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TikTok, Facebook, Snap, Pinterest and Twitch on reinventing shopping with social commerce

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When shoppers were pushed online by the global health crisis, the shops themselves had to follow. Social media apps then accelerated e-commerce products and shoppable ads to entice SMEs and direct response marketers. The Drum talks to TikTok, Facebook, Snap, Pinterest and Twitch about their unique attempts to rebuild our retailers and grow a new segment of ad spend.

Almost a quarter (23%) of UK shoppers now use social media to discover and buy new products. And increasingly, they are happy buying products from trusted influencers and brands on their favourite social channels.

Meanwhile, another trend emerges. Marketers and retailers want immediate incomes from their budgets. Twitter wants to generate half of its ad revenue from direct response ads, and it’s not alone. And as social brings shops to users rather than users to shops, we’re seeing a shift in how retailers – big and small – are deploying their marketing budgets.

Find out how social media giants are capitalizing on these trends.

TikTok

Last week, burgeoning social darling TikTok extended its commerce deal with Shopify from the US to Europe. It allowed more than 1 million Shopify merchants to access 100 million more TikTok users.

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Retailers selling through the Shopify storefront can now connect to their TikTok For Business account to deploy in-feed shoppable video ads to targeted users by age, gender, behavior and content category. Campaigns can be optimized and tracked with an on-site pixel.

TikTok says the big winners from its European commerce launch are Omolola Jewellery, War Paint for Men, Phox Water and Lounge (three fashion-adjacent DTCs and a lifestyle retailer), with Phox claiming its sales have been boosted 42% since joining the beta program. (We can but imagine what would have happened if Ocean Spray was buyable on TikTok when the skateboarding meme inadvertently blew up.)

But with TikTok’s aggressively Darwinian feed coaxing out great, weird internet trends and creative, do retailers now have to compete with the best content to make the sale? Lisa Friedrich, head of SMB at TikTok Europe, says brands don’t need perfect content – they just need to be “authentic”. Founders stories perform particularly well and are “changing the dynamic of e-commerce”.

Kantar research says 83% of TikTok’s audience have made purchases inspired by its trending content, while Friedrich says people are using the platform to discover new products and that the hashtag #smallbusiness has been used 3bn times to date.

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“We feel like that is a really powerful testament to our community and an opportunity to match them with the businesses on Shopify,“ she says.

“Be authentic and show the blood, sweat and tears that goes into building a business,“ is Friedrich’s advice for success.

Facebook/Instagram

Facebook reckons that 85% of people now shop online, and with 2.74 billion monthly active users, it has created many avenues to capture this spend. For now though, consolidation and refinement is key.

See also  Gen Z And Millennial Pinterest Users Reveal What Inspires Their Post-Pandemic Shopping

Jordanna Whayman, its EMEA product marketing manager for commerce, takes us through the history of social commerce on Facebook, starting with Facebook Marketplace in 2016, which allowed users to wheel and deal in an eBay-like manner. Even earlier there was a ’Buy’ button.

Then last May, commerce on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp tied together with the launch of Facebook Shops, which was ’accelerated’ by the pandemic.

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Now, businesses can create their shop, customize colors and fonts, and cherry-pick their catalogue, before putting some spend behind shoppable ads. Whayman says it is a “seamless experience from discovery to purchase”. Users can bookmark their favorite shops, opt into notifications and be part of loyalty schemes.

Facebook is spinning a lot of plates. A list of its products and features would be bottomless, but it says users are in the shopping mindset. 74% of consumers said they get shopping ideas from Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or WhatsApp according to its research. ”It is the platform where people already spend time today, and already discover new products that they are most likely to love,” Whayman adds.

”How people discover products has changed. Rather than going to a physical store, people and brands are sharing and discovering products all day, every day on social platforms.”

She says that Shops is “well-positioned to champion businesses of all sizes” now brands no longer have to go “all-in” to get the most out of the service.

Shopify pops up here too among the partners underpinning Shops, alongside BigCommerce and WooCommerce. It will be a big winner from the social commerce trend.

