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Social Discovery sites' influence on retail expanding, Rakuten's numbers find

By Gregor Cubie

October 2, 2013 | 3 min read

Social Media, Social Discovery and sharing sites are responsible for an increasing proportion of major retail brands’ online traffic and sales, according to a study by Rakuten’s

Traffic to the Japanese-owned, Jersey-based electronics retailer through social discovery sites such as Pinterest has increased 200 per cent, while traffic through social networks such as Facebook has risen 80 per cent year-on-year.

Based on a sample of 300 consumers, the study also found that mobile devices now account for 23 per cent of sales, a rise of 53 per cent year-on-year.

Shingo Murakami, managing director at Rakuten’s, felt that the revelations underline the importance of a ‘multi-channel retail strategy’:

“Christmas is around 90 days away, but it’s no longer a case of ready your website and shoppers will come, retailers need to think carefully about the channels in which they invest and optimise. There’s no one size fits all model, but the trends our merchants have seen in the last year highlight the growing role of social discovery and multi-channel offerings in the retail mix.”

While the appeal of social media to retailers has been well documented – those who access Rakuten’s through Facebook spend on average 24 per cent more time on the site – the potential impact of ‘social discovery’ sites such as Pinterest and Tumblr on retail is only now becoming apparent.

The key difference between the two is that social media mainly allows users to connect with people they know in real life, whereas social discovery sites allow people to connect through shared interests, irrespective of whether they know one another.

Melissa Rudy from Techopedia explained the unique benefits of social discovery sites to marketing thus:

“For online marketers, social discovery can be a great advantage. Aside from being able to connect with a wider network of potential customers, marketers can hone in on targets with far more precision and better timing.”

Backing up this analysis was the revelation that traffic from Pinterest to Rakuten’s reached its peak in December 2012, in the height of what is known as the ‘Golden Quarter’ for retailers, with social discovery sites set to play an even bigger role in this year’s festive shopping rush. Rakuten Facebook

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