What to Expect from Brands in Social for the Holidays

This holiday shopping season is going to be the most social to date. Brands are going to be pulling out all the stops to use social media to influence purchase.

After all, 2011 marked the first time Cyber Monday surpassed Black Friday as the biggest online shopping day of the year. Social’s potential to influence online sales is limitless. Not only will consumers be shopping online, but they’ll also be doing their research online and through their mobile devices. A lot of that research is going to happen and is already happening on social media platforms both on mobile and desktop.

A recent study by Experian found that although marketers are not sure about social ROI, they do understand that using social media to speak with people is really important as it has the potential to be a steppingstone to other, revenue-based channels. More than 90 percent of marketers plan to increase their spend on Facebook, 75 percent for Twitter and 67 percent for Pinterest.

Pinterest will be huge over the holidays. It’s a great way for consumers to keep a wish list and marketers will look for ways to tap into this. This year, 71 percent of marketers say they will invest in their Pinterest boards for the holiday season, compared with 30.2 percent who used them in 2011, per Experian.

“Brands have focused on delivering personalized recommendations for customers and the holidays will be all about personalized gift recommendations,” said Graham Kahr, social commerce product manager at Zappos. “The Zappos Labs created Pinpointing to give users a way to find items tailored to their friends’ Pinterest pins. Customers have spent all year creating inspirational collections, it’s now time for brands to say ‘we have what you want and you’ll love the experience of receiving it.’”

Social media will be used to communicate deals and offers for the holidays. We might even see social sites drive more traffic to retail sites during this period because consumers are in a whole new state of mind; a holiday shopping state of mind. Expect to see alerts for sales and money off coupons and such, all distributed through social media.

Another big trend will be marketers making it easy for consumers to share gift ideas. It’s only natural. Consumers already share their passions for specific products and services via social media, so they’ll definitely discuss gift ideas. Marketers need to be listening for these types of conversations and insert themselves at the proper time, maybe even providing easy ways to purchase and send gifts.

The holidays aren’t just about gift giving. They’re about family and friends getting together, as well.

“Holiday cooking and recipe sharing is also a favorite social topic during the holidays and I think marketers will leverage ways to highlight their products as key ingredients to drive consideration and incentivize purchase,” said Ed Kaczmarek, director of innovation and emerging technology at Mondelez (formerly Kraft Foods).

Expect to see a lot of innovation in social for the holidays, especially from retailers. Retailers will for the first time engage customers in-store with live Twitter and Facebook feeds. A Brazilian retailer recently installed LCD screens on hangers in its store, according to Experian’s study. As people online liked a product, the number on the LCD screen changed to reflect the increase in Facebook likes.

“To maximize their interaction with eager holiday shoppers, marketers will need to focus on providing a personalized and dynamic customer experience to remain relevant,” said Experian in its study. “Implementing compelling loyalty programs and evolving in-store experiences through social integration will help marketers stay ahead of the competition.”

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