Will social media be this year’s Christmas gift to marketers?

In this day and age where social media is taking over, it is unsurprising that 1 in 10 shoppers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by it. Whilst it is a well-known fact that a tweet or a Facebook “like” doesn’t necessarily equate to a purchase, social media still holds considerable sway in the way shoppers research the gifts and items they are planning to purchase.

We recently conducted a global study, PeopleShop, into the shopping behaviour, attitudes and motivations of 13,000 shoppers. The study revealed that video games (and systems), baby toys and mobile phones are the three categories where social media plays an inflentioal role..  In addition the study also found that 27% of Video game & video game  system shoppers   consider social media to be an influential touchpoint.

Some brands have already begun to execute their social media Christmas campaigns and it will be interesting to see which of these will report higher sales in their 2013 Q1 figures.  A few of my favourite current Christmas campaigns are from  Toys R Us and Phones 4 U, both of which are already looking likely to be among the frontrunners.

Phones4U launched their first ever integrated Christmas campaign, running across both advertising and social media.  The social media campaign which includes advertising on Facebook and Twitter includes a Christmas-themed competition where fans can pull a ‘virtual cracker’ with their Facebook friends to win a prize such as smartphones, accessories, ringtones and festive jokes.Fans are also in with the chance to win tickets to see deadmau5, courtesy of Nokia UK, by loading photos onto Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram showing their deadmau5 face (image above) with the hashtag: #NokiaDeadmau5 tickets Phones 4u.  What I love most about this campaign is the user friendly mobile and social Christmas  app – Christmas Cracker – which highlightsthe range of available handsets as their busy seasonal trading period kicks off.

Toys R Us are another brand which has launched a great Christmas social media campaign this year. Fans of their Facebook page are in with the chance to have a family photo featured in its Christmas ad.  Hoping to achieve 100,000 Likes by Christmas, fans who want to enter the competition have to upload a picture of their family to the retailer’s Big Family Album Facebook page.  The campaign, which launched in November, currently has just over 90,000 Likes and counting. They have also been uploading cute Christmas photos through asking fans to caption the images, including this one below, which has so far incurred 88 Likes and 119 captions. This fun and interactive campaign is aimed at getting the whole family involved and is a simple yet effective way of getting people involved on boardand engaging with the brand. The question I keep asking myself however is how does this link to purchase?

These two examples lead to the question being posed as to ‘why social media is so influential in shopper purchases particularly inthe mobile phone, video game and baby toys categories?  There could be a number of reasons for this, however, thePeopleShop study found that social media is primarily used as a research tool with baby toys, mobile phones and video games ranking among the most researched categories.  On the other hand email, social media and online bidding websites only influences 11% of shoppers purchasing decisions. That said, it’s still important for brands to be engaging, fun and accessible to shoppers, something that both Phones 4 U and Toys R Us have both clearly excelled at – plus who doesn’t like something free or the chance to appear on TV with your loved ones?

With these stats in mind, it will be interesting to see which brands from the three categories will excel during this year’s Christmas period. As people meet, talk and discuss more and more via social networks this is going to influence their shopping habits and since any recommended websites are only a click away, it makes sense that sales will follow.  So will it be mobile phones, video games or baby toys? that is the question.

Michelle Whelan, Managing Partner, Arc