May 15, 2014, 10:15 AM

How to increase sales with a shopping-focused social network

Social network OpenSky now accounts 20% of Not Soap, Radio’s online sales.

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Bath products manufacturer and retailer Not Soap, Radio has found that engaging with shoppers on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest has helped build brand awareness—but not sales, says CEO Laura Cabot. To drive additional sales, Not Soap, Radio last summer began using OpenSky, a social network focused strictly on helping shoppers discover and buy products.

OpenSky, which has more than 600,000 monthly active users, is a different animal than Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and the like because its sole purpose is to facilitate shopping; the platform lets retailers create an account on the site, post products and sell. OpenSky takes a 20% commission on most transactions.

Because shopping is OpenSky’s sole purpose, when a consumer is on the site, she’s there to browse or buy online, says John Caplan, founder and CEO of the social network’s parent company The OpenSky Project Inc. That explains why the conversion rate for consumers who view products on OpenSky is about 10.5%, a rate that’s higher than that of all but 13 retailers in the 2014 Top 500 Guide, according to Internet Retailer’s Top500Guide.com.

Since No Soap, Radio began using OpenSky, the social network has accounted for about 20% of the company’s online sales. And because consumers often use shopping-focused social networks as “discovery tools” to find new products, Cabot says that most of those sales stem from consumers that the brand wouldn’t have otherwise reached. “It expands our reach and builds brand awareness,” she says.

The idea of simplifying shopping is good, says Not Soap, Radio’s Cabot. But being active on multiple social networks—either mainstream or shopping-focused—can take time. On OpenSky, for instance, Not Soap, Radio wants to stay in users’ feeds by posting updates—which can be topical notes or highlight promotions—as well as post items, which then appear in followers’ feeds. Planning those posts and responding to consumers’ responses, can take up to an hour of Cabot’s day.

Shopping-focused social networks are changing the social media landscape, Cabot says. Rather than try to lure multitasking consumers to buy via mainstream social networks, retailers can use sites like OpenSky to build relationships with shoppers eager to find new products. “These sites are built for shopping,” she says. And that, she says, makes the pitch to shoppers rather simple: “You see it, you like it, you buy it.”

Learn much more about the latest trends in social media in the upcoming June issue of Internet Retailer magazine. Subscribe for free right here.

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