By Barb Paszyn

According to a UFCW article, two-thirds of Canadians are connected through a social media platform like Facebook (71%), YouTube (49%), Twitter (27%), or Pinterest (23%). In just one minute across the world, 4.1 million YouTube videos are watched, 46,000 Instagram posts are uploaded, 450,000 tweets are sent, and 3.5 million Google searches are made. That’s a lot of people sharing and searching for a ton of information!

Given that about 46% of Canadian companies use social media to promote their businesses, it’s not surprising that social media has become a powerful tool for consumers during the pre-shopping phase, especially during the holiday season. During this pre-shopping phase, many people turn to this marketing channel for inspiration, peer advice, and consumer reviews.

  • Inspiration. When it comes to holiday shopping inspiration, social media is the most influential digital medium. From parents and grandparents to bargain seekers and people who splurge, many different types of consumers use social media for inspiration. Personally, I’ve used Pinterest to come up with holiday decorating ideas. It worked great! I found ideas on how to use beaded garland in multiple ways. I ended up making icicles and turned my apartment into a winter wonderland. Brands can take advantage of social media by helping and inspiring holiday shoppers, like myself, come up with great décor ideas (and of course gifting ideas). We already do this with catalogues, so why not use social media as well?
  • Peer Advice. More and more these days, people on my social media channels are asking each other for advice. Yes, this could be more common among Millennials but, nevertheless, people are becoming more comfortable asking their friend networks about products. As marketers, we need to acknowledge this reality since word of mouth in the form of user generated content has a huge influence on what people end up purchasing. From a research supplier stand-point, we can benefit by listening to what consumers are saying about certain categories or brands (aka social listening).
  • Consumer Reviews. Apparel reported that about 8 in 10 Canadian shoppers consult online reviews before buying a product. And that includes me. Specifically, through social media, I’ve seen many of my friends and family make product recommendations just because they’re extremely happy with the product (no – they’re not paid social media influencers). I’ve also used social media to find reviews about certain products and stores, especially through Facebook (even for the holidays!). These consumer reviews have without a doubt influenced my shopping habits.

During the holiday season, we need to be even more mindful of how social media is influencing consumers. We need to appreciate the benefits of user generated content and react to reviews in a positive way, regardless of whether the reviews are positive or negative. Remember, what consumers share on social media is going to be read by tens, hundreds, or even thousands of different people (i.e., potential customers).

Retailers must appreciate that millions of people across Canada are connected on this marketing machine that facilitates the sharing of millions of ideas. These ideas could inspire and influence someone’s holiday shopping. We’d love to help you maximize your research ROI by using social media to learn more about your consumers’ perceptions and grow your brand. Get in touch with us!