In the run up to the retail 'golden quarter', research from Rakuten's Play.com has again highlighted the growing role that social media and sharing sites are playing in the holiday shopping period, reinforcing the importance of a true multi-channel retail strategy.
Shoppers in the UK will spend a staggering 4.6 billion in the two weeks between 3rd and 17th December 2013, according to figures from IMRG and Capgemini, so there is a lot at stake for retailers, both online and offline.
The study noted a distinct increase in the trend for 'discovery shopping', whereby shoppers are driven to purchase through social sharing sites such as Pinterest of Fancy, based on recommendations from crowd communities. For example, Play.com saw traffic coming from Pinterest increase 200% in a year.
Furthermore, web searches through mobile devices have also increased and now account for around one third of all visits to Play.com, highlighting the increasing power of this channel for product discovery. Consumer confidence in shopping through the mobile channel is on the rise, with almost one quarter (23%) of all retail sales through Play.com's 3,000 merchants taking place through a mobile device, up 53% in one year.
"Christmas is still a while away, but it's no longer a case of 'ready your website and shoppers will come'. Retailers now need to think much more carefully about the channels in which invest in and optimise; there's no one-size-fits-all model and the trends we've seen recently highlight the growing role of social discovery and multi-channel offerings in the retail mix."
Traditional social media channels are also expected to be invaluable both for product discovery and customer service during the holiday shopping season. In fact, social media drove around 2 million pounds worth of gross merchandise sales for Play.com in 2012, and the company's own research showed that shoppers who engage with the brand on Facebook go on to spend some 24% more than those who do not engage socially.