August 19, 2010, 10:47 AM

Why retailers should incorporate social media content into site search

The added content helps consumers make purchasing decisions, says an expert.

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With 82% of direct-to-consumer retailers using social media to some extent, according to a recent Direct Marketing Association report, retailers should leverage that onsite and offsite content into its site search results, says Shaun Ryan, CEO of site search vendor SLI Systems.

That means that site search results show products, videos, blogs and other onsite content, as well as YouTube videos, and Facebook and Twitter posts.

The content serves two purposes—it provides information that can help consumers in their purchasing decisions, as well as engages consumers with the retailer’s brand in an effort to entice them to become a follower on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.

“A lot of our customers are engaging in social media, but their customers don’t see what they’re doing on those sites,” says Ryan. “This makes consumers aware the retailer has social media efforts going on and, once they’re aware of that, they’ll be more likely to engage with the retailer in the social context.”

For some retailers, such as SLI Systems customer Yarn.com, the search results page features two tabs, “search results” and “social networks.” The social network tab shows recent posts related to the search query. That keeps the products front and center so that a consumer looking to quickly retrieve a specific product, like Cascade 220 blue yarn, can find that item quickly, while also allowing other customers who are browsing the site to see what the retailer and consumers that follow it are saying about the product on social networks, he says.

“First and foremost you want to sell products,” says Ryan. “But not everyone coming to a retailer’s web site wants to make a purchase right now. They may just want to see what the retailer has to offer.”

About 10 retail clients of SLI Systems currently feature social media content in their search results, but more are planning to add it in the coming months, says Ryan.

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