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Looking ahead, Whayman predicts a few battlegrounds. Search will be surpassed by discovery. Shoppable video tags, live video, conversational commerce in Messenger and augmented reality all have their place too.

Snap

We’ve looked at the new kid on the block and the evolving market incumbent, now it’s time for the dark horses. First up is Snap, which last month surpassed 265 million daily active users, including 100 million users in its TikTok competitor Spotlight.

David Shaw, its group product marketing lead, says social commerce “is a bit of a buzzword”, but that Snap is building a broad suite of products for marketers, one of which (Dynamic Product Ads) is shoppable and designed to capitalize on this boom.

Shaw says: “The path to the retail market has shifted. You can reach really well-defined audiences within specific subsets of verticals, interests and categories more today than ever before.”

It is running Shopify-integrated product ads that appear near relevant content. TikTok has a similar approach, but Snap’s USP is in augmented reality, which lends itself to try-before-you-buy while the high street doesn’t. Snap has become a virtual showroom for eye make-up, nail polish and shoes (Gucci, Hoka One One), among other things.

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It is running the Shopify Pixel to track campaigns and says it is the first of its peers to properly measure AR campaigns. Shaw says AR was “very much seen as a flashy innovation, but from the beginning we really wanted to tie brand impressions to the effect on the bottom line“.

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Agencies are taking notice of the shift, some pivoting to e-commerce consultancies (like Havas Media Group) to help clients shift from bricks and mortar into digital spaces. That’ll encompass getting catalogues on to Shopify, and having them optimized for the several platforms they’ll be plugged into while managing brand storytelling efforts too.

Shaw acknowledges that product discovery remains the biggest barrier. Snap has allowed some to set up shops directly on the platform (you’ll see more of that), and then there are minis – little apps coded to live within Snap’s chat (we’re seeing echoes of Facebook’s ambitions with Messenger here).

Concluding, Shaw admits: “The line between direct response advertising and brand advertising is getting thinner. We’ve been on a four-year project to build a really sophisticated advertising platform that is anchored around measurement. Every penny spent on the platform is contributing towards the bottom line in some way, shape or form.”

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Pinterest

Discoverability and purchase intent keeps cropping up in these discussions, and Pinterest is no different. It is different, however, in that it is a “visual inspiration platform”, according to its head of growth and shopping product Dan Lurie, and not social media.

Pinterest users pin ideas and inspiration to boards, of course, and a lot of the time these are products that can, increasingly, be bought on-platform. Its global monthly active users have increased 37% year-over-year to 459 million, with 100m of those joining last year.

Lurie says: “We’re in a good position to help people discover things to buy and how to style them, and to provide them with a path to purchase. With this type of e-commerce, we’re still at the very early stages of what it can offer and the impact it will have on the retail industry.”

Pinterest’s shopping offering feels like less of an interruption to the experience than across other platforms, which comes down to mindset. “People are planning, they’re not looking for social interaction. They’re ready and willing to shop and discover new brands, and it’s that intent that makes Pinterest a different kind of platform.”

You can’t exactly argue that that’s the priority of a Facebook or TikTok user. For Lurie, relevant ads on Pinterest actually add value. Distinguishing itself from rivals, he says: “We’re building a place to shop online, not just a place to buy”.

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It wants to become the virtual shopping aisle, not just interrupt users with product ads. Its research says 84% of weekly users are considering products and services to buy. 97% of the top searches on Pinterest are unbranded – so just imagine being the first brand on to sponsored searches in your category, Lurie says. In the UK, it worked with retailer John Lewis at Christmas to sell baubles and festive table settings, with 10 shoppable Carousel ads and the UK’s first Trend Badge – an ad solution that integrates advertisers with the most-searched trends.

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Building on that, on 3 March it ran its first-ever global advertising summit, Pinterest Presents, to showcase use cases and new features. Lurie concludes: “Our ultimate vision for shopping is that you’ll be able to buy anything you see on Pinterest, or get personalized recommendations for something just like it [with virtual search]. Every Pin can be a starting point for shopping and it should be seamless from Pin to purchase.”

Twitch

And finally, Twitch, the leader in live social video, acquired by Amazon for $1bn in 2014.

