[Community & Coffee] How to leverage social media to boost e-commerce traffic

Thu May 07 2020
Jenn Kim
Best Practices

We’re excited to announce Community & Coffee, AspireIQ’s weekly office hours held with our Strategy team. In our most recent session, Magda Houalla, Director of Marketing Strategy, and Madison Smith, Senior Marketing Strategist, discussed how to leverage social media to boost web traffic and e-commerce sales in an effort to help brands navigate the fast-changing marketing landscape amid COVID-19.

If you missed the live office hours, read the Q&A below to catch up and then RSVP for the next one here.—

Brands are reporting first quarter projections and some are seeing major drops in sales. Adidas said first-quarter profits fell more than 90% due to coronavirus store closures, and reported a 19% decline in first-quarter net sales and predicted sales will fall by 40% in the second quarter. So, what is e-commerce and sales looking like this month compared to last month at the height of COVID-19?

The good news is that it’s recovering.

In April, there was definitely an increase in sales as consumers adapted to the new norm. Some studies show that website visits, sales, and orders have even surpassed where they were at the same time last year, long before COVID-19. April sales are up by 24% in the US compared to April 2019, while online visits are up by 8% and the retail conversion rate has shot up by 29%.

Notably, though, the reason sales numbers may have gone up in April is due to retailers handing out heavy discounts to encourage consumers to continue shopping. This means that average order value (AOV) will not be as high as it was prior to the pandemic, and this tactic will not be sustainable in the long run.

However, as things return to normalcy in the next few months (hopefully), consumers who have built relationships with these brands offering discounts will continue to support the business and become brand lovers. Ultimately, by getting people through the door, brands have so much leverage to retarget them and nurture those relationships to turn them into customers for life. Social media will play a key role in discovering these loyal audiences and connecting with them by posting authentic content and offering them benefits like discount codes.

What are the most important social strategies to use when trying to drive traffic to your e-commerce site?

There are several great social strategies that do wonders for driving traffic to your website.

The first is working with micro-influencers who create high-quality, engaging content. With their smaller and more niche audiences, they offer a more affordable price tag. In addition, they have very engaged audiences, so there is a high likelihood of their community taking action when they hear a recommendation from the tastemaker.

Secondly, work with Pinterest influencers to create high-quality content on the visual search platform. Pinterest is a great platform to use to capture consumers’ interests through visual content. Since people are already coming to Pinterest looking for products that will help them actualize their ideas, Pinners have higher purchase intent. In fact, research shows that 90% of weekly Pinners use Pinterest to make purchase decisions and 83% of weekly Pinners have made a purchase based on Pins they saw from brands. The content also has a very long shelf life, so you can expect to see ecommerce traffic for much longer than, say, an Instagram post.

Lastly, leverage Instagram Stories. Create informative content with a swipe-up link to encourage viewers to visit your website. Make sure to design unique landing pages with high-quality influencer-generated content (IGC) to engage your target audience. For example, Ulta’s skincare analysis web page features authentic content produced by influencers.

In general, you should be repurposing IGC across your marketing channels, including in your emails. Invite high-performing influencers to create a capsule collection of their favorite products and showcase their content in an email campaign. Some beauty brands are driving click-through rates by inserting before and after photos from influencers’ makeup tutorials, encouraging shoppers to click on the full tutorial on their website. Featuring IGC in triggered emails, such as cart abandonment and post purchase emails, is also an effective way to inspire consumers to take action.

You mentioned Pinterest which isn’t talked about enough when it comes to e-commerce. How has Pinterest changed and evolved to become a more central part of e-commerce and our new norm?

Pinterest is essentially a visual search engine — the company actually moved away from referring to itself as a social media platform a while ago. User behavior on Pinterest is less about scrolling and browsing content without an agenda, as it is on Instagram, TikTok, and the like. Rather, Pinterest users head to the site to look for something specific, such as “mid-century modern living room” or “DIY window box.” Content on Pinterest is inspirational, helping users discover their next idea or purchase.

Recently, Pinterest launched Pinterest 100, a site dedicated to tracking the 100 most commonly searched terms on Pinterest. This is a great tool for marketers to figure out what’s trending in relevance to your brand. Using the list, work with Pinterest influencers to create content for the trending search terms featuring your products. This will increase your visibility on the platform.

As mentioned above, brands have seen great success increasing web traffic and conversions through Pinterest. Its ad features, such as Product Pins and Shop the Look Pins, are great ways to distribute content for relevant search results. In other words, you’re able to get your products in front of the right people at the right time.

How do you embrace the current challenges to maintain relevance for your consumer as their buying habits change for the time being (or over the long haul)?

