Social Retail: A Tech-Savvy Form of Word-of-Mouth

Give your company a competitive edge. Use social retail to boost customer loyalty and turn your shoppers into lifelong fans and advocates.

The cover image for Antavo’s article on social retail.

The internet is a wonderful thing that has created entirely new forms of social interaction. Especially in recent years, there has been a notable increase in customers’ inclination towards leveraging social media as a unified space for social engagement and shopping. As a result, many companies have capitalized on new technologies and social platforms to grow their presence and boost brand loyalty through word-of-mouth. With several online tools available, companies can utilize social retail tactics to increase conversions and sales in their stores and online.

If you are curious about how rewards and word-of-mouth fit together, check out our comprehensive ebook.

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Social Retail – A Crossroads Between Social Media and Ecommerce

Social retail is the practice of using social media to engage with customers and sell across physical and digital channels. Social retail attempts to use technology to mimic the social interactions found in physical malls and stores. The goal of social retail is to further encourage customers to develop the habit of sharing products and experiences that they love. 

Innovative virtual platforms allow customers to connect with real people as they conveniently shop using their computer or mobile device. Using text, chat, and video, online stores can connect with customers and make shopping a collaborative experience. For example, a store might have a consultant who walks customers through the details of the products directly from the physical store through a one-on-one video. From providing sizing information to uncovering the ins and outs of every product, social shopping allows for a virtual shopping experience like no other.

Nike's Jordan brand released a fashion collection that lets Snapchat users dress their Bitmoji avatars in virtual sportswear.
Nike’s Jordan brand released a fashion collection that lets Snapchat users dress up their Bitmoji avatars with virtual sportswear and buy it online to wear in real life. By letting Snapchat and Bitmoji users style their avatars in Jordan clothing, the brand is giving people another way to express their personal style while extending the reach of the campaign for its latest clothing line.

How Social Retail Affects Loyalty Programs

Social retail helps brands connect with people at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Social media and loyalty programs are generally the two environments in which customers can be identified and personal communication can be carried out. Social media has emotionalized customer relationships and customer journeys today often begin (and end) on social media. 

Ensuring a strong relationship between you and your customers on your social media channels can lead to an active and engaged community, customer loyalty and also more revenue. By highlighting social media in the retail environment, you give shoppers an opportunity to see real customers with your products, not just models in photos on the wall.

Personalization, authenticity, trustworthiness, unique experiences and community-driven features are all connected to emotional loyalty and can all be enhanced with a loyalty program. Using rewards and benefits, loyalty programs have the ability to encourage customers to build a habit of using social retail. In time, those customers will form a strong emotional connection to your brand. So, by using a loyalty program to encourage customers to rely on social retail, you can boost customer loyalty and turn customers into lifelong fans, advocates, and repeat shoppers.

Styling recommendations on Ted Baker’s website., provides styling recommendations.

6 Ways Social Media Can Be Integrated Into Retail

The rise of social retail is naturally tied to the intense growth of mobile devices. Customers today, especially younger generations, increasingly connect to people and information via mobile apps rather than through the traditional web browser — opting to read the news, talk with friends and shop on apps. According to research, 74% of customers use social media networks to help them make purchasing decisions, driven primarily by the desire for speed and simplicity. Social retail is now extending beyond the online world and into the offline world of shopping. Social retailing is effective because it develops loyalty among customers who share and also promote the brand to their social network. It works because people buy from people they trust. 

1. Instagram – Simplifying Communication 

Customers long for a simple user experience and Instagram Checkout gives them exactly that. It allows users to quickly buy a product without ever leaving the app. Instagram Shopping Tags can simplify the communication process between businesses and customers. With this feature, you can tag products directly in the images and videos you share. The tags contain all the essential info about the product, including a description, features, price, and a purchase link to the seller’s site. With Instagram Checkout, the customer journey is entirely seamless: users only need to enter their payment and delivery details the first time they use it. After that, they can make future purchases with one click.

Zara – A Convenient Shopping Experience

Zara in collaboration with a handful of fashion-loving influencers created an Instagram account to showcase the very best Zara buys in one place. It not only shows customers what they can buy from the brand, but how to wear it as well. It’s all about daily inspirations and new-arrival wishlists. Moreover, it’s great for seeing the clothes on real people at the same time. Customers can also add the seasons’ biggest trends to their baskets as they scroll, thanks to Instagram’s shopping feature. Then, they can show off their recent purchases by following the account and tagging the items they wear in their own content.

The fewer steps Zara customers have to take to complete a purchase, the more likely they will be to complete the process.
The fewer steps Zara customers have to take to complete a purchase, the more likely they will be to complete the process.

Best Practices for Your Loyalty Program: Create Social Media Raffles  

Companies can, for example, run a loyalty program raffle or offer a free spin on a gamified feature like the Prize Wheel for customers who share and tag images of items they’ve purchased. Participants then can receive rewards and benefits within the loyalty program. Or, for an even simpler solution, companies can give members extra points for uploading pictures and tagging their brand.

Antavo's Prize Wheel.
Provide participants a chance to spin the Prize Wheel. Experience-driven customers will surely love it.

