Social Retailing: “Siri, should I buy this?”

“Siri, should I buy this shirt?”

“No. You don’t have anything that goes with it.”

“I think he should!”

“Who are you?”

“Jane’s Siri.”

“I think it’s great!” chimed Matt’s Siri.

“So do I,” said Sara’s Siri.

I often wonder what the world would look like if the Siris of our friends got interconnected and interjected their opinions to resolve our inner doubts. Let’s face it. Consumers don’t make purchasing decisions easily. We hesitate. Doubt and hesitation are the reasons why consumers research items online and ask friends for their opinions. Everyone secretly wants to have a personal shopper or an image consultant. See something, like it, but still doubt it – then call the professional and get instant advice. But personal shoppers and stylists are expensive. Siri, on the other hand, comes bundled with your iPhone.

We are social creatures who appreciate receiving advice from more than one source. We second guess and double check. Hesitation does not give up easily to persuasion. Thus, we need the Siris of our friends to chime in. In the future, the scene I played out at the start of this piece might be a reality. In the meantime, why not have apps that make it easy to engage our friends and turn shopping into a social experience even when our friends are in different locations?

And what would retailers gain from this model? Valuable knowledge not only about their customers, but also about their customers’ friends and how these friendships impact purchasing behavior.

Loyalty programs are transaction based, and thus very person-centric. Capture conversations with friends and suddenly loyalty programs will become “social-circle-centric.” This would take the art and science of data based persuasion to the next level. Big data will only continue to grow bigger. The bigger the data, the more enriched it will be with circumstantial knowledge, and the deeper and more revealing insights it will yield as a result.

What we’re talking about here is the dream of every retailer; eliminate doubt on the spot so the customer purchases immediately, and simultaneously learn more about the customer in the process. It’s a win-win.

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