The Omnichannel is Bigger Than You Think

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Posted Oct 4, 2017 7:00:00 AM by Steve Smith & filed under enterprise mobility solutions

“Omnichannel” is an organic creature that continues to expand and evolve. It both reacts to and drives consumer demand. Where “buy online/ pick-up instore” was once a novelty, it’s now a service shoppers expect. Social media is one of the omnichannel’s most diverse ecosystems, with a wide array of platforms and uses. Many retailers are adept at using social media to promote brand awareness, provide real-time customer service and assist shoppers research.


Yet any retailer limiting their social media utilization to these functions is already falling behind. New technologies and consumer behaviors are escalating social media’s direct impact on sales, creating more buying channels within the omnichannel world to enhance customer experiences. Social media isn’t just about shopping or showrooming; it’s now about purchasing.  Mary Meeker’s recent Internet Trends 2017 presentation highlighted several data points validating the shift of social media from strictly a discovery platform to a purchasing platform:

  • The number of Pinterest users who consider the platform a great place to buy online doubled from last year, to 24%.
  • 26% of people clicking on a Facebook ad went on to purchase.
  • The number of cumulative tracked store visits from Google location-tagged ads skyrocketed 500% year-over-year to 5 billion in May 2017.

In fact, both Google and Facebook have recently announced more extensive metrics retailers can use to track in-store visits driven by ads and Facebook campaigns, tearing down another barrier within the omnichannel world between digital and IRL behavior.

Integrating transactions into social media ads

One trend Meeker dove into was the blurring the function lines of social media ads. No longer just to advertise a brand or product, these ads now have integrated functionality enabling a sales transaction, whether a purchase or scheduling a service.

Facebook has recently introduced a new sales/ad format called “Collections.” Using a Collection, retailers will be able to attach product images to a video ad appearing in News Feeds. Facebook users who click on one of these images will open a Facebook-hosted brand catalogue users can browse right there. Facebook users can purchase any item in the catalogue by clicking on its image, which will bring them to the brand’s website or app.

This new Facebook functionality follows Pinterest’s own video ad format with attached, shoppable images. Pinterest has been a social media leader in integrating sales into its platform, which is borne out by Meeker’s finding that 55% of its user base sees the platform as shopping site. In fact, Pinterest is one of the few social media sites to help brands increase sales via a “buy button” that completes the transaction within Pinterest. One such retailer, Spool No. 72, found that 84% of the customers who bought from them through buyable pins were first time buyers of the brand. As Pinterest is a leader in social media-driven buying, other social media platforms may follow once they start figuring out how to provide easy payments and identify (or create) immediate purchase intent.

Instagram, owned by Facebook, recently expanded its “Show Now” function within similar browsable image carousels. Users tap images they like to get more information and pricing information, and can click the “Shop Now” banner to go to the retailer’s shopping site. Lulus, one of the 20 retailers selected by Instagram to test the new function, experienced a 33% click through rate to the brand’s website.

Using social media to enhance sales revenue

Other research has documented the power of social media brand activity to enhance instore spending. One 2016 study found that retailers who combine their social media campaigns with their TV marketing saw spending increases of 1.03% and cross-buying by 0.84%. When they integrate their social media with email, customer spending increased 2.02% and cross-buying by 1.22%.

Research conducted by Influence Central found that 55% of the consumers surveyed said they found in-store promotional messaging more persuasive if they’d first seen the product on social media. The survey also quantified the impact of a brand’s active, engaging social media presence:

  • 81% of shoppers say the frequently buy products they’ve first seen on social media
  • 86% were more likely to become first-time buyers from the brand if they interacted with them on social media
  • 87% were more likely to buy from a brand more often they regularly check in with via social media

Deloitte research found buyers are 29% more likely to make a purchase the same day they used social media in their shopping. Furthermore, shoppers are four times likely to spend more when using social media during their purchase decision, and shoppers influenced by social media are six times more likely to spend more than consumers who weren’t using social media.

Advanced omnichannel retailers are already experimenting and succeeding with integrating their social media strategies with sales, not just marketing. Those that aren’t remain closed off to developing new and growing shopping channels.

Searchable images and “Shopping the look”

Two more leading-edge functions set to improve social media’s strength as a shopping channel are searchable images and shopping the look. 

Both Pinterest and Instagram have “shop the look” capabilities that let users click on specific items within an image to learn more about them, buy them or see similar products they can buy. This isn’t clicking on the image generally. Individual products within the same image are clickable with their own contextual information. The potential to use this function to increase average sales value is clear.

Pinterest also has image searching allowing users to upload their own photo and run a search looking for similar images on Pinterest. So when a consumer sees someone wearing a sharp pair of shoes, they can snap the picture and search for the shoes on Pinterest. Image searching is effective functionality that will help make social media the go-to research tool for highly motivated buyers, not just curious shoppers.

So omni, social media is its own omnichannel

Social media has already been an omnichannel workhorse, showing up at multiple points of the sales cycle and customer relationship. Now social media is starting to flex its muscles at that most critical stage – the purchase. The savviest retailers are building a social media sales infrastructure that lets them expand into the full universe of the omnichannel. Retailers that aren’t will find themselves behind increasing obstacles to capturing and holding market share from those that are.

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