The winners in social commerce will have some dominance in content, influencing, commerce, catalogue and advertising. It sure sounds as if Amazon has in Twitch a horse in this race.

Sarah Iooss, head of sales for the Americas at Twitch, says that right now, ”Twitch is more suitable for brand building opportunities over direct response marketing”. A sponsored live stream recently let gamers design a Lexus IS car – it is a typical Twitch execution. Iooss says: ”The best executions lean into the participatory and community-driven nature of the service.”

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Bespoke, interactive and live is Twitch’s approach. As a creator platform, it also has to create tools for its users to generate revenue lest they build communities elsewhere. Products are strictly digital: monthly channel subs, gift subs, bits and gift cards. The subs are a benefit tier that can include custom emotes, subscriber badges, exclusive chats and ad-free viewing.

Real money is being exchanged to support creators in exchange for virtual benefits. There is evidence of Amazon/Twitch integration already. Prime Gaming has some visible benefits for Twitch users (free games and subs). And merch sale pilots have run through the Amazon Pay checkout. Iooss says: ”Looking ahead, we’re excited to work with Amazon to offer custom activations for brands.”

Right now, the closest thing Twitch has to social commerce is around live shopping moments such as Twitch Sells Out – two QVC-style 12-hour streams during Amazon Prime Day. Popular Twitch streamers spotlight games and deals, which could be bought on-stream.

Social media giants run algorithms to predict what content we would like to watch, but could they predict what we want to buy based on these behaviours? Or does the solution to discovery and browsing lie outside of advertising? Shoppertainment has prospered in Asia, and maybe it could here too. If social media is to evolve into the digital mall, you have to wonder what role bricks and mortar will play going forward.

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Social Media Marketing Trends To Watch In 2022

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social-media-marketing-trends-to-watch-in-2022-–-alist-daily

Marketers aren’t clairvoyant but they can keep a finger on the pulse of trends. To help brands stay ahead of the competition, HubSpot Blog surveyed more than 1,000 global marketers from B2B and B2C brands and a handful of industry experts to create a 2022 marketing trends guide, covering privacy and AI to social media and SEO. Ahead we break down HubSpot’s findings on social media marketing trends.

As HubSpot notes, 79 percent of Americans have some type of social media account while there are 3.7 billion social media users worldwide, making it a regular part of people’s lives and a critical tool in enhancing any marketing strategy.

Live Content Will Be A Leading Social Media Format

Among the social media marketers HubSpot polled, 68 percent reported that audio chat rooms such as Clubhouse are the most effective social media content while 59 percent report the same for live video.

Ninety-six percent of those investing in live audio content intend on spending the same amount or more on it through 2022. Live video, on the other hand, is reported by 9 percent of respondents as driving the largest return on investment (ROI) of all social media formats. These formats enable brands to connect directly with audiences in a meet-them-where-they-are context while discussions range from current issues and events to the brand’s stance on those issues to the products and services themselves. 

The authenticity and dynamic nature of this format can’t be matched as heart-to-heart conversations may be interspersed with expert opinions, Q&A-style discussions, how-tos and entertainment.

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TikTok Will Continue To Gain Brand Interest

TikTok began to go viral roughly three years ago, sparking a new medium through which brands can connect with audiences without sounding sales-y. The social media app now boasts 1 billion global users and caters to a vast array of audiences. Having recently launched a number of advertising and marketing features for businesses and creators, TikTok has positioned itself front-and-center in the race to secure the highest quality content, the highest number of users and creators and brands that will continue engaging with it for marketing purposes.

See also  Gen Z And Millennial Pinterest Users Reveal What Inspires Their Post-Pandemic Shopping

Sixty-seven percent of marketers intend on increasing their TikTok investment in 2022 and 10 percent of marketers who employ some sort of social media into their overall marketing strategy intend on investing the most in TikTok throughout 2022.

Most Marketers Will Concentrate On Three To Five Social Media Platforms

Of those social media marketers polled, 64 percent use three to five platforms, 11 percent use one or two, and 7 percent use seven or more. Managing three to five platforms allows brands to expand their reach to a variety of audiences while allowing for their marketers to engage with each one without exhausting their bandwidth or producing low-quality content.

