In our second ecommerce goes social article, we look at how retailers can make shopping integration work for them.

General outlook on the success of buy buttons has been mixed, with some pointing out that buy buttons could be more likely to annoy users of the platform than to encourage them to shop. However, as we pointed out last week, there is successful precedent for social shopping integration in other parts of the world, particularly in Asia.

Furthermore, some platforms are already trying to start the process of shifting social users’ mindset into that of shopping, an example being Twitter’s introduction of ‘Products and Places’ which sends users to separate streams full of information, images and discussion about products alongside opportunities to buy.

We’ve narrowed down what retailers should bear in mind as you consider social shopping buttons. For more technical guides, Bigcommerce, Demandware, and Shopify have all put together instructions for retailers who use them, and a general guide written by Social Media Examiner can be found here.

Smaller retailers needn’t hold back

It could take a little while for users to consider buy buttons a trustworthy way of purchasing, which may lead small-medium retailers to conclude that it would be worth letting the bigger players push shoppers to become accustomed to social shopping first.

However, smaller retailers shouldn’t just stand by, particularly as buy buttons are actually very suited to the more niche retailers, such as shops with one-off, handmade products, or those with small and select retail lines, as they allow retailers to pick particular products to focus on, and market around the product rather than the brand.

The fact that social buying buttons don’t tie in with traditional online Christmas shopping behaviours - users can’t buy or browse multiple items through social shopping buttons and benefit from a single delivery charge - may also work in favour of smaller retailers. Their more niche/bespoke items could benefit from this; offering one-off items marketed the ‘perfect’ present for a particular person, could catch the attention of the gift-buyer and encourage a single impulse buy, away from a more common multiple present shopping trajectory on bigger sites.

Instagram's self service ads are the best example of the level playing field that exists between global and locally reaching social media brands. The challenge that lies ahead is engagement from organic users falling away as it becomes more competitive and overcrowded with promotional content.

Bigger retailers should focus on the product

Bigger retailers, whilst bearing in mind that they can’t display their whole range of items via buy buttons, can however use them to focus user attention on their newest, most cutting-edge products. By using customer research to ascertain which upcoming products customers are interested in, or data accumulated from visits to their websites to discover the most popular existing items, and then debuting a new offer or even a new item via buy buttons, the larger retailers can make their retail lines work on social.

Offering a deal or an item via social first could bypass possible misgivings consumers could have about delivery costs and this new way of buying, especially if buzz around a product is built up over various platforms leading up to the item being available via buy button. This is a way of building on the excitement and user behaviour of Black Friday and January sale price-cut frenzies, and in the long-run, ultimately encouraging users to see buy button purchasing as the norm.

Don’t stop connecting with social audiences

Just because more shopping (and advertising) capabilities have been introduced to social media platforms, does not detract from their social use, first and foremost. Facebook and Twitter especially are still primarily used for news, comment and conversation. Halting interaction with your follower/’like’ base and bombarding them with ‘buy’ tweets instead is likely to prompt more than a few unfollows.

Instead, incorporate tweets/posts with buy buttons into the existing conversation around your products. Respond to discussion of popular items, or ask your customers what they’d like to see. Social media buy buttons should enhance your relationship with your customers, not run the risk of destroying it by ‘selling’ becoming all they see from you - you don’t need a whole new strategy.

Social buy buttons will work better when firmly integrated as part of the existing wider strategy, as the use of them out of the blue runs the risk as coming across as as either rushed and ill-considered, or even incurs the danger of your audience, familiar with your current campaigns, mistakenly believing that the buy buttons are inauthentic or even a scam, as they are unfamiliar.

Also - be realistic about timeframes. Users are more likely buy in the evenings or at weekends, and less likely if they’re just quickly checking Twitter or Instagram at work or on their commute.

Treat different networks differently

Just because buy buttons are now available on most of the big social networks doesn’t mean you need to attempt to utilise them on all of them.

Whilst buy buttons on Facebook and Twitter need to be incorporated as part of the ongoing conversation, you will be able to assimilate buy buttons in a more natural way on the visually-focused platforms; Pinterest and Instagram.The highly-valued visual aesthetics of Instagram posts and Pinterest pins work well as adverts anyway, and the addition of a buy button slots in easily alongside ‘like’ and ‘comment,’ suggesting to the user that the act of buying is simply another positive response to a post.

Pinterest, especially, is often used as an online scrapbooking tool for those planning a wedding/event, or looking for interior design inspiration, and buy buttons could very easily become the next step in the natural progression of their projects - they move on from collecting images and ideas to purchasing the items for completion.

YouTube is a different beast. The furore over ‘YouTubers’ and vloggers being paid to promote or discuss certain items and products in videos has died down, and the popularity of such videos hasn’t waned. The chances are, if a user has gone as far as to watch a video featuring an item such as a beauty product, they have considered buying it, and Shopping ads could pave the way for the retailers of those products themselves to enter the conversation.