Emily Ratajkowski.

If there’s one thing that social media is not, it’s stagnant. As the platforms continue to innervate and expand, so do consumers’ expectations of retailers and brands in the space — namely, the ability to discover new items and purchase directly from a brand’s page.

And though conversions remain low thus far, Robert Glazer, founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, a firm focused on affiliate marketing with customers like Adidas, Target and Warby Parker, predicts that this is set to change shortly. Here, Glazer discusses the ongoing evolution of social media’s role in retail and how fashion companies can ready themselves for the next series of updates and refreshed consumer behavior.

WWD: What have been the biggest changes in retail as a result of social media?

Robert Glazer: Digital continues to have a big influence on consumers — their habits, preferences and priorities continue to quickly evolve with the changing social media landscape. As digital and in-store experiences have blurred, retailers have become very forward-thinking, and embracing new possibilities and innovations to engage their customers.

As social media matures, retailers are not only looking to build their brand and engage new customers but are also leveraging the channel to drive performance — leads or sales. Retailers are turning to micro-influencers that align with their brand on Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Pinterest to target the right audience, create personalized content and reach ROI goals. These micro-influencers have a highly engaged group of followers. What’s more, retailers have access to demographic and behavioral data, which allows them to better understand and reach their customers.

WWD: So far, social commerce has remained obtuse for retailers. What needs to change to make social media a thriving marketplace?

R.G.: The continued development of purpose-driven digital solutions will help retailers drive performance and accelerate shoppable social media. Chat bots allow retailers to connect with customers and ask what they are searching that leads to an interactive shopping experience, resulting in sales. As Millennials are increasingly using chat bots, brands are designing them to specifically enhance their brand voice and send personalized messages directly to users.

Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook Stories have led to the popularity of ephemeral content. With ephemeral content being more authentic and allowing you to connect with users in real-time, brands are taking advantage of consumer FOMO to draw faster buying responses. With Stories, shoppable content allows brands to create whole new narrative-driven elements for e-commerce marketing campaigns that connect with consumers and capitalizes on a sense of urgency to make a purchase.

WWD: Which brands are merging marketing efforts in physical and online presences well?

R.G.: Warby Parker allows people to order products online, try them on at home, and choose the ones they want. They have also opened small physical locations.

Another example is Amazon, who made a major move last year in spreading its physical presence with the purchase of Whole Foods, thereby seeking to reinvent the retail-customer experience and boosting Amazon’s bricks-and-mortar presence. Even brands like Walmart and Target are integrating online and offline so that customers can buy online and pick up in store.

Brands are constantly looking at incentives to drive online sales while also drawing shoppers to respective physical locations through discounts on purchases, free or heavily discounted add-on items, and superior in-store customer service.

WWD: How can brands move the needle from passive social followers to active spenders?

R.G.: Instagram is an effective platform for building awareness and deepening engagement with followers. Many retailers have effectively leveraged the channel to drive performance by converting followers into active spenders via giveaways, discount codes, or free downloads.

Another effective strategy is the rise of branded video content. More brands are making the transition to shoppable video. Marketers and brands are approaching consumers where they’re most easily found — on mobile and social media. The result is greater brand spend on creative storytelling methods across different channels that engage with consumers as individuals, not as a homogenous demographics. 

WWD: How do you predict the collision of social media and retail to evolve in the next 12-24 months?

R.G.: Influencer marketing will continue to grow and consumers want authenticity and advice from real experts whom they trust and value. Brands will focus on building meaningful, long-term relationships with key influencer partners and leverage the channel to drive performance. Video will continue to be an effective tool for growing followers and driving sales. High-quality content and storytelling is a must-have.

Retailers will look to create high-quality content to understand consumers’ mind-sets, and keep them engaged and informed about products. Augmented reality will help retailers to project their products into consumers’ homes to preview how they look before they buy.

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