In order for a brand to determine how many platforms to be on, i.e., how able a social media marketing team will be at building an effective and engaging strategy, HubSpot suggests answering the following:

  • How many social media marketers are on your team?
  • Which social media platforms have audiences that best align with your brand’s targets?
  • How much time will it take to master a strategy on each of the platforms?
  • Which platforms, if any, will not benefit the overall marketing strategy right now?
  • Which platform’s content, if any, can be easily repurposed? (such as TikTok and YouTube Shorts)

Influencer Marketing Will Evolve From Trend To Common Marketing Tactic

When HubSpot asked global marketing professionals which trends they planned to invest in for 2022, 34 percent said influencer marketing, ranking it first and above other trends like mobile web design and short-form video marketing.

While 57 percent of respondents that currently leverage influencer marketing say influencer marketing is effective, 46 percent of them plan to increase their investments in 2022. Additionally, 11 percent say influencer marketing is the top ROI-generating trend they’ve tested.

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More than 56 percent of marketers who invest in influencer marketing work with micro-influencers, according to HubSpot.

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Video Marketers Will Keep Content Short

HubSpot found that short-form content is the second most effective trend marketers are currently utilizing. Short-form content requires less bandwidth and aligns well with the fast-paced attention spans of online audiences in a variety of demographics

More than 31 percent of global marketers currently invest in short-form video content, 46 percent of them consider the strategy effective when it comes to performance and engagement. In addition, next year 89 percent of global marketers plan to continue investing in it or increase their investment.

Permanent Social Media Posts Could Overtake Ephemeral Content

Brands have observed that permanent social media content—namely standard posts, videos and live events that live on a platform’s feed and can be viewed again days later—might be more effective than ephemeral content such as Instagram Stories and Snapchat.

HubSpot’s survey results show that 44 percent of global marketers plan to increase their investment in permanent social media content, while 8 percent say it generates the most ROI compared to other marketing strategies they leverage. Meanwhile, 25 percent of respondents cited ephemeral content as the “least effective” trend they invested in.

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Lastly, 37 percent of marketers said they plan to decrease their investment in ephemeral content.

However, HubSpot cautions against writing off ephemeral content completely as it can still provide other brand awareness benefits and unique content experiences.

According to Kelly Hendrickson, a social media marketing manager at HubSpot, Instagram Stories’ fleeting design and fun editing options give brands a new strategy for producing content that varies from their other social media content.

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“Instagram can organically serve up a wall post across a wide span of time, so there’s less of an opportunity for brands to be timely (who wants to see New Year’s post when they’ve already given up on their resolutions?!). Since Instagram users are more active on weekdays, during the standard workday, it seems users are looking for a break,” Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson urges marketers to remember that the combination of a running clock and a lively audience presents a big opportunity for brands to lean into quick, in-the-moment content that showcases the light-hearted side of their brand, adding that succinctness and clarity are key in content.

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Getting the Most Out of Shopify

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Getting the Most Out of Shopify

The growth of your online business in Shopify significantly depends on how well you use the e-commerce platform. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There’s a lot of competition in the e-commerce industry itself, and it requires patience, intentionality and transformational skills to move to the top right in the categories where you compete. Many marketers who use Shopify for eCommerce encounter strategic and tactical issues using the platform. At TopRight, we’ve studied the most common issues facing marketing executives and we provide tips and techniques to help you get the most out of Shopify. Here are a few of the most common marketing challenges you could encounter while using Shopify:

  • Mediocre sales conversion
  • Insufficient traffic to your site
  • Difficulty interpreting Shopify analytics
  • Unrealistic predictions of sales and traffic
  • Misalignment of inventory management
  • Failure to target and identify customers

Importance of a Clear Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy acts as a playbook for your business and how you make investments in you Shopify store. It helps keep your business pointed in the right direction and allows you to make informed decisions. Without a strategic marketing playbook, it’s easy to get lost and encounter obstructions. A stragegic playbook can help guide you to responding to challenges and navigating barriers you may encounter with your Shopify store. Specifically, it can help you:

  • Estimate sales potential
  • Promote your goods and services better
  • Attract new customers
  • Maintain good connection with existing customers

Tips on How to Get the Most Out of Shopify

Of course, understanding the analytics on your store isn’t sufficient to assure success. You need to turn data into insight and devise strategies to drive traffic and conversions. Here are a few tips to guide you through the development of a winning marketing strategy to get the most out of Shopify.

