows customers to receive the feedback they need in order to complete the purchase. They key is to make sharing as quick and easy as it is when calling to a friend across a store and asking their opinion. Placing these social features on the product page will not only help the customer who needs feedback, but will also drive additional traffic when their friend visits the link provided.
3) Don’t Let Them Forget
One definite disadvantage of selling online is how easy it is for customers to ditch their shopping cart and never come back. Shoppers are less likely to ditch their carts in an outlet store after they’ve invested so much time in the trip. Seven out of 10 customers who add products to their carts fail to complete the transaction. Remind your customers of these products in shopping-cart abyss by using retargeting with display ads to help your customers finish the purchase cycle.
According to SeeWhy research, which has analyzed data from more than 60,000 abandoned carts, 54 percent of all carts that are successfully recovered are won back within the first few hours after abandonment. An additional 10 percent can be recovered within 48 hours, and at the end of seven days 82 percent can be recovered.
4) Reach Your Customers Where They Are
Social users are tethered to their mobile devices, constantly updating, tweeting, pinning, and “Instagramming” through social networks when they’re on the go.
Make sure your ecommerce site is optimized both for mobile and tablet devices in case your fans have 15 minutes to kill waiting for a train or a meeting to start. Shoppers prefer browsing through images on their devices, so make sure your mobile experience is visual and easy to navigate.
5) Use Data to Drive Discovery
Behavioral targeting is the hottest and most effective advertising avenue for retailers to re-engage their customers long after they’ve left their site. Using data based on past browsing and purchase history, advertisements for similar items can follow your customers throughout the Web.
Gather as much data as possible by integrating social media outlets on your site. The more your customers interact, the more you can start developing a complete profile of their likes, friends and interests that will help you serve relevant ads. Marketing your retail site is no longer a spray-and-pray method — using your advertising dollars wisely to target the right people will boost discovery and sales.
Richie Hecker is chairman of inSparq, a social discovery solution for online brands and retailers. Follow the company @inSparq
Richie Hecker is a NYC-based entrepreneur. Most recently he led the acquisition of Bebo, once the No. 3 social network, from AOL and turned it profitable within six months. Prior to Bebo, Richie founded and operated a number of profitable online advertising companies and an outsourcing company in India. In his spare time, he is a thought leader and investor. Richie launched a half-dozen conferences, including NYC Entrepreneur Week. He holds a B.S. in finance from Binghamton University.