Two years ago Wander Beauty launched its first product on QVC, a two-sided stick combining Blush and Illuminator that fans still rave about. Today, the company boasts 17 SKUs and a global beauty brand renowned for multipurpose products.
Recent numbers from Women’s Wear Daily put retail sales on track to pass $15 million in 2017, more than double the figure Wander achieved the previous year. The company is also reported to have raised more than $4 million in its latest round of VC funding, which is expected to drive further international expansion.
There’s a lot of focus on one-click buying in order fulfillment circles, and with good reason.
Established online retailers like Amazon and eBay have embraced the impulsive allure of quick click purchases for some time, but it’s the more recent roll outs by social networks, first Facebook and now Twitter, that offer the most promising area for expansion.
Retailers already do plenty of work within their own digital walls to up sell and cross sell existing customers. Outside of their own ecosystem the focus has been to attract new customers through advertising and optimizing their sites for search engines.
Social networks, until now, have been an sandpit in which companies can talk to their customers and perhaps raise awareness of their products, but rarely are they seen as a source of direct sales.
Integrating easy-to-use buy buttons within the walls of popular social media sites could change all that, expanding the reach of ecommerce operators exponentially.
One of the main challenges to both retailer and social site to date has been losing control of the customer.
For the retailer, it’s a balancing act between showcasing products on a social network without selling too heavily and driving customers away from the brand in general. For the social network, sending users to another site for another activity has to be balanced with the desire to keep them on site, enjoying the entertainment element that brought them there in the first place.
If immediate buy buttons become a common enough element of social sites both of these problems could be addressed with one solution. Customers can spot a product they like, quickly process the transaction within the walls of Facebook, and get back to catching up with friends, commenting on a cat meme, or playing the latest Facebook game fad (and unwittingly inviting the rest of us to do so). Sale for retailer, easy purchase for customer, increased stickiness for social network, a win-win-win scenario for all involved, no?
The answer to that will slowly be revealed as Facebook and Twitter test their buy buttons, but there are certainly some obstacles.
For one, social sites aren’t currently considered as the online malls that retailers and tech startups might like them to be. Although some transactions are carried out already, such as in-app purchases and buying advertising, the general act of social media shopping is in its infancy. As such, there are plenty of bumps in the road to navigate before brands convince customers to not just like or follow them there, but also buy what they’re selling. And that selling is also somewhat at odds with the general consensus that social media marketing is based on being informative and entertaining, not yet another sales space. The former could limit the latter, even when simple sales functions are put in place.
The other aspect that still worries many customers is just who they can trust with their details online. The biggest brand names online and off – Target, Apple, Home Depot and many more – have been dragged through the mud this year thanks to digital hacker attacks, making customer leary of expanding their purchase activity outside of the providers they already trust. Overcoming these security concerns will be just as important as convincing customers that social sites are a place they want to shop in the first place.
Even against these pronounced challenges, social network shopping holds so much potential that retailers will be pulling out all the stops to build a foundation for its future.
Twitter has appointed its first head of commerce, Nathan Hubbard, as it begins an e-commerce initiative. Details are sparse on how Twitter will facilitate retail in 140 characters or less.
Hubbard, the former president of Ticketmaster, said only that “We’re going to go to people who have stuff to sell and help them use Twitter to sell it more effectively,” in an statement to Business of Fashion. The article goes on to say that Hubbard will seek partnerships with retailers and payment services companies, rather than entering head-to-head competition. The move is intended to raise additional revenue as Twitter looks to an IPO in the months ahead.
How’s Social Media Working Out for Retail?
Twitter’s foray into social media comes at a time when social media is not working as well hoped for retailers.
Although some business sectors are taking a second look at Twitter for business marketing, a study of prestige retailers the digital consultancy L2 found that over the past four years, less than 0.25% of new customers have been acquired through Facebook and less than .01% from Twitter. In addition, the research disclosed that customers gained via social media spend less than other customers.
A number of retailers opened up Facebook stores to great fanfare in 2011. With the exception of Tory Burch, most are now closed, including: Oscar de la Renta. the Gap, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, GameStop.
It would appear that the strategy that works best on social media is word of mouth. When someone hears from a friend or other trusted source that something works, they’re more likely to go with it. Pinterest has provided a great example of this type of personal “show and tell.” Brands may be finding that what works best is to make it easier for people to find and order items that they see and hear about from their own networks.