The social commerce market has risen dramatically over the past few years and is predicted to continue to rise astronomically. Forbes has described the social commerce growth trend as ‘inevitable’ and when we take a closer look, it’s clear why. Omni-channel commerce has never been so important; and social commerce fits the need for expansion perfectly.
So, What Is Social Commerce?
Social commerce refers to the activity of buying and selling on apps and social media sites. Purchases can take place partly or wholly within social media, but the key important feature is that social media facilitates commerce. This can apply to social sites such as; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok. These platforms which are traditionally associated with media sharing and socially connecting, have the potential to generate great sales, and social commerce taps into this.
How Does It Work?
Let’s take a look at an example of how this works. Imagine that a user is scrolling on Instagram’s ‘Recommended For You’ page. The Instagram algorithm knows the user’s interests are interior design, so it displays ‘decor’ images with a tag that links to an ecommerce store. Within a few days, the product from the image on Instagram is delivered to the user. The user can then share the original post, and generate more sales from the user’s other social media followers.
When the user opened their Instagram, their intent wasn’t to purchase. But the platform recognised the opportunity for a personalized shopping experience based on the algorithm’s knowledge. The successful recommendation then turned into a sale. This is social commerce; turning a browsing experience into conversions.
Social platforms have the ability to create personalized and targeted in-app shopping experiences for customers, in virtue of the way the site works itself. Ecommerce functionality is brought into social media platforms and the outcome is a win.
Other ways social commerce can work can be through hashtags, user generated content on social channels and enabling in-app purchases. These are all routes that social commerce is traveling down as we speak.
Why It Works
Social commerce moves with the times. It’s a trending commerce strategy, so it’s best to get on board before it’s too late. The majority of brands are working on increasing their social commerce, and it’s estimated that social commerce will grow to $79.64 billion by 2025 in the US. At this point, it makes up 10% of all ecommerce sales and this is expected to rise to 17% in the next 3 years. Social commerce offers a seamless shopping experience, with a direct-to-consumer model that engages with customers in an entirely new way.
So why is social commerce so popular? Well, there are several reasons why this approach works so well.
Convenience is a key priority when customers select retailers, and social commerce allows customers to discover products and sometimes complete entire purchases all from the confines of their own social media; where they naturally spend time anyway. The discovery journey couldn’t be more simple and convenient, especially when purchases can be done via the app- this is a completely frictionless process. This is one of the main appeals; as 82% of customers enjoy the convenience of social commerce.
As well as the process itself being easier, the research phase is cut down for the shopper. Usually before making a purchase a shopper would need to take time to compare or read reviews, but these can all be sourced in one place and are clearly visible on socials.
Reach New Markets
Geography is no issue for social commerce; a global audience can become aware of your product if it’s something they might be interested in; no matter where they are located. This is a strong acquisition strategy, and coupled with targeted ads, a campaign can create bigger demand than before.
Generates A Buzz
Social media campaigns, influencers and social sharing, when done right, can create hype and excitement that can go viral. This kind of marketing and attention can make all the difference for an ecommerce business. If there is a buzz, or something viral happening on social media, sales through the platform are inevitably going to rise. Your store can control this, as a social buzz can be engineered or created about new products or a new campaign, in a way that is difficult to achieve on an online store.
Each user’s social media reflects their personal interests and preferences, and social commerce means that they will be shown products that they are interested in. Since the social platform algorithm is already identifying what the user wants to see, combining this with products the user would want to buy only makes perfect sense.
Rather than showing the entire store front, social commerce allows you to demonstrate your top products and ideal brand image. Rather than a whole storefront being shown, a social page can identify what users are interested in seeing, and how the brand wants to be perceived, and then put a lot of emphasis on this.
Enables Lifetime Customers
If a customer continues to follow your brand, they can keep returning to purchase from you if a new campaign successfully entices them. This continued attention is hard to achieve via email or anything other than social media.
People can like, share and comment on brands content for everyone to see. The same place where people make purchases, they are then able to leave their feedback. This transparency goes a long way for potential buyers. If the page has high engagement, people will know the brand is trustworthy and feel encouraged to make their purchase with them.
Now we understand why social commerce works, but like anything else, just knowing that it can work is different from being able to pull it off successfully. In order to have an optimized social commerce strategy, it requires thought and intention. Let’s take a look at some best practices that allow use of social commerce to benefit your business the most.
