where a customer chooses to complete their purchase that matters. It’s how they get there.
No one will debate that social media is an important part of modern marketing. What might surprise some is just how vital it is in offline sales.
Often, a purchase completed on a website, store site, or in a retail store is the culmination of a journey that started, long ago, with social media. Customer reviews and opinions, Facebook comments, YouTube videos, Pinterest boards – these are all sources of information for today’s consumer.
Social Media: Your Consumer Journey Starts Here
Imagine how a typical buying process might work. A woman runs across a comment from one of her social media contacts regarding a product the contact has. She’s curious. She checks out the product’s Facebook page and sees that they have an active community of fans. She visits the product website. She looks for information about it on independent review sites and on Amazon. Finally, she buys the product from the nearest big box store.
Modern customers don’t want to be sold to. They want to research their decisions themselves, and they want to rely on other consumers for unbiased information. That’s why online reviews and social media mentions are so powerful.
Why Businesses Can’t Afford to Ignore Social Media
If you thought you could safely ignore social media, well, the numbers tell a different story. Nearly 2.5 billion people are projected to be on some kinds of social site by 2018. In only eight years, social media is set to grow by a whopping 152% – or by 1.47 billion new accounts.
What’s driving this explosive growth? A large part is the rise of reliable Internet access, followed by the almost wholesale adoption of smartphones and mobile data.
Clearly, the time is now to get socially engaged.
The On- and Offline Perks of Social Media
One of the most valuable things that a business can have is an engaged and vocal social media following. Companies are realizing this and setting up virtual meeting places where customers can get together and chat about the brand. Not only does a strong social community give you, in essence, free marketing, it also gives you insight. You can get plenty of data to mine in terms of consumer sentiment, needs, and reactions.
In a few short years, we’ve seen a major shift in marketing. While mass media channels like television will continue to be a great way to raise general awareness of a product, they won’t be what close the deal. That will actually happen well before the purchase takes place. And it will happen in cyberspace, on your company’s social media platforms.