1. Invest in Your Own Shopify App

Most successful Shopify merchants have optimized their app to tell their brand story. A Shopify app is a powerful way to give customers a reason to care about your store and the products you offer. Your brand story also helps you build connections and engage with other prospects on other ecommerce platforms and social media sites. Making this simple investment enables you to connect, reach and engage more potential customers.

If building your own app is an obstacle, you can use tools like Pocketfied – an easy app builder that lets you conveniently manage your store. You can have your own published app within a day, even if you don’t have any design and coding skills.

2. Use Shopify Resources

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Shopify offers resources to help you become a more effective marketer and entrepreneur. It provides guides, podcasts, and even an eCommerce University to learn new skills. Use these resources to learn more about the Shopify platform and get ideas on how to work on the platform more effectively and efficiently.

3. Promote Your Store on Social Media

Social media networks like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter represent significant opportunities for you to boost brand awareness and drive traffic to your store. However, social media marketing is highly saturated – it take a lot to stand out from the crowd. Many Shopify merchants use social media to showcase their goods and services. You need to develop a good and structured approach to get an edge and drive results.

See also  Volkswagen takes their EV to Pinterest for virtual test drives
  • Make a business page or account on all relevant social platforms.
  • Follow accounts and market to users within your target audience.
  • Integrate your shop in your accounts so shoppers can easily buy without leaving the social platform
  • Post meaningful content regularly including: videos that showcase your products; special pricing promotions; new product launches; and private/ exclusive store events

4. Leverage Email Marketing

Email remains one of the best ways to connect and engage with customers. When properly used (not abused), emails can serve as the backbone of your customer conversion strategy customer conversion strategy. Here are a few tips on how to use it appropriately:

  • Be creative with your emails so you can easily attract interest and give people a reason to care
  • Send out cart abandonment details to remind customers about incomplete or unfinished transactions.
  • Be professional and respectful – don’t send too many promotional emails. Thoughtless interruptions drive customers away.

5. Create a Website and Start Blogging

Write compelling content that will attract and encourage readers to go to your store and check out your products. Don’t just focus on your products and services. Make content about related topics and issues where you can smartly and smoothly promote your products. Think about topics that would be of interest and value to your audience. Content can be a gift if it is positioned properly with your customers.

Advertisement
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Research what your customers care about, what they want or what unmet needs they may have. Again, don’t overload your blog with sales messages and stories about your business. Instead, focus on the relevance of your products to your customers’ lifestyles. What can you do to make them the hero of your brand story?

6. Invest in Paid Advertisements and Affiliations

Depending on your budget, be sure to set aside some money for paid advertisements. Online advertisements, clickable or not, will drive traffic to your store and boost your store’s visibility. These are usually posted on online platforms like social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Additionally, you can use Google Ads to get your store to appear on the top page of search results.

You can also develop affiliations with other Shopify stores and businesses so they’ll help promote your store and products. For a small percentage of a transaction, an affiliate marketer with help will drive traffic and potential customers to your store. However, remember that you’ll be sharing your revenues or paying them for their cooperation!

The Takeaway

Story, Strategy and Systems alignment can be a heavy lift when you launch a Shopify store. There are many pitfalls and issues you may encounter. But if you focus on telling a simple story, formulating a clear strategy, and leveraging Shopify best practices, you can navigate these challenges and successfully give your customers a reason to care, listen, engage and buy from your store.

