It’s no secret that people are making more purchases, and purchase decisions, online. Consumer purchase behaviour is undergoing a dramatic shift that is getting more pronounced every day, and unprepared retailers are seeing declines as a result.
Over the course of the last week or so, there have been several revealing statistics released to support that consumers are not only spending more time shopping online, but that brick and mortar shopping behaviour is being influenced by digital interactions, which of course includes social media.
These changes are even more apparent coming out of Black Friday, which is typically the United States’ biggest shopping day, with consumers flocking to stores hunting, and in some cases fighting, to get a great deal in preparation for the holidays.
Defying the trend toward online shopping in recent years, Black Friday has managed to sustain steady growth, until now.
This year, brick and mortar retail shopping on Black Friday was down for the first time since 2009. Bloomberg reported the decline to be 3.9 percent, which seems marginal, but considering that tens of billions of dollars are spent on this crazy shopping day, is actually quite significant.
Brick and mortar shopping is down, while shopping online is up… way up
It’s no major revelation to learn that while brick and mortar retail shopping has decreased, online shopping has largely filled the void.
But, the dramatic truth of this is how sharply favour has shifted to shopping online. A recent Nielsen study revealed that nearly half of consumers – 46 percent – stated that they intended to shop online on Cyber Monday this year instead of facing the crowds on Black Friday. Now for the dramatic piece of information; that’s a 16-point increase from 2012, just one year ago, when that number was 30 percent.
You don’t need to be a statistician to see how dramatic of a shift that is.
Digital interactions are even affecting consumer behaviour when brick and mortar shopping
Digital interactions aren’t just causing consumers to make more purchases online, they’re actually affecting the way that consumers shop when they visit brick and mortar retailers. It’s worth noting here as well that social media is playing an increasingly important role in shaping even non-social experiences online, which makes it doubly important.
Around the world, shoppers are making fewer shopping trips, and when they do shop, they’re making a smaller number of purchases.
They’re visiting stores prepared, armed with the information they need to make a purchase with a very specific product in mind. The days of impulse buying might not be behind us, but that behaviour is certainly waning.
The auto industry is a prime example of this. Adweek recently reported that where car buyers used to visit 7 dealers to make a purchase decision, today they visit an average of 1.2.
That’s targeted and informed shopping, which is reminiscent of the trends observed this Black Friday. The idea of ‘shopping around’ when it comes to automobiles is virtually nonexistent, and this behaviour likely isn’t isolated to this category.
Where there is change, there is opportunity
This, of course, isn’t all doom and gloom. Not even close. In fact, these trends are hugely positive for those who are openly embracing the power of digital media channels be they owned or paid.
As you’ve undoubtedly observed, and this article has hopefully illustrated, it is no secret that consumers are increasingly making purchase decisions online. They’re researching competitive products on brand websites and comparing prices with apps like Amazon’s Price Check.
They’re also turning to social media to ask questions, discuss products and brands with their social graphs, gain unbiased perspectives, and weigh pros and cons of ownership.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to embrace digital and social media
If you haven’t already embraced the power of digital and social media for your business, now is the time to wake up and come to terms with the fact that consumer behaviour has long since shifted.
These aren’t flash-in-the-pan trends we’re observing. After all, we’re talking about the Internet and social media, which clearly aren’t going anywhere. Also, the explosive and exponential penetration of smartphones is giving consumers constant connection to both, so the influential interactions they’re having online, are also happening at shelves in physical stores.
The proof of shifting consumer purchase behaviour from this Black Friday and Cyber Monday I believe to be precursors to even more dramatic change moving forward.
Where there are rules, there are certainly always exceptions, but I believe the reality for many businesses is that if they don’t have a strong presence online and on social media, it’s not going to be long until they won’t have a presence at all.
Are you braving the crowds to do your shopping for the holidays?
Or, are you doing the bulk of your shopping online?
Are there certain categories of products that you prefer to buy in-store versus online?
It would be great to chat with you about your thoughts on this subject, and learn a little bit about your own shopping behaviour in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
I can’t believe it, but it’s already December, and the holidays are bearing down on us.
While you’re undoubtedly busy planning your personal social schedule with family and friends, now is also a perfect time to be planning your social media activity for the coming weeks. Planning can be critical to ensure you’ve got your ducks in a row for when you inevitably take a bit of time off to enjoy the season, and to sustain activity and engagement with your audience during this time.
In the interest of avoiding over-used clichés and long-winded rambling, let’s get into it:
Plan your content calendars
This is an obvious one, but certainly worth noting. Be sure that you not only have your December content calendar ready to publish (which you should already have), but that you have your January calendar ready to go as well. If you work with a team on content creation, or require any approvals from management, clients, legal, or anyone else, they aren’t likely to be around during the latter part of the month to accommodate your requests. Therefore, be sure to have your January calendar prepped and ready for approvals well in advance of people taking off for the holiday.
Spend a few extra minutes thinking about your holiday-specific content
If Christmas, Boxing Day, or New Years Eve have any relevance to your business, brand or audience, which they likely do, then it might be worthwhile spending a bit of extra time thinking of how to create special content for those days. Sure, you can keep things simple and wish everyone a safe and happy holiday, but you could also embrace these days as a creative opportunity with your content.
Have a monitoring schedule in place
It would be easy to forget about your social media communities during the holidays, but the reality is that you should really try to keep an eye on any activity that might be going on during this busy time of year. Keep it simple by setting a schedule for yourself to login, quickly monitor and moderate, and then get back to enjoying some time off.
Reflect on the year that is largely behind us
There is a tremendous amount to be learned by reviewing past performance, amazing successes, and dramatic failures. Take some time before the craziness of the holidays to reflect on how things have gone for you and your business in 2013 on social media. You might be able to identify helpful trends, reinforce activity to avoid or not replicate, think about new ideas that haven’t been explored, or more. Without a doubt, dedicating some time to reflect will be revealing, and of great benefit.
Set goals for the coming year
New Years Day represents a fresh beginning, and opportune time to enact resolutions and find ways to build upon successes of years past, and the same holds true for businesses, many of which have a fiscal year that mirrors the calendar year. While having a personal resolution to lay off fried food, or visit the gym more frequently are easy to identify and put into action, business resolutions – or goals to be more direct about it – should be more thoughtful and strategic, and thus, require more time to think about. So, if you haven’t been thinking about your social media and content marketing goals for 2014, now is a perfect time to start.
Take some time for yourself
Taking time away from social media can be reinvigorating, energizing, and save you from being made fun of by your family and friends for your unhealthy obsession with checking Twitter and Pinterest. Remember to take some time for yourself and to not stress about the craziness of social media and content marketing; you deserve it. It’s the holidays, and you really should be spending some quality time with the people who matter most to you.
What are your tips and tricks for prepping for the holidays?
If you have anything to add it would be great to hear from you in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
Determining the ROI of social media marketing activity is a convoluted and complicated challenge that many – if not most – businesses and brands struggle with.
In an effort to better measure the value of social media marketing, a recent Business Insider article reports that, ‘many brands are moving away from metrics that purport to measure ROI on social media’.
This indicates that even many of those businesses and brands that thought they had a formula for placing a monetary value on their social media marketing activity have since reevaluated their methods and abandoned them as a result. This is likely due to a realization that their own valuation criteria were fraught with issues.
The article continued, ‘They’ve realized that social media isn’t a transactional engine or sales machine, so they’re dropping half-baked indicators that gauge secondary effects, such as financial return. Instead, the new metrics evaluate social media strategies in terms of audience-building, brand awareness, and customer relations’.
For most businesses, correlating social media activity directly to sales is a difficult task due to the non-linearity and complexity of many consumers’ purchase paths.
What I find most interesting about this is why an organization would attempt to make this direct correlation in the first place. After all, there are many factors that contribute to making a sale, some of which include brand awareness, brand affinity, price, distribution, shelf placement, availability, seasonality, economic conditions, customer support, loyalty, prior brand experience, brand trust, perceived referral value, and many, many more.
There are a huge number of factors that contribute to consumers making a purchase decision.
Measuring sales as a return on social media activity is equivalent to measuring the sum of all influencing factors for those sales, many of which can be directly impacted by social media.
So, to accurately measure the activity required to influence a purchase – in this case social media activity – you actually need to measure the various influences to that purchase – brand awareness, affinity, loyalty, and on.
Perhaps the problem many of us have with determining the ROI of social media isn’t with how to measure ROI, but is instead with how we define ‘return’.
If we stop thinking about the ‘return’ of ROI as end sales, and start thinking about ‘return’ as a sum of the value of all of the relevant aforementioned factors – which ultimately lead to sales – then calculating an ROI of social media can be much more achievable; not simple, but achievable.
In the cases of the businesses represented by the Business Insider article, I actually don’t see them abandoning their ROI calculations so much as I see them taking the beginning steps in redefining how they see a ‘return’, which is a step in the right direction.
How do you measure the business success of your social media marketing activity?
What ‘returns’ do you look for from your social media marketing efforts?
It would be great to chat with you about this further in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
Did you happen to notice anything strange last week?
If you did, it was probably a result of the immense number of mentions of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on social and traditional media, and not that I took the week off of social media.
Believe it or not, while I took the week off of social media, the world kept spinning, my business survived, my face didn’t melt off, and no other catastrophes occurred as a direct result (as far as I know anyway).
Of course I’m joking about the dramatic overestimation of my importance to the world of social media, but I did gain some perspective I’d like to share while taking this bit of time off recently.
It’s perspective that is relatively simple to understand, but I’ll tell you that having lived it has given me a new appreciation for the validity of the following points:
Before anything, take care of your business.
Sometimes there are more important things to do than sweat every detail of your efforts on social media, particularly as a small business owner. If your business requires your full attention, it would be foolish to let critical business requirements slide in favour of managing your social media presence. If your business is comprised of a small team, be sure to have your priorities in check and take care of what’s best for your business first and foremost.
Taking a break can be reenergizing.
It’s obvious and cliché, but it’s true. Taking a break from anything, even if it’s something important and that you’re passionate about can be incredibly reenergizing. Because social media marketing is demanding of your time and attention on a daily basis, taking a few days off can really help to refresh your motivation for building relationships with your targeted audience, providing huge value, and generally killing it on social media.
Stepping back can give you fresh perspective.
There are times when the best way to progress something, is to step away from it. Being removed can give you fresh perspective, and let you think about things in new ways without needing to take care of the day-to-day. I’m convinced the same holds true for social media. Not being so involved in the daily requirements of managing your social media properties can better facilitate those magical moments when ideas and fresh thinking comes to you almost subconsciously.
If your efforts are consistent, the odd hiccup isn’t going to disrupt anything.
And the reality is that nothing terrible is going to happen as a result of a few days away from social media. You’re not going to lose your entire audience, and you’re not going to jeopardize the relationships you’ve built. Your business will be fine, and maybe it will even be better as a result.
What were the negatives of taking a week off?
After returning to my business’s social media efforts, and my personal social media networks after a week away, things were pretty well where I left them. Sure, I lost a few followers on Twitter, but I think that number was literally 3 or 4.
I published only one blog post last week instead of the two that I typically do, which wasn’t technically a cheat because it was pre-scheduled to post from weeks prior. This resulted in my page views being down about 10 percent for the week, which is within my blog’s typical range of fluctuation, so nothing really dramatic.
These were the most dramatic changes that I noticed as a direct result of this experiment, so certainly no irreparable damage done.
So there you go. If you have pressing needs to take care of that keep you from managing your social media and content marketing efforts as strictly as you’d ideally like, don’t sweat it, particularly if you have a track record of consistency and you don’t make it a regular habit.
As a result of having done this myself, I might actually suggest taking a break every now and again to recharge and reinvigorate your efforts upon your return. And an alternative to letting things stagnate is of course to have someone capable stand in for you while you take a bit of time away.
When is the last time you deviated from your regular routine on social media?
If you’ve ever done this, what happened as a result?
Do you have a plan in place to facilitate taking time off of social media?
It would be great to hear from you in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
Google defines best practices as being, ‘commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective’.
In the world of social media and content marketing, we spend a fair deal of time talking about best practices. We write blog posts about best practices to help others, and we updated our social streams with endless amounts of content to do with best practices.
This is great. It’s awesome to have such an amazing collection of content on social media best practices. If you’re unsure about how to tackle a certain challenge, conducting a quick search for best practices in that area can be a lifesaver. If you want to validate your thinking, benchmarking against best practices can provide a great deal of relief and help you proceed with confidence.
Best practices can be supremely helpful to study, understand and follow.
But best practices should come with a major caveat.
By their nature, best practices tend to be generalizations. Typically, they don’t specifically address your unique situation, opportunities and challenges. And getting too caught up in following best practices can affect your comfort and willingness to take a chance and do something amazing that may be contrary to conventions.
Best practices should be a starting point.
If you’re learning about a specific social media platform, strategic approach, technique or tactic, study best practices to get a handle on what works for most people. Then, think about these best practices in the context of your business, brand, consumers, competition, opportunities and challenges. This context should be applied to what you actually execute, and what you execute will be more effective as a result.
Create your own best practices.
After you’ve studied best practices, start thinking about a methodology to follow to create your own best practices. Figure out how you are going to monitor and measure your social media and content marketing efforts so that you can benchmark certain actions against others and see what works best for you and your audience.
AB testing is a great way to do this, and over time can help you to fine tune your social media and content marketing strategies for maximum effectiveness. In time, you’ll have your own best practices, and you’ll have developed a resilience to falling into a trap of feeling too comfortable about what you’re doing, which can be hugely detrimental to doing anything really special, which leads nicely into my next point…
Learn to fear comfort.
Best practices and ‘proven’ strategies and tactics can be your worst enemy. The validation that you’re following best practices can be comforting. You’re following what works. You’re doing things correctly. You’re doing what the experts do.
But what you’re not doing is anything different. If you’re not doing anything differently, then you’re doing things exactly the same as everyone else, including your competition. If you’re not doing anything different than your competition, then what effect do you really think you’ll be able to have on your audience? Do you think you’ll be able to more effectively convert them to consumers? Do you think you’ll be able to build a stronger more loyal audience? Do you think your activity will convert audience members to becoming evangelists?
Not a chance!
If everyone did everything the same, the world would be a pretty dull place, and the same holds true on social media.
Defy best practices.
I’m not suggesting you just disregard best practices, and the strategies and tactics that have proven to yield success for you and your business, but find opportunities to take a chance. Try something different. Try something new that you’ve never seen anyone do before. Try something similar to what others might have even failed at, but build on the idea and make a few changes for the better. Defy best practices and do something a little less comfortable every now and again.
Then, monitor and measure what you’ve done. It’s not going to be a success every single time, but when it is successful, you’ll have hit on something that is fresh and new, and that none of your competitors have done. You’ll be a leader, and your audience will take notice.
And for all of your failed efforts, nobody’s going to chastise you for trying something new and having it fail. After all, you’ll probably be able to recognize that the new thing you’ve attempted is a failure well before anyone else even takes notice.
So, there you go. Best practices can be incredibly valuable to study and execute against, but don’t get so comfortable that you never try anything new. Getting too comfortable can be your worst enemy, not just on social media, but more broadly in business as well.
Keep pushing yourself to be better, and to think about things differently. If you’re not willing to do this, your competition, or someone you don’t even know exists yet, surely will. And by then, it’ll be too late.
What’s the last thing you did on social media that was a risk?
How do you keep your business on its toes, trying new things, innovating?
It would be awesome to chat with you more about this in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial