Holiday season is in high gear—for marketers anyway. With 59% of US and UK retailers having already kicked off their seasonal promotions, the shopping rush is about to be upon us. And it’s only October.
Social media, of course, plays a critical role in this annual bonanza. In fact, in 2014, total US sales that could be tracked to social media reached $3.30 billion, up from $2.62 billion in 2013. What’s more, recent research has shown that social holds more sway than retail websites in influencing buying decisions.
26% increase in social sales from 2013 to 2014
Source: Internet Retailer’s 2015 Social Media 500
So, to help you get in the holiday spirit—and make this your highest-grossing season yet—let’s look at some of the latest social tools available for better merchandising your products.
1. Facebook 360 Ads for Immersive Experiences
Facebook’s interactive mobile ad format offers people—currently, only those with access to Facebook’s iOS app—a 360-degree experience that can be navigated with the touch of a finger. The ads, which still don’t have an official name, live within the Facebook app instead of launching an external page, making them faster to load while creating less disruption for the viewer.
When initially displayed, these new ads look like a standard News Feed placement. Once clicked, however, they launch a self-contained website that allows for full-screen videos, photo carousels and interactive elements (such as images that let people swipe around to see different angles of a product).
Although you won’t be able to sell products within this format, Facebook notes that the ads do support links to product pages that will open up a mobile site.
So far, Michael Kors, Gatorade, Mr. Porter and Carrefour Spain are among the first brands to explore this new feature.
It’s unknown when Facebook will begin serving the ads to the broader public. If the initial rollout is well received, expect these ads to be a key component of your 2016 advertising strategy.
2. YouTube 360 Ads for More Impactful Visuals
Video allows brands to connect with people in an unparalleled way—which is now even more enriching with YouTube’s 360-degree ads.
Available in Chrome as well as the YouTube app on Android and iOS, 360-degree video ads enable viewers to explore every angle of your brand’s video by dragging their mouse or moving their phone up, down, left or right.
Since this feature launched, brands such as Coca-Cola and Nike have produced stunning videos with impressive results. For instance, Coca-Cola’s 360 video celebrating the 100th anniversary of its iconic bottle design outperformed standard in-stream video ad view-through rates by 36%.
You can even go beyond unique product videos by creating an interactive experience for your viewers, as BudLight did as part of its Whatever, USA campaign, which dropped viewers right in the middle of the action.
3. Instagram Buttons for Converting Viewers Into Customers
Instagram is the perfect platform to unveil a product or ramp up excitement around an existing one. But turning viewers into customers can be challenging without clickable links.
This holiday season, Instagram ads will do more than just drive awareness. With a new action-oriented format, Instagram ads now give viewers the option to buy a product, install an app or sign up for a service.
Instagram’s recently launched multi-photo carousel ads also include a Learn More button, bringing the total to four clickable buttons. Previously, clickable links could only live inside your brand’s bio, posing a challenge for marketers looking to turn viewers into customers.
These buttons won’t take viewers away from Instagram completely. Instead, when clicked, they open a miniature browser within the app so that viewers can return to their feed once they’ve finished buying or downloading whatever it is that you’re offering.
4. Like2Buy for a Seamless Buyer Journey
Curalate’s Like2Buy platform turns Instagram likes into mobile sales by eliminating the need for viewers to open a separate browser for a product search. Instead, people just click the Like2Buy link featured in your Instagram bio, which leads to a page of your featured products. Here, shoppers can select any of the photos that appear on your Instagram feed.
Like2Buy streamlines the buyer journey by reducing the amount of clicks it takes to get from the Instagram feed to the product landing page.
Forever 21 used this platform and, within two weeks, saw some compelling results:
- 47.6k visits to its Like2Buy gallery
- More than 38k outbound clicks from Like2Buy to the Forever 21 website
- An 80% click-through rate from Like2Buy to the Forever 21 website
Forever 21 also noticed that mobile visitors referred from Instagram averaged 19% more page views and 24% more time-on-site than its average mobile user.
Since then, top brands such as Nordstrom, Gap, Target and Charlotte Russe have incorporated Like2Buy into their Instagram strategies.
5. Pinterest Buyable Pins for Driving Sales
Pinterest has long played a major role in influencing purchases. In fact, according to a 2015 study by Millward Brown:
- 96% have used Pinterest to research and gather information.
- 93% have used Pinterest to plan for purchases.
- 87% have purchased something because of Pinterest.
With these stats in mind, Pinterest introduced Buyable Pins, which look like any other Pin except that they display a blue price or Buy It button. This makes it especially easy for someone to discover your product and then complete a purchase, all in the same setting.
Only select US retailers and businesses using Shopify or Demandware have access to Buyable Pins at this time. Also, the Pins are visible to only the platform’s US-based iOS users, with Android and desktop to follow in a future release.
If your business uses Shopify, simply log in to your account, and add the Pinterest channel—you can enable Buyable Pins in a few clicks. If you use Demandware, contact your customer success manager to learn more. Don’t use either? Join the waitlist, and Pinterest will let you know as soon as Buyable Pins become available.
6. Hashtags for Market Research & Greater Engagement
Hashtags are nothing new—but don’t underestimate their impact. In a smart campaign last year, H&M used #DivideOpinion on Twitter and Facebook to gather intelligence about people’s style preferences while making a big splash in promoting its product line.
— H&M (@hm) July 3, 2014
Through this campaign, H&M showcased images of products that had been styled in two different ways: for example, a sheer lace top for a romantic setting and then for everyday street wear. Followers were then asked to reply, using #romantic or #street, depending on their preferences.
— H&M (@hm) July 4, 2014
This campaign offered a great way to gain a glimpse inside followers’ fashion preferences—in effect, conducting a larger-scale focus group—while showcasing the versatility of H&M’s products.
7. Facebook Carousel Ads for a Broader Showcase
Multi-product ads, or carousel ads, let you showcase up to five images and links within a single ad unit on Facebook. This is a flexible way to advertise your products or services without having to split up your creative.
The results have been impressive: Advertisers have seen carousel ads drive 30–50% lower cost per conversion and 20–30% lower cost per click than single-image ads.
The key to a good carousel ad is storytelling—say, for example, helping a potential customer see how the different elements of an outfit all fit together. Vince does this well by cycling through an entire ensemble, head to toe, with a unique URL for each image.
Carousel ads are available to advertisers globally in API, Power Editor and Ads Create Tool. For more information about this ad unit, as well as tips on how to create them, read our earlier article, “2 New Ways to Use Facebook Product Ads.”
Start Your Holiday Marketing Prep Now
While these are all valuable tools, you’ll want to focus on the social networks where your target audience is most active. If your customers are primarily using Pinterest, then it won’t be much help to spend your time creating ads for Instagram or Facebook. Furthermore, don’t limit your holiday marketing preparations to ads specifically. Your content and segmentation strategies should be top of mind as well, since both heavily influence customer engagement.
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.