Are Brands Prepared for Social Shopping?
Utility frequently drives initial adoption and ultimate usage of new digital and social tools. Take Facebook for example, my mom started to use Facebook so she could easily see pictures of my daughter. I don’t upload the photos, but also because of utility, I post them automatically as I use the location based service Whrrl. She now uses many Facebook tools regularly that she’s discovered on her own.
Several client projects we’ve been working on at Collective Bias recently have been experimenting with social shopping tools such as Shop Savvy and StickyBits. These tools are not widely adopted at this point but they are a preview of things to come so understanding their utility is a good first step.
I’m currently a participant in a shopping program exploring the electric razor category for our Philips Norelco client. I was tasked with shopping for a new razor and using these new tools to aid in the process.
I started my trip by doing some initial research online. A Google “electric Razor” search produces a little over 1MM results along with over 10 sponsored links. Not surprising since a majority of online shopping trips begin with search. Google has also added several shopper focused tools recently including images of leading products and product ratings and reviews.
As Kelley Mooney demonstrates in her book Open Brand, the shopper’s path has radically changed, the traditional shopping funnel no longer exists. At this point in my purchase process, I haven’t even been into a store, yet I already have begun to form opinions about the category due to digital content (some paid and some free) and by participating in community conversations.
I went to Walmart store #5260 (NYSE: WMT) in Rogers, AR to learn more about the category and purchase a razor. I began to document my trip on Whrrl to share the information with others that might be interested in the category. At the shelf, I was able to easily compare pricing of the products I found to other retailers using the ShopSavvy app simply by scanning the UPC.
Walmart’s price of $142.47 was the lowest available locally. Amazon’s price was $2.50 lower, but the immediate gratification, Walmart’s return policy and possible shipping costs all factored into my total purchase value equation. I also was able to get relevant product ratings from other customers who have used the product. This is great decision support as I’m physically standing at the shelf.
I ended up purchasing the Philips Norelco 8260CC primarily due to its combination of lightweight construction and feature set. This was one possible shopping path out of infinite potential permutations and each consumer will have a different experience.
Did I visit Facebook or Twitter (the current leading social platforms for most brands)? No. But those platforms do have some effect on the Google and rating and review content streams but weren’t especially useful to me in this category.
I added some content using the Stickybits application (also connected to the product UPC) that as with my Whrrl trip could impact future social shopping experiences for others. The bottom line is that these new tools are coming on line daily and there is no way any marketer can cover them all, yet shoppers will be expecting to find blends of brand and consumer content wherever they choose to engage.
Developing, building and supporting brand advocate communities offers a potential solution to social shopping integration for brands. Community focused approaches not only provide a valuable feedback and testing loop but also helps to generate retail connected consumer content that optimizes multiple shopping streams.
No one knows which tools will eventually emerge as the most widely used by shoppers. But the brands that are actively engaging and learning now will be better positioned to provide consumers with great shopping experiences in the future.