Online shopping just got a whole lot easier … Uh-oh.

By Christina Renfroe, Intern

These days it feels like everything is for sale. And even if it’s not, you can always find it online. Marketers are tapping into that assumption and looking for new ways to target consumers online. Meanwhile, social networking sites are recognizing the opportunity to profit from it.

In the past couple of years, the two have come together to develop a marriage of e-commerce, and everyone wants in on the party. Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram have all rolled out new features that will allow consumers to more easily purchase the things they see on their feeds and in their pins. All of the features have the same basic goal in mind: to help consumers reach the point of purchase. But not all of the features were created with the same audience in mind and not all of them have the same effect.

Here’s a rundown of what each site has to offer in this e-commerce-driven world:

The newest addition is called “product pages.” These pages act as mini stores for an individual item. They collect tweets about the brand and the product itself so consumers can not only see reviews from others who have made purchases, but also interact with them in real time. To buy, they simply click on the “go there” button, which will take them directly to the purchasing site. Although Twitter is currently experiencing a lack of growth, this may be an avenue to consider for brands that are targeting males between the ages of 18-29, as this is Twitter’s largest group of users according to the Pew Research Center.

Possibly one of the most exciting initiatives for Pinterest users is the development of the “buyable pin.” For years users have struggled to find the retailers behind their favorite pins. With “buyable pins,” users will be routed to the page where they can buy the product directly. It may take a while for “buyable pins” to really take off because retailers have to register each pin as one of their own. However, because Pinterest users are more accustomed to product-driven images and are already at the purchasing stage, “buyable pins” may be one of the most effective e-commerce features.

Last year, Facebook started testing its “click to buy” button with a few retailers and has recently expanded the opportunity to more brands. The button appears in organic posts as well as in paid advertisements. Users are able to store their credit card information within Facebook to make checking out that much more convenient. Facebook is an appealing option for many advertisers because of the extensive data it keeps on its users. For brands looking to target a specific audience, having that data is key.

Like Pinterest, Instagram is an image-driven site. Retailers can display a well-lit, filtered photo of their product and users can simply click “shop now.” From there, they will be directed to the location on the retailer’s site where the product is available for purchase. Instagram may encounter problems with this feature because it is only available to retailers who are using paid advertising, not to those who simply post photos from their own account. This may prevent small businesses and boutiques that don’t have dollars to spend on paid advertising from using the feature.

Here’s the bottom line: Whether you supply a tangible product or an intangible service, social media marketing is not to be ignored. Those who use it correctly have an opportunity to engage with their audience directly, on their own turf. The key is to do it strategically. Keep an eye on what your competitors and brands you admire are doing. Stay informed about new features and trends. If you do, consumers will notice your presence and be much more inclined to interact. Heck, they may even want to buy your product.

For a more comprehensive review of each of these platforms, check out this article in Adweek or pay a visit to each platform’s information site.

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