Every morning I walk past David Ogilvy’s “We Sell or Else” stencilled on the glass wall of our reception.

Yet in social, marketers aren’t even turning up to sell a lot of the time.

It’s not surprising if they aren’t trying to sell through social – since many brands have had failed attempts.

Relatively little traffic to e-commerce sites is driven by social. Plus conversion rates are often poor when people do arrive on a website from social channels.

This is unsurprising really – people in social are often simply chatting to friends, and most importantly they are spending most of their social time in apps on mobile devices. So it’s not very convenient to click on something to purchase it.

That’s why Google’s new research on how people use channels shows that social is relatively early in the purchase process compared to active search, email or paid search.

But this doesn’t mean social has no role in closing purchase decisions. There’s a big difference between ‘People use social earlier in the funnel than search’ and ‘Marketers should mainly use social to influence consumers at the top of the funnel.’

People use social for over an hour every day on average – so it inevitably plays a significant role at every stage of consumer journeys. This isn’t always evident because:

1. Social use close to purchase is often on a different device – so while entering credit card details may happen offline, or on a different device, the rest of the journey is highly social. For clients we have worked with on multi-channel attribution models, social can influence more than 20 transactions for every one transaction where the final click comes from social.

2. Very few organisations have optimised the last few steps of the consumer journey so that they work from social. Companies often give up in social just when consumers are getting close to purchase.

Here are five ways that you can use social to close the deal:

1. Allow people to buy through social by linking their social accounts to your payment system. American Express (client) have famously done this though Sync – where you can buy through Tweeting an appropriate hashtag or checking in on Foursquare. Amazon have recently made this easier with AmazonCart.

In the near future expect many more social networks to offer direct payment through Social, as WeChat already does, and Facebook is reportedly planning.

2. If you can’t enable full payment, then using social logins at the point of checkout is a simple way to pre-fill forms, and to cross reference with your consumer database. If a consumer’s name and address is filled in then you’ll have reduced the number of fields that need to be filled in to just three (credit card number, expiry, security code) from the usual seven.

Twitter cards are another way to achieve this – allowing people to click to register via an email address, which you can then connect to people’s existing accounts.

3. If payment is simply too complex to arrange through social then ‘reserve this item’ is a simple way to use commitment to boost purchases – whether enabled through a comment on a Facebook page, tweeting to an account or using a hashtag.

It’s simple to tell your customers ‘reserve this by tweeting #buyOgilvy’ and to set up alerts for customers who do this, even if your commerce system can’t always automate the rest of the process.

4. Click to call is gradually starting to appear as an option in social, currently mainly in ad formats, and has huge potential given that most social use is on smartphones. Encouraging people to call, even if they don’t actually purchase in the call, will deepen their commitment as well as resolve many fears that consumers have immediately before purchase.

5. Implement reviews through your social channels – for instance linked to from your ‘About’ pages. Reviews increase conversion rates on websites, and in search, by 10-20%, yet are rarely implemented in social channels.

Rob Blackie is director of social at OgilvyOne UK

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