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5 Ways to increase product discovery on social media this holiday season

Less than a decade ago, holiday shopping meant heading to your local shopping mall and browsing around the legacy department stores. But product discovery in 2021 couldn’t be more different.

Where brick and mortar was once the prime hunting ground for discovering gift ideas, we’re experiencing a major pivot towards digital channels as a source of holiday inspo.

While we can attribute some of this to the pandemic and our increased reliance on online shopping, surveys are showing that this shift is generational in scope.

According to Mckinsey’s 2021 holiday shopping study, 58% of consumers say that social media will influence their holiday buying decisions this year – a figure that rises to 83% and 87% for Millennial and Gen Z consumers respectively.

Moreover, 54% of Millennials and Gen Zers surveyed by Statista in May 2021 stated that social media is a better place to discover new products and brands than online search, a channel which behemoths like Amazon have traditionally dominated.

So, what does this mean for merchants and retailers?

It means that you have a valuable opportunity to entice new and existing customers to support your brand this holiday season. Instead of trying to drag prospective customers into your store or ecommerce website, you need to bring your seasonal offerings to where people already looking for gift ideas – your social media channels.

In this post, we’re going to cover 5 actionable strategies to increase brand and product discovery on social media this holiday season.

Why does digital product discoverability matter this holiday season?

Still not convinced by the numbers? Here are a few other reasons why increasing product discovery opportunities on social media is a smart move this holiday season:

Consumers are more open than ever to trying new brands.

We’ve heard it all before. Brand loyalty is down the toilet, right?

Not exactly.

It’s certainly true that consumers are flitting from brand to brand much more than they did in the past. Over half of consumers (54%) made purchases from a brand that was new to them during 2020. But the reasons for this are much more complex than just a change in purchasing habits.

Thanks to supply chain challenges and widespread stock-outs of essential items, many consumers have been forced out of necessity to purchase from different vendors than normal.

As Mckinsey’s holiday study reports, this picture hasn’t changed during 2021. Of the 62% of consumers who couldn’t buy an item in the past 3 months due to lack of availability, just 13% waited for it to come back in stock – 71% either switched brands or bought from a different retailer.

In sum, stock-outs are forcing consumers to be more flexible this holiday season – and this is your advantage. But unless shoppers can find you easily where they’re searching, you’re not going to make their shopping list.

Digital is leading the way this holiday season.

Brick and mortar is mounting a strong recovery from the pandemic, but the majority of holiday shopping is still set to take place online in 2021. According to Shopkick’s holiday survey from July 2021, 57% of consumers say that they plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping via online channels.

This means that the online visibility of your brand and products is crucial to boosting sales this holiday season. With many consumers still feeling anxious about COVID-19 and crowded indoor spaces, ecommerce feels like a safer, more accessible alternative.

Social proof is the key to conversions.

Most of us have made an online purchase that turned out to be a complete dud. While this is annoying for everyday purchases, we want to avoid it at all costs during the holiday season. This is why online reviews and recommendations carry so much weight in ecommerce.

Did you know that almost a quarter of millennials and Gen Zers say that a large volume of social media ‘likes’ or positive comments would make them more likely to buy a product? This is because social media platforms are one big engine for generating social proof. By making the effort to market your seasonal offerings using these channels, consumers are much more likely to trust your brand.

5 Ways to improve brand and product discovery on your social media channels

1. Put your holiday gift guide on social media

According to Google, 66% of all holiday shopping that took place last season was planned and researched before the purchase took place. This is where holiday gift guides are the perfect tool to assist customers with finding the perfect gift.

But it’s how you promote this content that separates an average gift guide from one that truly provides value to your customer.

If your gift guide is only being housed on your website or in print, this relies on potential customers walking into your store or entering on your website. While this may work for existing customers, it does little to attract those who aren’t already familiar with your brand.

Making your holiday gift guide social media-friendly enables your followers to tag or share it with friends and family, as well as making it easier to digest and browse through when consumers are holiday shopping on the go.

instagram post from nordstrom for the best gifts under 25 dollars

Nordstrom shared a variety of themed holiday gift guides to its Instagram feed last year. They used a series of well-curated carousel posts targeted at different audience segments, from pet owners to beauty lovers. This makes it convenient and appealing for shoppers to flick through, boosting social engagement and driving holiday spending.

