Can Retailers Put Themselves In the Shopping Conversation?

Discussion
Aug 15, 2013

Shopping is a social activity, and promoting those interactions — rather than selling — is key to the success of retail, according to Alex Miller, Senior Vice President of Digital Commerce at QVC’s shopping network.

In a session yesterday at eTail East in Philadelphia, Mr. Miller said consumers are constantly "shopping each other" and finding a way into those conversations is key to retail success. He pointed out how people see others wearing a shirt or shoes they like and ask where the product was purchased. These interactions lead directly to sales via stores, digital storefronts and television shopping networks. "Shopping is a way to connect," he said.

Mr. Miller pointed to the unique relationship that QVC customers enjoy with the company’s program hosts and products, including the many conversations that take place on-air. "Social," he said, "has been in our DNA since the beginning." The challenge for Mr. Miller and his team is bringing the emotion expressed on air to QVC’s digital channels.

One of the initiatives currently underway at QVC is toGather, a social commerce channel that borrows heavily from Pinterest. The site, which Mr. Miller said would be out of beta "Septemberish," is a place where "like-minded customers come together to shop each other." Users create their own collection of products on the site and then peers can "heart" them. In addition to items, users can also post personal photos.

Do you agree with the premise that consumers are constantly “shopping one another” and that shopping is an inherently social experience? If yes, is there a way for retailers to place themselves in those conversations via social commerce channels?

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "Can Retailers Put Themselves In the Shopping Conversation?"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Either I need a new wardrobe, or I disagree that consumers are constantly shopping each other. Sure people do that with friends, but “constantly” is probably limited to certain market segments like “fashionistas.” For most people, it’s more occasional or incidental and it clearly varies among demographics and product categories..

Retailers and brands can benefit from being part of product or even shopping “conversations,” but it’s always best to add value in an indirect way, such as through product/emotional/lifestyle support or information nuggets, community building, etc. Being too trigger happy is definitely the way to get into trouble when talking with potential/existing consumers.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Shopping for SOME stuff may be social—shopping for MOST stuff is not. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me where I bought my ultra-soft toilet paper or which brand of liquid soap I’m using. Fashion is probably unique in this area, as music may well be too.

Frank Riso
BrainTrust

I do. We want to be noticed so we always have a new “outfit” for a social event. This sounds like it could be the next Facebook, but for shoppers to show off what they have purchased, what money they spent or saved, and where to buy it. This means that customers are more a part of our marketing team then we realize today!

Kate Blake
Guest
Kate Blake
3 years 10 months ago

Yes. The marketplace is the social gathering place in any community. The Ancient Greeks recognized the importance of commerce and communication and civic duty.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
3 years 10 months ago

Generally speaking, I think shopping is a much more social experience for female shoppers and younger shoppers, and this applies more to fashion/apparel than anywhere else.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

Maybe shopping is a social experience for some. Not a chance that it includes me. Shopping for me is get in, get it, and get out. That can’t be said for my wife or daughter-in-law’s experience. Shopping for them is an event to be enjoyed. I guess that makes it enjoyable for me too. Because when they are out shopping, I can play golf or do as I please without a needed explanation.

Joel Rubinson
BrainTrust

I have been doing a lot of path to purchase research over the past year or so. I have yet to find a situation where shopping involves much social interaction except maybe people tweeting a really good deal or coupon. This is a myth that Facebook would like us to believe, but they haven’t cracked the code on this.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

And the answer is…it all depends! For fashion, females, and Millennials, it is a definite yes. As we age though, shopping becomes more about styles and fits we like and know work for us—less about the social aspects. But there’s a whole lot of other shopping going on that is not nearly as social. Grocery, home improvement…you get the picture.

Can retailers get in the conversation? Absolutely yes! Should they? Another YES! Retailers need to be where their customers are and be a part of the conversation. Not selling, mind you, but sharing and communicating.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
3 years 10 months ago

Certainly for some product categories, and some retail brands, and some consumer groups, shopping is inherently a social experience. Apparel, jewelry, cars, homes, and home furnishings jump to mind. Party supplies hasn’t proven to be one, commodities generally don’t lend themselves, and we could all make lists on one side or the other. So it’s a viable thought in some circumstances.

What strikes me is the unique social relationship between the hosts and customers on-air. Just wondering in print…is this truly “social” or is it aspirational? Sharing a discovery or purchase with a friend is social. Calling an on-air personality or host…is that the same thing?

I’ve not seen a retailer effectively “place” themselves into the conversation with any degree of widespread success. I’ve seen success at starting conversation (not much, but definitely some examples) and at responding within a conversation (mostly customer service). The best example I know of is the moms blog program WMT did. While not perfectly “social,” it represented brand alignment with personalities and avatars who could be legitimate within a social interaction. This might be the direction to pursue rather than trying to insert a monolithic “brand” into a personal level conversation inside the social sphere.

Larry Negrich
BrainTrust

Yes shopping is social. No need to call in the anthropologists, go to any mall and you will discover large numbers of people milling about, some buying, some talking, some just participating in this social function of shopping.

Let’s not get into the semantics of whether a person is “constantly” shopping others. There is some rate at which a person observes other people, constantly is probably a bit strong to describe the process. Regardless of how well or poorly you put together your ensembles, you have made choices based on many factors and certainly one of those factors has been observing the clothing choices of others.

Can retailers get in the conversation via social channels? Good ones can. They are already engaging shoppers across many social channels as well as with mobile. Social no longer requires a shopper to return home and pull up Facebook. Social is now integrated into a shopper’s life and available at all times via the shopper’s smartphone, which is available at all times in the shopper’s hand.

Verlin Youd
BrainTrust

Yes, with types of merchandise being shopped influenced by various socioeconomic factors, including gender, home location, nationality, etc. For example, as a father of two daughters, I see constant “shopping one another” occurring between the daughters themselves, as well as among their circles of relationships including friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

It would seem to me that Pinterest is in large measure a “shop one another” environment, where what is being shopped goes well beyond merchandise and includes ideas and trends.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I think this tends to be “generational” to a degree, if we’re talking about a significant portion of our shopping being socially connected. The popular “Haul” videos on YouTube exemplify some extreme “mentors” for shopping socially.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
3 years 10 months ago

Of course shopping is social! The fact that many people (including commenters here) do not see it that way for themselves does not make it less true. The shoppers who drive the decisions product manufacturers make are highly social and very influential to their peers and the millions who take cues from them. The engagement with ardent shoppers is the key to success and they want to be in the conversation constantly. Retailers and brands must find the way to engage them constantly and authentically.

Yes, many people will buy what they buy with no thought to “shopping each other.” But the choices of what is on the shelf is driven by the social shopper and their impact on retailers’ and brands’ decisions.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

You think there’s maybe a “not one size fits all” in here? If a retailer can have a conversation with a shopper that is relevant, then it has to conform to that shopper’s preferences. The concept of one-to-one has pretty much indicated that for a while, execution remains the challenge. Vive la difference!

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you agree or disagree with the assertion that shopping is an inherently social experience?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...