2. Livestream shopping – Watch and Shop at the Same Time 

The aim of livestream shopping is to provide customers with an immersive and interactive experience, allowing them to ask questions and buy products during the livestream. McKinsey’s analysis indicates that live commerce-initiated sales could account for as much as 10 to 20% of all eCommerce by 2026. This type of social buying allows retailers to create a more personal connection with the customers and identify a more precise target, customizing the experience of each user and making it more dynamic. Segmentation is a very useful tool for directly targeting customers who, thanks to the internet, are increasingly informed and have become more difficult to attract through traditional media. 

Nordstrom – An Innovative Solution 

Nordstrom, the American luxury department store chain Nordstrom, wanted to keep up with Chinese brands, which are active users of social retailas hoping to close the gap between US brands and their Chinese counterparts, so they launched a dedicated live shopping channel. The channel hosts live shopping events with themes like dressing for special occasions, gift-giving for the holidays, and skin care routines. During the events, customers can shop the products as they appear in each live stream. It’s a more interactive experience than simply linking to products in written content.

Nordstrom launched a dedicated live shopping channel.
Live shopping allows Nordstrom to present event themes in a more engaging manner and enables them to take questions from viewers and gather feedback in real time.

Best Practices for Loyalty Programs: Make it Membership-Only

In order to gain access to live streaming, customers should be loyalty program members. From the customers’ side, the process requires only a few steps, but this allows companies to obtain additional information about them. This data can then be used to reach out to them with more personalized messaging.

Customers can join BrewDog’s loyalty program by creating an account with their email address.
Companies can use customers’ data to create the best possible experience for their most valuable customers, right from the very beginning.

3. Social Retail Stores – Places of Discovery

Social retail stores take interactions from social media and bring them into a physical retail environment. Features like QR codes, augmented reality and uploading content to social media are components that brands should consider as ways to motivate visitors to interact online and in store. Brands can encourage customers to take photos in store and upload them to social media with an unusual background or something that is really interesting or a space where customers can actually perform or do something that they want to do, then the company can reward them for doing so.

Burberry – Pushing the Boundaries of What’s Possible

Burberry opened its first social retail store in China, blending the physical and social worlds in a digitally immersive retail experience. An interactive display case brings you to Burberry’s iconic catwalks. An innovative selfie station lets you share your photo with your followers — and that’s just the beginning. Another important innovation is the brand’s social currency, which increases interaction with the brand.  

Consumers unlock exclusive rewards and experiences thanks to the social currency. Each individual is assigned an avatar that evolves as interaction improves, unlocking discounts, new characters, and rewards such as one-of-a-kind dishes at Thomas’s Café. Another prize is access to the “Trench Experience” room, where people can create special content for social media and try on the brand’s iconic trench coats.

Burberry’s social retail store is a place of discovery, rewarding customers as they explore online and in Burberry store locations.
All of Burberry’s products are accompanied by QR codes linked to digital screens: by simply scanning them, the user will be able to enjoy the storytelling, which can be easily shared on social media thanks to special content designed ad hoc.

Best Practices for Loyalty Programs: Implement an Online Treasure Hunt 

Create an online treasure hunt for loyalty program members. Give customers hints about the specific item they have to find and let them explore the virtual store while searching for the item. Combine multiple objectives to maximize the effectiveness of the treasure hunt. 

In-store treasure hunts encourage customers to discover every area of your store.
Companies can simultaneously encourage members to explore their online catalog more and build a stronger customer profile.

4. UGC – Visual and Interactive Over Traditional

Social media presence is essential for brand recognition as it has become an integral part of the modern person’s life. User-generated content can give online shoppers the visual social proof they want. To achieve virality and UGC, companies can engage customers with friend referrals, harnessing the power of word-of-mouth. Companies can reward customers who invite their friends and acquaintances, and encourage influencers’ activities by offering various incentives. Drive user-generated content by setting up a hashtag contest on Instagram, or offer a prize to members who leave the best comment on your Instagram posts. Rewarding customers for referrals makes them feel appreciated. These customers will be more likely to refer your brand and stay loyal in the long run.

7Eleven – Revolutionizing the Online Shopping Experience

Put your customers first and think of what appeals most to them. An interactive contest? A behind-the-scenes video? Give them what they want in order to generate word-of-mouth. Make the effort to understand what they like about your business. How much meaningful exposure your company gets depends heavily on how well you can connect with your customers. The convenience store 7Eleven encourages customers to post photos on social media using certain hashtags, like #7ElevenDay and #slurplife. In return, they receive a small Slurpee on the company’s “birthday,” on July 11.

7Eleven giving away free Slurpees on July 11.
7Eleven has kept up with the tradition of giving away free slurpees every July for nearly 20 years.

Best Practices for Loyalty Programs: Engage Customers Outside of the Buying Cycle

Encourage customers to create product reviews and refer friends with a loyalty program. This not only builds trust and authenticity, but also provides marketers extra collateral to work with. Incentivize loyalty program members to share pictures and videos on social media, and give them extra points for doing so. UGC is a great strategy for building word-of-mouth and a great form of non-transactional engagement.