2. Implementing social commerce

Social commerce, where customers can complete their end-to-end shopping journey directly through social media platforms, has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years. 48% of internet users between the ages of 18-34 have made a purchase through social media, while nearly two-thirds of consumers would be more likely to buy products from a brand if they could shop entirely within a social platform.

The key reason for the growing popularity of social commerce is that it removes friction and delays from the online shopping journey. Consumers no longer have to be redirected from a brand’s profile to a random ecommerce site to complete a purchase – which also saves leads from falling out of your sales funnel.

Remember that holiday gift guide we just talked about? Imagine if every one of those featured products was tagged so that customers could switch seamlessly to viewing the product page inside your in-app store.

When a purchase can be made in just a few taps on a mobile device, this promotes impulse buying behaviors by streamlining the purchasing journey and making it easier than ever for customers to close the deal.

roots sleepwear instagram shop

Apparel brand Roots is currently promoting its latest holiday PJ range via its Instagram shop, making it easy for shoppers to tap through to browsing items directly within the app.

3. Use discovery-based hashtags

There’s a common misconception that people find hashtags annoying or distracting. In fact, the introduction of the humble hashtag has totally changed the game for social media users to find specific content when browsing platforms.

Hashtags are what allow us to filter through the noise and find what we’re looking for; without them, social selling wouldn’t exist. Despite this, hashtags remain a massively underutilized tool by retailers to drive product and brand discovery on social platforms. Common mistakes include:

  • Using too many hashtags
  • Using generic hashtags which don’t describe the content shown
  • Not using hashtags at all

Instead, think carefully about what your target audience is likely to be searching for this holiday season. You’ll want to use a mixture of seasonal and branded hashtags in addition to product-specific hashtags that accurately describe the content of your posts.

instagram post from clarins using targeted hashtags

Makeup brand Clarins has helped to drive product discovery on Instagram by using just three well-targeted hashtags on their post about holiday gift ideas. #GiftSet and #MakeupGifts help to drive shoppers to their feed that are actively looking for these gift categories, while #ChristmaswithClarins is a great drawcard for loyal customers.

4. Emphasize cross-selling / product bundling opportunities

Cross-selling and product bundling are invaluable tactics to boost conversions and AOV during the holiday season. Presenting related or complementing products helps you to introduce gift ideas to shoppers they might not have considered otherwise, helping to streamline the purchasing journey.

Social media makes it possible for your business to get really creative with cross-selling activities by moving away from the boring ‘people who bought X also bought X’ recommendations that Amazon pioneered. This overly sales-y approach is easy for consumers to tune out.

Your product bundling and cross-selling efforts shouldn’t look like obvious sales tactics, but appear as genuinely useful, inspiring content which aids your customer’s purchasing decisions.

instagram post from john lewis about holiday baking

John Lewis has done a great job of curating attractive room set-ups on social media that subtly promote specific products within its holiday collection. By grouping together products that complement each other within the same post, consumers are more likely to buy multiple items.

5. Turn social media into a customer service channel

With more and more consumers now choosing to browse and even shop directly through social channels, it makes little sense to drive them off the platform in search of assistance. For one, it’s not convenient for your customer. Moreover, you already have a perfectly good customer support tool right at your fingertips.

Greater connectivity means that customers expect to interact with brands on all channels – and this includes social media. In fact, 40% of holiday shoppers say that they’re more likely to buy from a brand they can message directly from inside a platform.

Social media customer service isn’t just about providing great customer care; it’s also about fanning a potential customer’s interest in your products. Securing a sale means striking while the iron is hot, and the immediacy of social media can assist you in closing the deal.

So, what exactly does customer service on social media look like?

  • Using DMs and comments to answer customer queries.
  • Setting up a specific social media handle for customer inquiries.
  • Adding a Highlight reel on your profile that answers FAQs.
  • Post content to your feed that covers common queries e.g. holiday shipping cut-off dates.

The discoverability of your brand and products is important at any time of the year, but especially during the holiday season when consumers are willing to experiment with new retailers. By making the effort to curate engaging, creative holiday content across your social channels, you can drive greater brand awareness and conversions.

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