How Social Media Changed The Way We Shop

I couldn’t tell you the last time I went into a shop and bought an item I hadn’t already seen online. I always either check an item is in stock or have called the store to request they hold the item at the checkout under my name. I don’t leave these things down to chance.
I often say ‘I love to shop’, but this doesn’t mean what you might think.
I do not love getting a sweat on stomping up and down a busy high street.
I do not love trying to figure out River Island’s latest store layout.
I do not love standing, yanking hangers on hangers of misplaced dresses searching for my size.
I do not love holding items against myself and looking in an awkwardly placed store mirror.
I especially don’t love standing in an unflattering light, in a mirror I swear makes me look the worst I’ve ever looked and exposes every pore on my nose (H&M I’m looking at you.)
I hate handing cash over for an item while I think to myself “there’s probably something the same, or better a few stores down in Topshop… for cheaper.”

And so you’ve guessed it, I love to shop online.

Oh to not worry about bumping into a ‘friend’ who’s name I’ve forgotten, or worse, my own reflection in an unexpected full length mirror. To sit cosy in bed and compare prices and look for online discounts, to screenshot and ask my friends opinion in group chat, to fill baskets and not worry about mental arithmetic as I approach the till. And to pay with my fingerprint like it never happened.
Then perhaps best of all, to watch Dave from DPD on his journey to the office the next day, like a child tracking Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, and to open my little gift from me to me to a mass of ‘ooh’s’ and ‘aahs’ from the girls in the office. You don’t get that after a day bustling round town now do you?

My relationship with shopping has changed drastically from when I was in high school and saving up my dinner money for a trip to town the following weekend with friends to now. It’s much easier to just enter my card details online without having to count out every saved pound. My shopping experience is still social but I’m not having to wait while my friends decide between this dress and that dress for ten years in the changing room.

What affect has social media has made on retail therapy?

I spoke with Samantha, Neil Walker Digital’s resident shopaholic who, much like me, is “not a fan of getting knocked by people and standing in queues for the changing room when I can try everything on in the comfort of my own room.” I wanted to see where she stands on online shopping, and the affect social media may have had on her spending habits.
Almost every day we admire items we’ve got waiting in our baskets, and you can bet your life we’ll pull out our phones to show each other pictures of the latest purchase winging its way toward us.
Sam mainly shops on her mobile and she follows ASOS on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter (including their customer service accounts).  She said:
“I always use the ASOS app, which is my favourite. It’s definitely easier to navigate, and really easy to find how many points I’ve accrued (for money off vouchers). Features-wise, I like the saved items list, points system (which I got to trial before it was launched) and the premier delivery service.”
In February, ASOS saw 50 per cent of orders placed on mobile – a first for the business – and the retailer has now racked up 17 million followers across its social channels. It seems Sam is not the only one who is ASOS obsessed. Their investment in digital marketing and oh-so-savvy social media has lead to an increase in sales and happy customers.
ASOS have clearly realised that customer retention is more important than attraction. As Samantha tells me, she has been loyal customer with the company for a long time, and their ability to reward her loyalty keeps her coming back every payday.

How brands succeed on social media

Women are more likely to trust influencers and, in a social world, brand ambassadors are a necessity. A case study by found that ASOS captured their audience with fun and personal campaigns that prove to the fans of the site that they’re valued by the brand. This is a great way to optimise their use of social networks and they have certainly reaped the rewards.
Social media has certainly made a difference to the way I shop and Sam agrees that
“with social media as a whole, particularly Instagram, everything is a lot more immediate for shoppers. I barely ever buy a weekly glossy [Grazia etc.] to look at what’s new in stores because it’s all on my phone.” ​

Back in 2012, eBay predicted that value of social media within the retail sector will more than double from £1.5bn to around £3.3bn by 2014. They must have had shoppers like Sam in mind when they said this as it would seem they’re spot on.
PWC enlighten us in 2016 giving even more detail in the value of social media today:

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Marketers are investing more money than ever into multichannel efforts. This makes a lot of sense for people like Sam and I. Sam said, “when something new appears on my newsfeed I often visit the website to check the price etc. It happened recently when Missguided launched a new collection with a blogger and I ordered a dress pretty much straight away.”
Nitin Passi, founder of Missguided, a brand familiar with celebrating record revenue growth, talks about the idea of ‘the vocal and connected millennial’: “If we do something bad, they’ll tell us. If they love us, they’ll tell us as well.”

We have a new relationship with brands on social media

Our relationship with social media means that the power has switched: consumers now have the upperhand when it comes to parting with their cash. Honest, credible and relevant information about brands or products is easily found on microblogging sites such as Twitter and Facebook. They don’t need to rely on a 30 second TV ad no one’s really watching anyway.
Sales are no longer being made because a boisterous billboard told us we needed it. They’ve shifted to newsfeeds where we’ve chosen to see posts from that particular brand. And if we haven’t found them yet, they can cleverly advertise to us based on our interests, and our inclination to have reactive response.
How many of us have succumbed to a pair of heels we definitely didn’t need because they followed us around the internet for two weeks? They always appear just when we need some retail therapy, interrupting us between family updates about newborns and friends engagement photoshoots… Damn you, ASOS, you’ve done it again.
Social Media has definitely changed the way we shop. Marketing teams no longer need to guess the characteristics of their biggest spenders or use a one-size-fits-all method. They use feedback, hashtags, Instagram pages and blogs to see how exactly we use their products, why exactly we hate them and what it is that keeps us coming back for more.

Brands have taken this opportunity to create a real personality online. They post lazy Sunday memes and funny payday gifs that consumers can relate to and are likely to want to share with their own network. This helps brands to stay on top. They keep us hooked with discount codes and flash sales we know about first because we follow them religiously on all of their social networks. They send us ads of the dress we left in our baskets for another time and persuade us that time is now.
Right now, actually. That’s what I’m about to do next.