80% of consumers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products. At the same time, two-thirds of marketers find producing consistently engaging, well-designed, and visually appealing content their biggest struggle. As channels and formats evolve, it will be even more difficult for marketers to ensure that their content is impactful and, most importantly, seen.

Now more than ever, marketers need to continue connecting with your community and build your brand experience on social media. Here are three steps to do so, as explained by Marketing Tech News:

  1. Treat content as a holistic ecosystem: The experiences that brands create for customers must spark conversations and interaction, and ultimately, drive brand affinity. Addressing a customer’s intent when creating content helps to achieve this.
  2. Create organisational agility: It’s imperative that marketers become more responsive to change. An always-on, omni-channel content strategy can’t be delivered using annual planning cycles – it needs a much more responsive, multi-speed model which avoids channel or team silos.
  3. Integrate the entire content lifecycle for efficiency and effectiveness: To deliver a truly differentiating customer experience, it is important to adopt an integrated approach, with processes and technologies that embrace the entire content lifecycle, drive efficiency, and improve effectiveness.

As said by JD Sherman, COO at HubSpot, “Companies that solve for their customers during times of crisis can foster deep levels of loyalty that will live long into the future and help them swiftly return to growth once conditions improve.”

What does this mean for major retailers (like Home Goods) that don’t have an available platform for their customers to shop online? Do you think this will impact other major retailers and malls (Macy’s, JCPenny, Nordstrom, etc.)?

Great question. While we’ve been saying that digital marketing and e-commerce plays a critical role in a business, there are plenty of brands out there that have little or no way of shopping online, such as Burlington Coat Factory or Home Goods — yet they are still strong companies. They have huge social followings, which plays a role in this.

During this time, analysts are really counting on the concept of survival of the fittest. Companies like Burlington and TJ Maxx that were already in a position of strength before the pandemic struck could emerge back on top post-COVID-19. Why?

  • Discount retailers could stock up on discounted inventory as many retailers begin cancelling orders. Analysts at Credit Suisse said this scenario could potentially yield the “greatest buying environment for off-price in a decade.”
  • In Burlington’s case, the company has reduced inventory levels in stores, requiring buyers to react even more quickly to real-time customer purchasing data in order to get new, relevant merchandise on the floor faster.

For big department stores and malls, this will have a big impact on business. It’s no secret that malls have been on the decline for years, but analysts now say they expect about a little more than half of all mall-based department stores to close by the end of 2021. They predict the disruption of mall-based department stores that they were expecting over the next 5-10 years is now being pulled forward to the next 2 years.

However, we think there’s still hope for these retailers. These big department stores should split up into smaller entities and incorporate social media and e-commerce tactics into those physical locations. Train employees on the latest social media and e-commerce trends, and then outfit stores with the types of “social media moments” successful DTC brands and pop up stores are creating. This way, you let employee communities and customer communities be the creativity drivers.

For example, Macy’s could become “Macy’s Home,” “Macy’s Beauty,” “Macy’s Fashion,” and so on. Macy’s Fashion employees could give styling advice and post outfit ideas on TikTok, Macy’s Beauty could host in-store beauty events with influencers and stream them on Instagram Live, and Macy’s Home employees could help match furniture items to customer Pinterest boards.

What are some ways brands can set themselves apart from the usual e-commerce push tactics?

Everyone likes free stuff. One way you could set yourself apart is through TikTok’s new initiative called Small Gestures, which enables users to send free, virtual gifts from a range of brand partners within the app. Although the gifts are fairly promotional in nature, they are still gifts for consumers. Among the gifts available in the app are:

  • 90-day subscription to Adobe Premiere Rush
  • 1-month free DashPass subscription
  • 90-day trial subscription for Pandora
  • 2-month Premium Membership for Skillshare

Another tactic is to host a IG Live fundraiser using Instagram’s new donation sticker, which will enable users to raise funds during a Instagram Live stream. Host an hour-long workout class, makeup session, or whatever it is that may fit your brand. Or, partner with influencers to go live on your page for X hours a day, giving them the freedom to choose what they’re hosting.

During your livestream, you’ll be able to see how many people have pledged support to your chosen cause, along with a real-time listing of the total money raised. You’ll also be able to tap ‘View’ to see a full breakdown of your donors, and you’ll be able to thank them by tapping ‘Wave’ next to their name.

Lastly, use our Brand Access Manager feature, which allows you to run ads through your top performing influencers’ accounts. This also allows you to build lookalike audiences based on the followers who engage with an influencer’s content. Brand Access Manager allows you to unlock personalization at scale by taking your top performing influencer content, building audiences based on the Instagram users who engaged with that piece of content, and acquiring new customers.

Make sure to sign up to join us for the next session of Community & Coffee!

For more information on how to navigate your marketing efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out these blogs: