If you ask retail marketers where they will be sending their product feed this holiday season, nearly all of them will say Google Product Listings Ads (PLA). Many will list off comparison shopping engines (CSEs) like Shopzilla, Shopping.com, and The Find, or online marketplaces like Ebay, Amazon, and Sears.
Most retail marketers, however, won't list social shopping sites like Pinterest and Polyvore. Given those sites' increasing contribution to brand and product discovery, they represent a huge revenue opportunity for retailers this holiday season. In fact, Pinterest alone drives nearly 6 percent of social referral traffic, according to Shareaholic.
Many social sites already do accept retail product feeds through offerings such as Pinterest Rich Pins and Polyvore for Brands and Retailers. However as of this summer very few retailers are incorporating their feeds into these programs.
A recent study showed that only 1.7 percent of retail products merchandised in PLA were represented in social commerce on sites such as Pinterest, Polyvore, and Wanelo. Additionally, the study also highlighted that when product listings are incorporated into social, the content itself is often not updated to influence and engage a shopper that is in ‘discovery' mode.
There are a few reasons why there is a gap between the opportunity to merchandise in social sites and the adoption within retailers, outside of standard pre-holiday inertia towards the tried and true.
- There is separation between brand and ecommerce teams, with brand teams typically owning social media and little to no budget allocated for testing social ecommerce.
- There is a definite lack of awareness of the expanding toolset available for ecommerce via social channels, both in terms of rich, informative, and sometimes promoted posts as well as in analytics.
- Retailers who have minimal resources dedicated toward social commerce find themselves in a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma since optimization resources won't be realized without a dedication to the effort.
There a few key things that retailers can do this holiday season to overcome the challenges listed above and incorporate their products more comprehensively into rapidly emerging social channels.
1. Recognize That Social is a Branding and Commerce Opportunity
These types of programs can be mutually beneficial to brand managers and performance marketers alike. Brand marketers want to make sure their presence and messages tell a story in social channels.
These programs, Rich Pins especially, allow for the addition of a commerce experience without the loss of branding value. This should help to break down organizational silos that prevent collaboration today.
2. Keep It Simple: Focus on Your Top Products Initially
It doesn't require a feed wizard or a robust feed management technology to make these programs work for you. At the very least, a retailer's top products should be in all oft-visited channels as consumers travel between discovery and shop modes.
Using sales data from PLA can help retailers find their most engaging products such that they can ensure those are represented in social programs. Additionally, the products that have been Pinned, saved, or liked in social already can enable better decisions on what products and messages to highlight in search and PLA campaigns.
3. Use Search Data to Drive Social Merchandising Decisions
From years of search query data, retailers can determine what colors, styles, and materials are driving traffic and sales. Armed with that knowledge, retailers will have a good sense of what to profile in product titles, descriptions, and images that they publish to social channels.
We're witnessing a huge change in consumer shopping behavior as many purchase decisions are now influenced by online peers in social shopping channels. As retailers are start to look for ways to incorporate their offerings into these sites in an authentic way, selecting the right products from feeds and highlighting their best qualities is a great way to start.