Retail in the age of social media

September 13, 2019 / By  

Social media is transforming retail and expanding the e-commerce world. It goes without saying that the presence of social media in any retail store is critical to its marketing and sales reach. It has not only simplified the process of buying but also created a platform for brands to have a global outreach.

E-commerce is becoming easier and faster, making it increasingly popular. Recently, Instagram introduced a shopping feature that allows users to purchase products within the app. With the “Checkout” feature, users can tap on products they like and purchase it without leaving the app. This creates a frictionless experience for consumers, simplifying the buying process and making it easier to find desired products.

Figure 1 – Most popular social networks, July 2019
Source: Statista

Facebook’s algorithm allows it to target certain audiences for certain ads as they have access to large amounts of information on their users. Facebook also has a feature called “Chatbot”, an artificial intelligence program that can have “conversations” and answer questions. This helps companies with customer service, providing information to customers almost instantly.

Glossier, a cosmetics company, gained its popularity almost solely through social media. The nine-year-old cosmetics company now has 2 million Instagram followers and a $1.2 billion valuation, securing its status of being a “unicorn” startup. The company opened its first brick-and-mortar store in 2018; prior to that it only had pop-up stores.

The rise of social media and e-commerce has impacted real estate in many ways, with many traditional mall retailers such as those in apparel and footwear coming under increasing pressure. Due to this shift, experiential spaces such as fitness centers, coworking spaces, dining and pop-up stores are increasingly becoming a greater part of the tenant mix for many malls.

In this time of retail uncertainty where trends come and go faster than ever, pop-up stores allow brands to test the waters of opening a physical store, and helping build “buzz” for their brands. Pop-up stores and short-term leases are gaining traction, and platforms like are becoming more popular. This platform allows businesses to rent space in Australian malls, with retailers even having the ability to secure space and make payment with their credit card..

While there is certainly growth within online shopping, having a physical retail presence has not lost its value. This can be seen in Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods. Whole Foods gave Amazon a physical platform that helped minimize the costs of returns and delivery. Some Whole Foods stores now accept returns and have Amazon lockers for pickup, providing other forms of last mile delivery.

Alibaba has also shown interest in brick-and-mortar retail. . Alibaba has invested a significant amount of capital in physical stores in the last two years, and acquired the department store chain “Intime”.

The world we live in is volatile and retailers that learn to embrace change and take advantage of social media are more likely to succeed. They need to invest time into their online and offline presence to stay relevant and to extend their sales reach.

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