Social e-commerce: How to use social tools to drive online sales

By Brad Smith

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual forecast released Feb. 6, 2014, retail industry sales are predicted to climb 4.1 percent in 2014, and online sales are expected to grow between 9 percent and 12 percent. So how can you be sure your dealership captures your share of retail growth in 2014? The numbers make it pretty clear: If you want to see larger gains in 2014, you need to actively drive e-commerce utilizing all your digital advertising channels.

Step one is to ensure your website is ready to roll with a shopping cart and a user experience that guides customers through to their final purchase. If you need to get started with e-commerce, hit the Outdoor Power Equipment magazine archives1 and check out our two-part series in the September and October 2013 issues that will help you jump-start e-commerce on your website.

If you’ve already optimized your website to drive e-commerce sales, and you’re ready to boost your online revenue, consider the following social marketing tactics to increase your website’s e-commerce sales.

Provide content with value

Far too many retailers concentrate solely on themselves when crafting their blog content and social media posts. While showcasing your newest mowers or sharing a spring service special has a place in your social strategy, focusing exclusively on these self-serving messages could diminish the chances  your social networks will respond, resulting in lower e-commerce revenue for your dealership.

The key to attracting shoppers to your website is to focus on creating engaging content. Ask yourself, “Is this information serving as a resource for potential customers?” Russo Power Equipment is a fantastic example of a dealership creating content that delivers social media engagement and ultimately e-commerce sales. The dealership’s YouTube channel2 is packed with videos that guide customers through everything from changing the oil in a lawn mower to understanding why it’s important to aerate their lawn.

Whether you’re crafting videos for YouTube, or drafting blog posts, think about the most common problems your customers face and help them solve their problems. Whether they need help changing their oil or working on their small engine, your helpful content will encourage online shoppers to buy parts they need from you as their trusted resource.

Launch a referral program

When customers are wowed by an amazing customer service experience, either in-store or online, they tend to naturally share their great experience with a friend or two. Don’t you do the same? Why not use the power of their social network to share that great experience with their entire network of friends and family!

There are many vendors that can help you easily kick-start your own referral program. I’ve done some homework for you, and found the following two platforms that could work well for the average OPE dealer’s online business model:

Ownedit allows you to run campaigns across all your digital channels designed to incentivize your customers to make online referrals. The platform is really simple to use; if you can point and click, you can create a campaign. Plus, you can test-drive the platform for free:

InviteBox is another referral program that rewards customers for sharing information on your products, services and special promotions. This site also allows you to sign up for a free trial, so you’ve got no excuse not to try it:

Both sites are very comparable to one another, so give them both a whirl to see what works best for your business model.

Social advertising

While sites like Groupon and Living Social were engaging consumers like crazy, the mania has settled down, and the daily deals business model has taken a dive.

Instead, consider dedicating some marketing dollars to advertising on the world’s most ubiquitous social network, Facebook. According to Nielson research, most online advertising reaches only 27 percent of its intended audience, while Facebook’s average is 91 percent. This statistic alone is a compelling reason to give advertising on the social network a shot. By targeting your Facebook ad, you can reach shoppers based on factors such as age, gender and demographics, or you can use your own data to reach your own custom audience:

I hope you will take advantage of these social strategies to drive your e-commerce business. If you have a Social e-commerce success story, I would love to hear from you! On the flip side, if you are finding it a challenge to move your strategy to the next level, drop me a line at


 Brad Smith is ARI’s Vice President of Product Management. ARI creates award-winning software solutions that help equipment manufacturers, distributors and dealers “Sell More Stuff!” online and in-store. ARI removes the complexity of selling and servicing new and used inventory, parts, garments and accessories for customers in the outdoor power equipment, powersports, marine, RV, automotive tire and wheel, and white goods industries. More than 22,000 equipment dealers, 195 distributors and 140 manufacturers worldwide leverage ARI’s website ( and eCatalog platforms to “Sell More Stuff!” Smith holds an MBA from the University of Wisconsin and is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran.


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