Social Media (2)

The march to omni-channel is putting pressure on retailers to adopt new routes to market that enable them to stand out from the pack and drive business advantage. Research by HSO into the views of UK consumers highlights the potential to differentiate through making direct sales on social media sites. Indeed, the HSO survey found 28% of respondents were open to making at least some purchases in this way rather than through a traditional online sales model.

Social media channels are already exploring the potential of offering direct payment capabilities on their sites. Facebook recently announced a new self-developed payments feature for the Facebook Messenger app, which enables people to make payments to friends and associates directly via the site – and some businesses have experimented with direct payments via social media sites in the past.

Our survey results suggest that retailers should at least consider the option of using social media to sell directly to consumers. Not only does it offer them a great opportunity to discover what their customers are saying both about themselves and their competitors, but it also gives them the chance to gauge market sentiment and then initiate conversations that lead to sales.

The survey also indicates that this willingness to consider payments over social media, maps a shift in how consumers view engagement with retailers. 41% of respondents said they used social media to engage with retailers to look for discounts and promotions, against 29% who said they used it to make a complaint about a product or a service, which represents a shift in the way that consumers view engagement over social media. Initially, that was more about discussing potential purchases. In the future, social sites will become portals for purchasing transactions too, which represents a great opportunity for retailers today.

The challenge is many retailers simply don’t have the IT systems and capabilities to do this.

Traditional retail software addresses various individual disciplines, but typically struggles to connect different systems and processes across the business to enable new ways of working. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) can provide the missing link, acting as the facilitator for this new sales model, helping retailers engage with customers and utilise social commerce. It’s all about connecting social media to ecommerce and providing yet another engagement avenue and point of sale to customers to secure transactions. And ERP is clearly best placed to facilitate this.

First, it offers retailers the opportunity to keep on top of what is a fast-changing market. In this day and age retailers must be flexible and able to adapt quickly to meet ever-changing industry trends. ERP’s ability to drive data integration and connect different kinds of data sets gives retailers the insight to interpret consumer behaviour, buying patterns, and market developments – and that will help them to understand the potential of the new social selling model.

Secondly, its ability to connect multiple retail functions means that it is able to offers full support across the different channels to market involved in this new ecommerce world, presenting a comprehensive, personalised and seamless shopper experience to shoppers with complete data and transaction visibility throughout.

Today’s retail market is highly competitive. If they want to build edge over their rivals, retailers need to be agile and fast-moving to take advantages of new routes to market like social selling. It’s a powerful vision but ERP is increasingly the critical underlying architecture that turns that vision reality helping retailers to transform their operations and move one step ahead of their rivals.

By Hector Hickmott, Sales Director, Retail, HSO