The classic sales channels on which a typical ecommerce store would focus on, include search engine optimization and contextual advertising. For online retailers, these generate 70% of visits and 60% of revenue (according to the data from Ecommerce Report 2017).
However, there is another channel widely used in digital marketing – Social Media Marketing (SMM). Is it applicable to ecommerce and to what extent?
Applicability for medium and large-scale businesses
Speaking of the benefits SMM provides for ecommerce, we should understand the difference between medium-scale and large-scale businesses first.
For medium-scale businesses, SMM can be a source for a large share of their sales. For example, a small e-shop specializing in underwear can sell their goods through Instagram, from which this can become its main sales channel (for more details, see the case study “Sales on Instagram: 8 stories of online stores”, in Russian). Other social networks can also be used for sales, for example, Facebook allows for creating a fully functional online store with a shopping cart.
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A large-scale ecommerce business is a very different story though. Direct sales through social media are not as important – usually, this share does not exceed 5%. Instead, SMM as a channel can be used to develop a powerful brand.
In ecommerce, social media is used to showcase positioning, increase audience loyalty, communicate with customers and work with feedback. Ultimately, such use of SMM returns much more profit to a larger business.
What types of goals can we set for SMM
First of all, let’s differentiate goals from tasks.
Goals define a strategy. Examples of goals for SMM can include getting to the top 3 most widely exposed brands on social media in your niche, introducing a new product to the market, repositioning, etc. Another common goal is obtaining a database of loyal users interested in your product. A goal is always a long-term play – it is a set for at least a year.
Tasks define specific figures. For instance, like reaching a milestone of 20,000 subscribers on a Facebook group by the end of a year, or receiving 10,000 clicks to a website from social media, or doubling the conversion rate, and so on.
Each ecommerce project is unique in terms of goals and tasks for social media. Although there is a finite range of SMM goals (exposure, leads acquisition, clicks to the website), which will form a unique mix in each case.
The factors impact of goals, tasks and KPIs selection:
- business niche;
- product consumption cycle;
- target audience features.
Let’s take online sales of laminate flooring for instance. On average, this is purchased once every 10 years. The strategic goal for such business would be reaching out to the target audience, not receiving leads. Therefore, the content strategy on social media should be based not on the product itself, but on related topics. To make customers continue to follow, engage and return to you after 10 long years until their next purchase, you should write content about something else in relation to laminate flooring, and not just the product itself.
Which social media should be used
The choice of a particular social network depends on the particular goals that the business sets before SMM and on features of the target audience (which social media it uses and why).
Below is a table with an approximate “applicability factor” of different social media for different retail niches.
So let’s sum up
Social media can largely contribute to the development of your ecommerce project. They can help a medium-sized business gain a significant share of direct sales, while a large-sized business can use them to stand out from competitors and develop a powerful brand.