Sarah Bush, Shopstyle
Sarah Bush

Member Article

Retail’s web affair: turning commerce social

Sarah Bush, of online shopping aggregator ShopStyle, looks at the world of “social shopping.“

Facebook currently has 50 million users worldwide - a number that people can’t help but get excited about.
For some, it’s a testament to the power of the Internet to change our world and shape our communities, and
to others it represents an opportunity to engage with a market of online web-savvy shoppers. But do we really welcome retailers encroaching on our social spaces? Muted responses to e-commerce ventures on Facebook in the last couple of years have suggested that perhaps we don’t. Companies have struggled to create a robust retail environment on the social media platform and it appears that despite a seemingly logical connection, social and shopping don’t necessarily go together.

Cut your cloth to suit

So what’s the problem? At ShopStyle we’ve learnt through trial and error that just as you wouldn’t want a lecture in the pub or chat about celebrity gossip in the boardroom, appropriate communication style is key. When approached with care, social media has the power to engage a community and amplify a brand’s online identity. By investing time, money and creativity into multiple online channels, brands add value and maximize conversion to sale downstream. With growth and diversification of such communities, it is vital that brands distinguish advantages and characteristics of each online environment, and tailor activity to each specific channel. For instance, on Twitter, ShopStyle holds regular competition and conversations with beauty experts and style gurus, short and easy interactions that add value to the everyday life of the consumer. Whereas, Pinterest or Instagram are suited to distributing company visuals, lookbooks from community members to current collection inspiration or our own coverage of events such as Fashion Fringe.

Melding content, communication and rewards is key to successful and personal relationships with customers. Once established, this channel facilitates an ease of communication and a platform to launch new content which was previously unheard of. The fashion industry keeps evolving - from seasonal RTW showings and two-week production cycles, to today where a couple of seconds and 140 characters are vital tools to build a brand.

The UK at the cutting edge

The UK is a playground for those interested in social shopping. Not only does the UK represent the largest
share of the “Internet economy” within G20 countries, according to March 2012 research from the Boston
Consulting Group, but the overall web economy is expected to rise by 11% per annum over the next four years. Retailors are grabbing for their chunk of the market. Apps like pose.com and poshmark are showing
strides in the growing mobile market. Svpply, wanelo and fab.com provide curated product feeds. Websites
like fashism, Polyvore or even ShopStyle online stylebooks allow immediate feedback and encourage personal style. Each has built the social experience into a retail platform - turning commerce social.

But for those retailers and brands who want a piece of the action – exercise caution. Like last season’s trends, novelty ultimately wears off. Online engagement across multiple platforms, once forward-thinking, is now essential and expected. Brands and their consumers must not only maintain current digital endeavours, but also explore new ones. As Joyus.com blends fashion videos with shopping and the rise of virtual dressing rooms, such as Ditto.com, Facebook and Twitter are now trusted basics for the online fashionista. As tech and style merges, it will be shoppers that choose the digital equivalent of the classic LBD and what will become one-time fads at the back of the closet.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Sarah Bush .

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