In order for social commerce to work, the content on the social media must be of a high quality. It must provide value to the customers, giving them a reason to click on the link. Content should tell stories and connect with customers emotionally. It should create visual appeal, so that people’s attention is caught. Influencers (social media users with online followings) can be used to create content that will definitely be appreciated; as their job is to understand how to market products and ideas to their followers.
Another key feature of the content should be that it should be shareable. If users are unable to share products and images then you’re missing out on a huge marketing opportunity through user engagement.
Connect With The Audience
Social media breaks down boundaries between shoppers and the business. People can communicate with brands via messaging, enabling them to ask questions from within their trusted personal space. If brands answer quickly via these platforms, there is a huge increase in brand trust and engagement. Replying to public customer comments or reviews demonstrates to all that the business is present. If the business is able to respond publicly in a humorous or interesting way, even better! The brand image is boosted even more.
Invest In A Social Strategy
Social commerce works best when there is a social media strategy already in place. If your business doesn’t already have a social media team, it’s a good time to get organized. Social commerce works best if you have active and engaged users, your content needs to be compelling and relationship building, and the social channels need to be active. In short, a reasonable investment of time, effort and money here will not go amiss. It’s worth the investment.
Keep On Testing
The average social media app has 1-4 updates per month. They move with the times and constantly refreshes and renews, adapting to changing customer behaviors and desires. This is how these apps stay so popular. Your social presence and commerce should follow this same model. New features should be tested; Shop The Look pins, Instagram story tags, Facebook advertising, Visual Discovery– or anything else you can think of. The important thing is to keep testing, keep trying new and inventive ideas and being open to evolution.
We’ve now seen why social commerce works so well and what you can do to optimize the beneficial results. But why bother with all of this? Now we’ll take a look at the advantages of social commerce for your business, to show you why all the effort is definitely worth it.
Consistent Audience Growth
Every day, thousands of new users join social media. Facebook has over a billion active users each month, and millions are constantly active over all the platforms. Followings for companies can really grow over social media. This is accelerated by strong social media content, or endorsements from social influencers. But if the presence is strong, audience growth is ensured.
Higher SEO and Search Engine Ranking
Social media commerce increases traffic from the social media page to the website, which in turn will increase the search engine ranking results. The higher SEO rating only brings more positive benefits to the business.
Available Business Metrics From Socials
Facebook pages, Instagram business accounts and twitter all have built in metrics for impressions, engagement and reach. The measurement of traffic through click counts can be viewed, as well the total number of fans, followers and sentiment of interactions are all metrics that can be highly useful to a business.
Seeing how regularly followers in general engage with your social media page can be a good indication of how your business is being received by your audience, and therefore what good next steps are to take in order to achieve your business goals.
Fits With Social Trends
Customer trends change and update fast, and social commerce allows businesses to adapt to this. Phrases such as ‘Swipe Up To Purchase’ or ‘Clink The Link In The Bio’ all have come as a result of new social media evolutions, which help users purchase and can be updated as new features are added. People like to think that the brands they follow are modern and up to date, and social media allows this impression to be shared. Making a new post or update can happen in a matter of minutes, as oppose to changes made to a website which can take a lot longer.
Evens The Playing Field
If a business is able to connect to the zeitgeist, it can achieve success through the power of social media alone. This evens out the playing field, as it doesn’t matter how successful or big the brand might be outside of social media. Social commerce is fully dependent on social media presence, and brand image depends on this. Big businesses might not have as good of a presence as smaller ones, which puts potential into the hands of the small.
A study actually showed that more than half of social buyers said they were more likely to buy from an independent brand with social commerce compared to an ecommerce site. This is as a result of the brand image presented, active engaged users and social proof readily available.
Appeals To The Right Audience
Young people determine what is tending culturally, and therefore shape the consumer market. Gen Z spends more time shopping on social channels than the average consumer, but 50% of millennials also use social media to make online purchases. With the growing consumer pool of Gen Z and Millennials, social commerce has never been more relevant. Having said that, social commerce does also apply to other ages and demographics. It has something for everyone.
Social Commerce is a new and exciting way of engaging with customers and driving sales. It fits perfectly with the trajectory we are on as a society with our social engagement, and if your ecommerce business has not already considered investing in social commerce, now is the time.
It can increase sales, drive traffic, improve brand image and increase customer engagement. A social media strategy is necessary in order to make the most of this, but if done right it can completely transform your business.