Advertisement
free widgets for website

The growth of your online business in Shopify significantly depends on how well you use the e-commerce platform. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There’s a lot of competition in the e-commerce industry itself, and it requires patience, intentionality and transformational skills to move to the top right in the categories where you compete. Many marketers who use Shopify for eCommerce encounter strategic and tactical issues using the platform. At TopRight, we’ve studied the most common issues facing marketing executives and we provide tips and techniques to help you get the most out of Shopify. Here are a few of the most common marketing challenges you could encounter while using Shopify:

See also  PayPal Clarifies Via A Post On The Company Website That It Has No Intentions Of Acquiring ...
  • Mediocre sales conversion
  • Insufficient traffic to your site
  • Difficulty interpreting Shopify analytics
  • Unrealistic predictions of sales and traffic
  • Misalignment of inventory management
  • Failure to target and identify customers

Importance of a Clear Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy acts as a playbook for your business and how you make investments in you Shopify store. It helps keep your business pointed in the right direction and allows you to make informed decisions. Without a strategic marketing playbook, it’s easy to get lost and encounter obstructions. A stragegic playbook can help guide you to responding to challenges and navigating barriers you may encounter with your Shopify store. Specifically, it can help you:

  • Estimate sales potential
  • Promote your goods and services better
  • Attract new customers
  • Maintain good connection with existing customers

Tips on How to Get the Most Out of Shopify

Of course, understanding the analytics on your store isn’t sufficient to assure success. You need to turn data into insight and devise strategies to drive traffic and conversions. Here are a few tips to guide you through the development of a winning marketing strategy to get the most out of Shopify.

1. Invest in Your Own Shopify App

Most successful Shopify merchants have optimized their app to tell their brand story. A Shopify app is a powerful way to give customers a reason to care about your store and the products you offer. Your brand story also helps you build connections and engage with other prospects on other ecommerce platforms and social media sites. Making this simple investment enables you to connect, reach and engage more potential customers.

If building your own app is an obstacle, you can use tools like Pocketfied – an easy app builder that lets you conveniently manage your store. You can have your own published app within a day, even if you don’t have any design and coding skills.

2. Use Shopify Resources

Advertisement
free widgets for website

Shopify offers resources to help you become a more effective marketer and entrepreneur. It provides guides, podcasts, and even an eCommerce University to learn new skills. Use these resources to learn more about the Shopify platform and get ideas on how to work on the platform more effectively and efficiently.

3. Promote Your Store on Social Media

Social media networks like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter represent significant opportunities for you to boost brand awareness and drive traffic to your store. However, social media marketing is highly saturated – it take a lot to stand out from the crowd. Many Shopify merchants use social media to showcase their goods and services. You need to develop a good and structured approach to get an edge and drive results.

See also  Business Intel: Bridal boutique opens in Roanoke
  • Make a business page or account on all relevant social platforms.
  • Follow accounts and market to users within your target audience.
  • Integrate your shop in your accounts so shoppers can easily buy without leaving the social platform
  • Post meaningful content regularly including: videos that showcase your products; special pricing promotions; new product launches; and private/ exclusive store events

4. Leverage Email Marketing

Email remains one of the best ways to connect and engage with customers. When properly used (not abused), emails can serve as the backbone of your customer conversion strategy customer conversion strategy. Here are a few tips on how to use it appropriately:

  • Be creative with your emails so you can easily attract interest and give people a reason to care
  • Send out cart abandonment details to remind customers about incomplete or unfinished transactions.
  • Be professional and respectful – don’t send too many promotional emails. Thoughtless interruptions drive customers away.

5. Create a Website and Start Blogging

Write compelling content that will attract and encourage readers to go to your store and check out your products. Don’t just focus on your products and services. Make content about related topics and issues where you can smartly and smoothly promote your products. Think about topics that would be of interest and value to your audience. Content can be a gift if it is positioned properly with your customers.

Advertisement
free widgets for website

Research what your customers care about, what they want or what unmet needs they may have. Again, don’t overload your blog with sales messages and stories about your business. Instead, focus on the relevance of your products to your customers’ lifestyles. What can you do to make them the hero of your brand story?

6. Invest in Paid Advertisements and Affiliations

Depending on your budget, be sure to set aside some money for paid advertisements. Online advertisements, clickable or not, will drive traffic to your store and boost your store’s visibility. These are usually posted on online platforms like social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Additionally, you can use Google Ads to get your store to appear on the top page of search results.

You can also develop affiliations with other Shopify stores and businesses so they’ll help promote your store and products. For a small percentage of a transaction, an affiliate marketer with help will drive traffic and potential customers to your store. However, remember that you’ll be sharing your revenues or paying them for their cooperation!

The Takeaway

Story, Strategy and Systems alignment can be a heavy lift when you launch a Shopify store. There are many pitfalls and issues you may encounter. But if you focus on telling a simple story, formulating a clear strategy, and leveraging Shopify best practices, you can navigate these challenges and successfully give your customers a reason to care, listen, engage and buy from your store.

Advertisement
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Continue Reading

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Ifeoma Ozoma: US tech whistleblower helping others speak out

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ifeoma-ozoma:-us-tech-whistleblower-helping-others-speak-out-–-yahoo-news

Being a whistleblower comes down to careful preparation but also an eye trained for dirty tricks, said Ifeoma Ozoma, an ex-employee of several Silicon Valley giants turned revealer of tech world wrongdoing.

“I planned it like a program or product launch. Obviously the experience is something very personal, but I approached it like work,” she told AFP.

While Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen has become a figurehead for the fight against social media’s faults, there are others in the tech world, like Ozoma, who have also taken big risks to stand up.

An African-American, former policymaker relations specialist for Google, Pinterest and Facebook, she continues to work for ethics in tech, but from the outside, via her consulting firm Earthseed.

She has marked a first big success via the recent adoption in California of a law she co-sponsored, called “Silenced No More.”

Starting in January, this law will prohibit employers from using confidentiality clauses to prevent victims of harassment or discrimination in the workplace from speaking out.

In mid-October, she posted online a guide for whistleblowers.

“The difference with tech companies and other industries is on the power that they wield, but also they pretend they’re better for workers, consumers, society than more traditional industries,” she told AFP. “That’s just not borne out in reality.”

– Keep the emails –

A Yale University graduate in political science, the 29-year-old was born in Alaska to Nigerian immigrants.

She left Pinterest at the end of May 2020, with six months of salary, after months of making complaints internally and also to the state of California, accusing the social network of discrimination and racist retaliation.

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She said the company paid her less than if she had been a man, but she also complained about their lack of action after a colleague posted her personal details online to expose her to anonymous harassment.

In mid-June 2020, as the Black Lives Matter anti-racism movements were in full swing in the United States, her damning account on Twitter of her experience sparked a scandal for the company that had largely avoided controversy.

“Pinterest, told a number of reporters that the CEO had no knowledge of me being doxxed… and I was essentially making up a story about him being aware,” Ozoma said.

“I knew that it was something that would probably come up later. And so I had the emails,” she added.

The accused firms try to discredit whistleblowers by many means, said Libby Liu, the director of Whistleblower Aid which is working with Haugen.

“They will throw up against the wall every discrediting thing they can think of, through like every media organization on the face of the Earth,” she added.

– Losing their health insurance –

The whistleblowers that come forward often have a lot to lose.

“Just one example here in the United States — because our health care is tied to our employment — when you decide to whistle blow, you’re also making a decision for yourself and for your family to lose access to your health insurance,” Ozoma said.

“That is not a small thing to ask of people,” she added.

Whistleblower leaks and damning media reports have tarnished Big Tech’s image, but they have had limited tangible consequences for Silicon Valley.

See also  Gen Z And Millennial Pinterest Users Reveal What Inspires Their Post-Pandemic Shopping

In fact, Haugen’s oft-repeated accusation that Facebook puts profits over safety is not entirely new.

“There are countless nonprofit organizations and reporters, who reported on the exact same thing for years,” said Ozoma. “It remains to be seen whether anything fruitful will come of it.”

But from anti-sexism protests at Google in 2018 to warnings from former top Facebook officials, the pressure for change is steady.

After Ozoma spoke out at Pinterest, other female workers did too.

The company paid $22 million in December 2020 to Francoise Brougher, its white, former COO to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit.

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