Shopping on the high street or in shopping centres has always been a social experience. From weekly family food shop to tweeting, texting and emailing friends about the latest deals and discounts, there has always been a strong element of sharing when it comes to making a purchase.

Social media has made this element of sharing more powerful and accessible, with millions of users online and using social networks all over the world, online customer relations, new product launches, competitions and viral marketing have all been options for brands looking to reach more people, much faster. Twitter with trending hashtags around a specific brand or product can work wonders for marketing campaigns & sales.

Now with the upwards usage of visual social platforms sites like Instagram & Pinterest, virtual shop windows are now possible, and by tracking the habits of social media users, businesses can track and see what is popular and trending, much like a crowd sourced online focus group.

One of the biggest opportunities is seeing what is popular on these visual sites and can provide valuable insights to your potential audience, helping to fuel new product development, future trends & spending habits.

Brands, retailers and designers are all innovating to stay ahead of the game and to ensure they remain on consumer radars in an increasingly tough economic climate. They’re monitoring social media to find out what their consumers want. They have access to free and convenient focus groups like never before.

Brands have been quick to establish themselves with a very strong social media presence and many have reaped the rewards by using most of the popular social platforms out there.