How does social media impact the way consumers shop?

February 7, 2019| by Ben Allen

Social media; a collection of websites or applications that enable users to create, share and interact with content. Also known as social networking, what can be seen as a something that has had a negative impact of recent years can also be an effective marketing tool for brands, retailers and businesses. But with so many different channels, how does social media impact the way consumers shop?

Over the last few years, there has been a significant change in the way companies reach their customers. With more companies investing in their ecommerce strategies, digital marketing campaigns are now paving the way forward for marketeers. These campaigns have the ability to target people where they now spend most of their time – online and on social media. Millenials are the most active, spending up to 4 hours a day on their smartphones, with over half of that time on social media (Nielsen Homescan Media Survey, 2018). Facebook is the top site for reaching this demographic with 70% using the platform compared to the 39% of mature audiences (Nielsen Media Impact, 2018). But it isn’t just Facebook Millenials use, with Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn being other big social apps.

For many, social media opens up a whole new way of promoting products. The approach can be direct, personal or strategic, targeting key demographics, anytime and anywhere. Many retailers and brands are taking advantage of the powers social media hold because the impact it has on consumers is significantly higher today than it was 10 years ago. In today’s retail environment, consumers are more aware of what they are purchasing and what they are doing/can do with their food. This is where social media can help a brand or retailer. Social media has allowed supermarkets to create additional content to aid a consumer’s buying decision. For example, most supermarkets now post recipe ideas for consumers to try, showing step-by-step approaches in how to prepare the meal. They also use the platforms to promote special offers, discounts, new product lines and also interact with calendar events such as the recent Chinese New Year etc. All of this can help aid the consumer’s buying decision, as they’ll take recommendations on board when making purchasing decisions.

Social media isn’t just about the content sharing though, as the channels allow retailers and brands to communicate directly with consumers. Messaging functions, AI chatbots, forums etc. are all key to a social media channel with Twitter and Facebook having dedicated teams devoting their time to answering queries and complaints through the social media platform. All of the top 4 retailers are on every social media channel, with Tesco currently leading the way in the number of followers across the board, closely followed by Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Morrisons.

Towards the end of last year, some retailers saw successful marketing campaigns help towards their end of year sales. Costcutter celebrated its most successful Christmas social media campaign to date in 2018. The Bringing Christmas Together campaign saw a 53% increase in traffic to its website and a 27% increase in consumers who saw their social media content. The campaign saw Costcutter offer seasonal tips and solutions for surviving the festive period and exclusive recipes. It also partnered with Mondelez for a sponsored online game. The retailer also partnered with a social media influencer who created a chocolate cheesecake which saw a 25% increase in the products (via The Grocer). During the 2018 festive period, a study conducted by TCC Global found that Iceland also had the second most brand mentions on social media in November 2018 (just behind John Lewis), dominating 45% of the share. This was down to their banned palm oil advert, which caused a lot of social media buzz when it was released by the retailer directly. It’s impacts like this that can have a real effect on both ecommerce and in-store sales.

Social networks are the most influential when finding inspiration, according to PwC’s ‘Global Consumer Insights Survey’, 2018. The study revealed that 37% of consumers said they use social media regularly to find inspiration for their purchases. One of the biggest influencers, you could argue, is Instagram, with food being the main reason for its success.  Retailers such as Sainsbury’s and Walmart have recently caught onto the food craze of Instagram by sharing eye-catching dishes that are worthy of a #foodgram. But with the high resolution photography, comes the option to add links and tags into the posts that allow consumers to click through and access your website. In Nielsen’s recent State of the Nation 2019 event, it was revealed that 2018 was a prime year for influencer marketing, with many celebrities, bloggers and personalities all endorsing products across social media. As with the Costcutter Christmas campaign, roping a personality into promoting your products will gain trust in a consumer and in return, may sway their buying decision more. In the past it was television advertisements that entice the consumer, but now social media has the power to do this, at a much cheaper cost. With social media, comes real-time consumer feedback also, with many consumers commenting, sharing and liking recipes, promotions etc. that help build a shoppers trust in a product.

But by powering your social media platforms with additional content, you’re not only enhancing your product ranges and in-store/online promotions, you’re also allowing yourself to enhance your ecommerce strategies. Why not use the additional content to power your webpages, so for those consumers who may not use social media the content can still be seen. Social media is also a great way to test NPD. By revealing your new products or new packaging onto the platform, you can gage what consumer’s feedback is like before it even hits the shelves. Although a simple ‘like’ isn’t as powerful as actually testing a product against another (see Pilot for more information), it can showcase your product range in the most popular places. At the end of 2018, the Grocer revealed their most liked NPD range via Instagram, with a Cadbury’s Easter Egg coming out on top with over 500 likes.

Social media has had a major impact on the FMCG industry in recent years, as the platforms have allowed retailers and brands to reach consumers like never before through paid and organic advertising. It allows for 24/7 communication that can’t be offered in-store and also allows content to push consumers through to your website. Which is why it is also vital your products data and information is kept up-to-date. Ensuring you align your social content with your website content can have major benefits for your overall ecommerce strategy. The impact channels have had so far has been phenomenal, and it will only continue to rise as more ways of promoting a brand, product or retailer are introduced. #BePrepared


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