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Last fall we delved into ways retailers can improve their social media presence. Just a few months later, a number of dramatic developments have arisen in the social media world, especially in the areas of social commerce.

Posts link directly to the product page to buy, generating a referral commission for Wanelo and a convenient way for shoppers to find unique items in a very social, sharing fashion. It was only a matter of time when another image-oriented social site made moves towards social commerce. According to re/code, Pinterest is planning to introduce a “buy” button as they lay the groundwork for their entry into ecommerce, “...analysts and users have been waiting for the day that it would transform itself from a digital corkboard into a digital mall.”

The company is being secretive, but their recent agreement with the online payments platform Stripe, which also does business with Shopify, Twitter, and Facebook, Pinterest is expected to introduce the buy feature in the next three to six months. This will complement the full release of their ‘Promoted Pins’ advertising program, which was made available to a few major brands last May.

Pinterest users are already in the retail mindset. Every day they’re sharing pictures of products they desire or recommend, much like Wanelo users. With over 70 million people on Pinterest and counting, and an increased effort by the company to increase their male users, it makes sense that this social platform evolves into a selling platform.

If you have yet to enter the Pinterest world, or just want to improve your approach to ‘Pinning’, they offer a few tips:

1. Be Helpful

Include thoughtful information on product Pins. Use descriptive keywords to inform your audience, which will enable Pins to appear in Pinterest search results. Go for the soft sell and avoid pushing discounts and promotions. If your business has a blog, remember to Pin those posts on your board, especially if you’re providing tips and how-tos.

2. Be Beautiful

Use high-quality, high resolution photos, especially if you’re showing the product in action. This allows your visitors and potential buyers to visualize themselves using or wearing the item. Use vertical, instead of horizontal photos with a 3 (height) to 2 (width) ratio. This appears better on Pinterest boards, especially if they’re viewing in the mobile Pinterest app.

3. Be Actionable

The next step from interest to selling is to link your Pin to the product page where they can buy it. One of their added features, Rich Pins, is perfect for retailers. It enables you to provide real-time product pricing and availability, but it does require some technical know-how and you have to apply.

If you’re looking for inspiration, check out Pinterest’s “Products We Love” or “Fashion Week” boards.

Just this week Facebook rolled out Product Ads, which will enable retailers to upload an entire product catalogue and feature ads with up to five products rotating in a carousel design, or highlight one product through multiple images.

Ads can be created to automatically target audiences that have specific interest and geo-locations, or who have visited your website, online shop or mobile app (via Custom Audiences). You can also have complete control by creating custom ads to your liking.

Target has already adopted dynamic product ads, stating their ease of customer engagement through highly relevant creative. “The early results have exceeded expectations, with a 20% increase in conversion compared to other Facebook ads,” said Kristi Argyilan, Target Senior Vice President. “Performance has also been especially strong with people shopping on mobile devices — an important and fast-growing area for Target — where we’re seeing two times the conversion rate.”

Currently, Dynamic Product Ads are only available to Facebook Marketing Partners, but will be available to all in Power Editor in the coming weeks. By uploading your product feed to Facebook, the real-time connection to your inventory will turn off ads when products are not available.

When it comes to selling from within the platform, Facebook began testing that feature with a “Selling Something” in a small number of groups in December. Resembling something closer to a Craiglist post, they’re not quite ready for prime time retail. Payment systems are a tricky thing, and although they’re working with Stripe, one can expect there are a number of technical, logistical and legal kinks to work out.

For now, Shopify enables retailers to create a Facebook Shop within your company page, with each listing linking directly to your website’s product pages.

Last September there was a lot of buzz around the testing of Twitter’s buy button. Since then, the dial hasn’t moved much. For now transactions are limited to purchasing small ticket items, like movie or concert tickets.

That doesn’t mean Twitter doesn’t hold promise for influencing retail sales. In preparation for next week’s London Fashion Week, Topshop has teamed with Twitter and billboard advertiser Ocean Outdoor for a connected physical to social engagement campaign.

According to Brand Republic, the digital billboards will be located in pedestrian areas within a few minutes walk of a Topshop store, with participating cities including London, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow. Topshop will then monitor #LIVETRENDS, posting their items that match that trend, be it #colourblocking or #pleats. When consumers respond with a Tweet including @Topshop and the related hashtag, they’ll receive a Tweet in return with a link to buy that product pronto. All this Tweeting activity will appear on the digital billboards in real-time.

Although social commerce is not yet fully baked, the potential holds much promise. Being able to stay native within the app or website to buy can prevent drop off from linking out to a product page. The interchange fees typically charged by credit card companies are expected to be less from Facebook and Twitter, saving merchants money.

With the social engagement and advertising tools available today, retailers large and small still have numerous opportunities for being creative and personal to extend their branding reach and impact multichannel sales.

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About the Author

Kim Owens is a veteran digital marketer and copywriter for Brightpearl, creating engaging, customer-centric content that provides value and an opportunity to learn about the quickly evolving retail industry.