Brands once had to manage only a few touchpoints that drove word of mouth during consumer purchase cycles. Today's consumers still are influenced through word of mouth, but what has changed is the ease by which word of mouth can spread due to emerging technology.

Originally, online retailers built technology to support consumers who already knew what they wanted. But today's online consumers are becoming increasingly social in their shopping behavior. They are bringing more of the decision process online—looking for inspiration and advice from different channels and sources.

The growth in the creation of information combined with the hunger to consume and share that information in real time are driving this next wave of innovation in social retail. Due to using social networks, online consumers are not just buyers anymore; they are critics, experts, advocates, and influencers.

The following eight social touchpoints contribute to the extended decision-making process, providing various ways for customers to connect with friends, family, and experts for advice and creating multiple opportunities for brands to influence potential customers throughout this journey.

1. Discovery platforms

The consideration phase typically starts here. What used to mostly happen offline either in-store or through an advertisement or via word of mouth is happening more online. Consumers are going to sites like Pinterest, Wanelo, and Houzz to get ideas and inspiration for products they want and need.

2. Influencers and bloggers

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image of Alex Gonzalez

Alex Gonzalez is CEO and co-founder of Chatalog, a new collaborative shopping technology that mimics the experience of walking into a store and the collaborative conversation that occurs with an accompanying friend or brand representative.

LinkedIn: Alex Gonzalez