Influencer/ referral loyalty program example - Influencer loyalty program.
UGC boosts credibility. People are more likely to purchase a product when it is recommended by close friends, family members, or authentic influencers.

5. Augmented Reality – A Fully Immersive Shopping Experience

Customers consider augmented and virtual reality among the top technologies they seek to assist them in their daily lives. For instance, many social networks, such as Instagram Stories, Snapchat, and Facebook, have AR filters. They help brands showcase products and let people test them out in real time. Using filters gives you a competitive edge on social media. They increase audience engagement and, when using them, social users will tag you in their content.

The Home Depot – Fostering Brand Loyalty

AR applications have been on the rise with virtual “try-before-you-buy” experiences. Once a nice-to-have feature, AR has quickly become an essential technology for retailers. In the case of The Home Depot, loyalty program members can take advantage of the benefits the company’s mobile app has. It helps customers locate products with superb in-store visual item mapping, check inventory, or receive guidance at checkout. Customers can use true-to-life 3D visuals to see how it will look, feel and align with their expectations.

The Home Depot’s mobile app provides customers with a strong user experience.
The Home Depot’s mobile application helps customers find what they need fast with the help of image and voice search. Members can use the barcode reader to scan an item and read what other customers had to say about it.

Best Practices for Loyalty Programs: Use Badges 

Badges are easy-to-visualize achievements that are awarded to customers who reach predetermined milestones. They, too, foster repeated behaviors and generate brand loyalty. Give badges to loyalty program members when they use an AR feature a given number of times. In addition, they can earn points or other memorable rewards.

Challenges and badges are strategies that utilize behavioral science to promote recurring activities.
Challenges and badges are strategies that utilize behavioral science to promote recurring activities.

6. TikTok – A Suite of Solutions, Features, and Tools

The TikTok shopping feature enables creators to add a shop tab on their profile which shows all product catalogs synced with the featured store’s website. This allows TikTok users to instantly browse through your products without leaving the app and provides a one-click button directly to your online store for checkout. TikTok shopping features also extend to TikTok live, allowing merchants to integrate products from their TikTok Shopping experience into a LIVE session. The platform is heavily loaded with visual and dynamic features, making it easier for brands to engage and create a community around their products.

Fenty Beauty – Love a Tutorial? 

One of the most popular types of content on TikTok is tutorials. Some brands lend themselves to tutorials more than others, but a great example is Fenty Beauty. The beauty brand uses TikTok to share makeup tutorials, wear-tests, and product launches. The brand also launched the #FentyBeautyHouse challenge, which encouraged users to create makeup tutorials or show off their beauty routines using Fenty Beauty products.


And our MUVA, thank you to our Muva @Rihanna 👏🏽❤️‍🔥 TFW that #FentyBeauty shade matching filter werks a lil’ TEWW GOOD!! 😮‍💨💯 Tap into our latest #EazeDrop Shade Match filter to find your perfect #skintint shade for both our newest #EazeDropStick + our OG #EazeDropSkinTint 🤎 Comment your shade below, Fenty Fam! ✨⤵️

♬ original sound – Jess Val
Tutorial-based videos can work for a variety of brands. For example, a clothing store can show customers how to style certain pieces of clothing or accessories. A hardware store can show DIYers how to build, restore, or paint something using the tools they sell. Even gyms can offer demonstrations on how to use different equipment.

Best Practices for Loyalty Programs: Organize a Hashtag Contest

Create a hashtag contest on social media for loyalty program members. The winner of the contest could, for example, gain access to a VIP tier or special interest club with special privileges, or receive other valuable rewards.

Setting up a hashtag contest on Instagram.
A hashtag contest is also a great way to drive user-generated content.

It’s Showtime

Social retail is simply about ensuring that a brand’s physical presence is seamlessly integrated with its social channels so that customers can easily interact with all of the brand’s channels – be it e-commerce, social media or brick-and-mortar. The shift toward live shopping and social retail will only continue to intensify, as social media has become such an integral part of our society. Brands that are quick to pivot and adapt to new features and platforms will be the ones to succeed in performance marketing and, in turn, help shape this new trend. Retailers that invite customers to browse products via social media can build better relationships with them, boost retention, and reach a bigger audience. 

With the help of loyalty programs, brands can encourage customers to create a habit of using social retail. As customers are enrolled in the loyalty program and encouraged to use social retail elements, companies are able to obtain useful customer data. Down the road they can use this data to better personalize brand and marketing messaging. This, in turn, makes members feel special, inspires an emotional bond with the brand, and encourages customers to return to the brand repeatedly and use social retail as a convenient way to shop.

If you’re interested in discussing how our technology can bring your loyalty program concept to life, our experts are more than happy to help. Just book a demo or include us in your RFP. 

A banner recommending to download Antavo’s ‘The Ultimate Guide to Loyalty Program Rewards’ ebook.
Headshot of Barbara Kekes-Szabo Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo

Barbara Kekes-Szabo

Barbara is a Loyalty Program Specialist at Antavo and a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional - CLMP. She is also a writing expert with several years of experience in marketing and also in the information technology industry. In her free time she likes traveling the world, reading crime stories, and doing crossword puzzles.

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