How social media can help e-commerce

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One of the advantages of high speed Internet being available in the vast majority of the UK’s homes and workplaces is that we all have more choice in our purchasing decisions.

All major retailers have large websites and most are increasing their bottom line by selling online. The benefits are obvious – the cost of sale is next to nothing – there’s a smaller margin for distributors or premises owners, less waste, shorter lead times and specific, accurate market intelligence is to hand instantly.

It’s opened a world of choice to consumers and therefore opportunities for smaller B2C businesses, especially those selling tangible products.

But how do you encourage people to visit the e-commerce website in the first place?

The first job is to make sure that existing collateral contains the URL, which in most cases it already will. Then, there’s a PR opportunity there, for those selling online for the first time, especially if the products are unique, or there’s a captivating back-story.

But to generate an ever-increasing pool of customers and make sure that message sticks, the best outlet by a mile is social media.

Social media allows peer-to-peer interaction and direct, cheap communication between organisations and the people they are looking to sell to. People can email friends, family and colleagues from within websites, message each other on Facebook and Twitter, post replies to videos on YouTube and review things they like on social bookmarking sites like Digg and reddit.

With the correct strategy, brands of all sizes can encourage consumers to share information with each other, exciting and intriguing potential customers. In addition, a comprehensive approach to social media pays dividends in search engines.

Loyalty is very important for retailers of all sizes – and the web provides the opportunity  and the mechanism to build and retain it.