It's Time for Social Merchandising

You may have heard of Social Media by now.

Or perhaps you’re in the “biz” and refer to it as Social Marketing. Well, as the year comes to an end and we look ahead to what is the next big thing in viral marketing, it seems that many believe this is the year for Social Merchandising. As retailers, and business alike, look for methods to interact with their customers in a way that is meaningful (increased sales, customer loyalty, etc.), this next step in the Social evolution may be just what they have been looking for.

So, what is merchandising?

It is any practice which contributes to the sale of products to a retail consumer. Every time you go to make a purchase, some form of merchandising is in play around you- such as displays at the checkout.

Most retailers work on a system of the 5 Rights of Merchandising: right product, in the right amount, in the right place, at the right price, at the right time. When merchandising is done right, it can reinforce selling when you’re associates aren’t available.

Sounds like a perfect fit for social media, but how can merchandising strategies translate into your overall Social media marketing strategy? (Seems a bit backwards… It wasn’t too long ago when everyone was trying to figure out how to fit Social media into their overall marketing strategy. Oh, how the tables have turned!)

Here are four steps to getting your business prepared to enter the world of Social Merchandising:

1) Visual Content
Your content marketing strategy might need to change to adapt to this new social media evolution.

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or another social channel, the landscape has changed for marketers. Just a few years ago those platforms were largely text based. In recent years (think Facebook timeline era) things have transformed, and are now more focused on a visual and interactive look and feel.

The reason, according to ClickZ, is because “visual content drives audience participation and amplification.” When the customer can’t touch or try on an item, the use of images and video marketing are there to help them make the right decision. And when those tools are connected to their social sphere of influence, they can feel increased validation and confidence in their purchase.

2) Push Product over Brand
Most companies and brands have been using Social media, largely as an extension of their brand marketing strategy.

There is some innate fear businesses have of “selling” on their social media channels. But going forward into this new era of social merchandising, it makes more sense to use your social marketing channels as a way to push specific products or promotions, not necessarily just as a way to increase brand awareness. Now that you have customer relationships online (Yay for fans!), it’s time to start helping your fans make purchases by providing them with what they want: access to new and exclusive product information. It’s time to consider a full on, image and video heavy social media product launch for your next big item or collection.

Don’t be afraid to sell- they became your fan because they like your products. Those followers are your target audience!

3) Increase Coordination with your Social Media Expert, Digital Marketer and E-commerce Teams
Social media management. Video Marketing. Customer relationship management. Supply chain.

What do these things have in common? They are essential pieces to a successful social merchandising effort. However, most of the time, these skills are spread across various departments. Well, it’s time to get all of these people into one room with your marketing team to determine how to set a marketing strategy that embraces their skills and incorporates Social merchandising.

Remember those 5 Rights of Merchandising from earlier (right product, in the right amount, in the right place, at the right price, at the right time)? Have your teams start there… What can they do to ensure you get it right in the digital space?

4) Know Which Social Media Tools Make Sense for Merchandising (and learn about some of the new ones coming out!)

As you begin your social merchandising efforts, start by adding a social merchandising plug-in to your site. This plug-in can allow friend-referrals from prior shoppers or even alert customers when one of their social network friends makes a purchased from your website.

Don’t dismiss Facebook and Twitter users, but don’t cater solely to them. Determine which visual social sites make the most sense for you, and expand into new social media platforms. For instance, Pinterest, Fab, or Instagram might be great outlets for your business. It just depends what you are selling and who you’re target audience is.

One of my favorite new social merchandising platforms is Rately. Rately defines itself as a platform that is bringing together the two concepts of social media and merchandising- “stimulating interest in products and driving sales, while also letting individuals (shoppers) and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content.” Look for my next post which will dive into Rately and show you how to use this new site for your social merchandising efforts.

Well, I have to say, this idea of social merchandising has me excited. It’s a dream for the digital marketer. An obvious and exciting evolution to this digital world we live in. It has the ability to help shoppers make decisions, buy online and be more prepared than ever when they walk into your store to make a purchase. Stay relevant and start merchandising the social way.

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