Retailers need to invest in the processes and tools to rapidly and intelligently respond to consumers’ behavior on social media.

Over the past two decades, the retail industry has experienced unprecedented disruption as consumers have increasingly embraced new and emerging digital engagement channels. While physical stores have long been the primary channels for retailers to engage their customers, the rapid emergence of digital channels—such as e-commerce, mobile, and social—have begun to disrupt that model, and today’s retailers must adapt to meet the new realities of consumer engagement.

While the shifts to e-commerce and m-commerce have been well documented, it is the shift to social commerce that represents the next great opportunity for today’s retailers. The explosion of social media technologies—such as social platforms, sharing sites, localization sites and messaging platforms—has created a vast ecosystem of digital networks that customers spend more and more time on to live, love, share, and as of recently, shop. 

The shift towards social media usage has been dramatic and significant. Social media adoption has become pervasive among internet users, especially young consumers. According to Smart Insights, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of all online users are active on social media, with nearly all (90 percent) of millennials checking in on social media regularly. 

In order to remain relevant and compete in this new environment, retailers need to rethink the way that they approach social media to transform it into a robust revenue-generating commerce channel. It’s important to understand that not all social media platforms are created equal, nor are they right for each retailer and their unique target audience. To get started on the right path, retailers must:

  1. Create a social commerce strategy: Retailers should start by selecting a few key platforms to establish their social commerce capabilities in the channels where their potential customers are increasingly spending their time. From there, the strategy should address how key dimensions of digital commerce—including the product assortment, merchandising content, digital marketing, pricing, promotion and fulfillment—should apply to each social media platform.
  2. Make genuine connections with customers: One major benefit of social commerce is the ability to make deeper connections with customers. By engaging with them via polls or asking questions about what they want to purchase, retailers can make smarter product development choices and also manage inventory for the products they know are most popular.
  3. Establish a frictionless social commerce experience: In order to capitalize on the social commerce potential, retailers need to design and develop a social commerce experience that is as simple as a single click to avoid customer drop-off during checkout. While current social commerce offerings require multiple steps and often redirect to an external e-commerce site, future capabilities should enable shopping experiences that live entirely in the social platform.
  4. Make social commerce an omnichannel priority: As social commerce matures, retailers increasingly need to focus on integrating social commerce into their broader omnichannel initiatives. Key integration points should include master data management, enterprise order management, e-commerce, customer care, mobile and in-store digital technologies.
  5. Build on social analytics capabilities: Retailers need to build their social analytics capabilities by investing in the processes and tools to rapidly and intelligently respond to consumers’ behavior on social media. Companies that can measure and track their progress, making adjustments as needed, will rise to the top.
  6. Align the organization to enable social commerce: To truly make social commerce work, businesses must link their social commerce goals to the goals of the broader business, and align its people, processes and technologies to clearly define who owns social media responsibilities. Companies that are able to foster alignment among groups involved in social commerce will find themselves far better positioned to actively engage their consumer base and drive bottom-line results.

As retailers embrace social media as a viable and legitimate commerce channel, the emphasis needs to be placed stronger and more urgently—as the potential revenue will likely be huge. As social commerce becomes a viable and legitimate commerce opportunity retailers must rethink the way they approach social media to stay relevant and competitive in this new retail environment.


Kurt Salmon Digital provides retailers web and mobile technology. It was created following the acquisition last year by management consulting firm Kurt Salmon of digital technology agency Mobispoke LLC.