Effective digital marketing techniques keep changing, and businesses are often left scrambling to keep up. With 3.6 billion people using social media sites by 2020, are your marketing and sales teams profiting from this massive user base?
What if you could go beyond posting ads on Twitter and bring your storefront right to the users?
Social commerce is a concept that’s taken the marketing and eCommerce world by storm. The social commerce market is predicted to reach $604.5 billion in value by 2027 — it’s worth getting into if your company is looking to boost sales, reach new audiences, and raise revenue. But rest assured, it’s far more than just a marketing buzzword.
If you’re worried about your company being left in the dust by competitors, then you can’t afford to let this opportunity pass you up. It’s time to discuss how social commerce relates to eCommerce, its unique advantages, what platforms to use, and some tips for embracing effective social commerce practices.
What is Social Commerce?
Social commerce is the combination of social media marketing with eCommerce practices. You’ve probably already seen online brands advertising through social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. These ads direct you to an online storefront to make purchases so that the customer can go through the entire checkout process without leaving the social media platform.
Buyers don’t have to navigate away from the site to complete a purchase, resulting in social media moving away from being merely a discovery platform for products and services. Instead, all components of the conversion happen on the same social media site:
- Initial discovery
- Product research
There are tremendous growth opportunities for businesses engaging with social commerce, especially given the high popularity of social media and online shopping. And some platforms like Instagram have even introduced tools to help encourage social commerce from retailers.
What Social Commerce Involves
Beyond the technical integration of the storefront and checkout process with the social media platform, social commerce is all about using the platform and its posts and features to attract attention to your brand, such as:
- Using photos, videos, and other visual elements to attract attention.
- Encouraging interactivity with voting polls and user-submitted content and feedback.
- Getting influencers and celebrities on board to help endorse the brand.
- Sharing promotions, sales, and giveaways.
- Measuring customer engagement levels through built-in mechanisms like Retweets on Twitter or Likes on Facebook.
In a way, you can use a lot of what you learned in social media marketing here but with the added benefit of having the storefront only a touch (or click) away.
What Social Commerce Isn’t
We’ve touched upon how social media marketing contributes to social commerce, but don’t confuse social commerce with related terms like general eCommerce and social selling.
The primary difference between social commerce and general eCommerce is that the latter typically occurs over a dedicated website or application designed to deliver the checkout experience (i.e., Amazon, Shopify, Woo Commerce, etc.). Instead, social commerce all happens within a social media platform so that the user doesn’t have to click off to another site to engage with your brand.
On the other hand, social selling is the act of boosting engagement and cultivating relationships with other users over social media. You aren’t necessarily trying to sell a product or service; you’re building up a list of prospects that you can use later.
There’s also a relatively uncommon term, social shopping. This concept involves online shoppers collaborating and networking together to share purchasing advice, whereas social commerce involves the participation of the vendors themselves.
Examples of Social Commerce
One of the first recorded use cases for social commerce comes from Yahoo!, which promoted a “Shoposphere pick list” on its webpage back in 2005. Since then, we’ve seen many creative applications of the social commerce concept, a testament to the flexibility of the strategy.
- Coca-Cola bottles have been seen with unique names printed on the labels. In addition, the company encourages customers to share photos on social media this way through the #ShareACoke hashtag.
- LARQ likewise took advantage of its #DrinkBrilliantly hashtag to promote environmentally friendly and safe drinking water for people worldwide.
- Skullcandy, a brand of headphones and other audio products, launched its “12 Moods” campaign to offer music suggestions based on one’s mood through YouTube Music.
- Starbucks integrated with Foursquare, a location data platform, to offer promotional points to customers who use the Mayor badges feature.
But you don’t need to be a big, recognizable brand to take advantage of social commerce. Social media platforms often cater to the needs of advertising departments looking to integrate storefront functionality with marketing strategies.
Why Should You Care?
You might be asking why social commerce specifically deserves your attention compared to the other advertising methods. While it certainly doesn’t have to be your only marketing push, social commerce offers plenty of unique advantages that you can’t afford to miss, such as:
- It removes friction from the conversion process: It should be easy to see why social commerce enjoys a lower cart abandonment rate compared to other eCommerce strategies. Any extra steps in the conversion process are just more friction that can lead to abandonment. Social commerce effectively eliminates that barrier by connecting the social media site directly with the storefront.
- It makes shopping a social experience: Remember back when teenagers would visit the mall with their friends? Often, the purpose of those trips wasn’t just to buy clothes. Instead, you had a chance to socialize after school and share the experience together. For example, you could offer tips on what to buy and hear about the new trends. That’s the idea behind social commerce: allowing users to interact with each other about their recent or upcoming purchases directly.
- It gives you a convenient communication channel: Instead of setting up a formal focus group, why not read up on what people are talking about on Facebook? Then, other users have a chance to weigh in on what constitutes a good deal and can offer precise and instant feedback to your business. You can respond and rack up points for customer service and genuine interaction.
- It’s the future of marketing: Research from Statista confirms that over half of users aged 16 to 24 have purchased products online through social networks. So the mall of the future truly is online, and engaging with social commerce means future-proofing your marketing efforts.
- Social commerce is growing every day: Don’t think that social commerce is just a flash in the pan. On the contrary, almost any marketing statistician will tell you that it’s a rapidly growing market, with a 37% increase in activity in the U.S. alone from 2020 to 2025.
Of course, you get all the standard benefits of social media marketing and eCommerce, such as the online brand awareness that every business craves nowadays. However, you’ll also have a much better chance of reaching your target audience.
Where Can You Apply Social Commerce?
How can you maximize your value from a social commerce program? The first question is what platforms you want to support as part of your multi-channel marketing push.
From Pinterest’s Product Pins feature to the Augmented Reality Lens on Snapchat, almost every social media site is clamoring to offer social commerce functions. Here are only a few of them.
- Facebook Shops: One of the most prominent social platforms offers pages specifically for businesses where you can connect with potential clients and share news. Facebook Shops essentially lets you set up shop right on the site, and you can communicate with customers through Messenger or perform an in-app checkout anytime.
- Instagram Shops: Being a photograph-focused social network, Instagram is a perfect place to start a social commerce journey, especially for fashion brands. You get built-in shopping tags and compatibility with Facebook Pay. But it’s also worth noting that Facebook owns Instagram, and you’ll need the latter to set up shop in the former.
- Snapchat: A new member of the social commerce space is Snapchat, who’s coming in hot with its Brand Profiles feature. It integrates the network with Shopify for a native storefront experience and emphasizes the platform’s strength in attracting high-profile influencers.
Not all social networks offer support for social commerce, however. One notable example is Pinterest, which does not explicitly have on-site checkout. And although users will still have to click off the site to buy something, it can still be an excellent contribution to your overall eCommerce initiative.
Future Trends in Social Commerce to Look Out For
It doesn’t take a marketing expert to know that social commerce sales will experience explosive growth in the next few years, with some estimates at almost $3 trillion U.S. dollars by 2026. But beyond the mere numbers, it’s worth looking at the trends that will mold this growth.
Visuals and Video Will Prevail
YouTube is huge, and many networks reliant on video have arisen in recent years, like TikTok and Snapchat. We want to watch our content more than ever, and social commerce professionals understand this demand.
That’s why video advertising will become such a central talking point for future marketing campaigns, as customers are beginning to expect product videos as part of the buying process. Seeing products work in action, whether through pre-recorded video or even livestream shopping, is the best way to show off your offerings remotely.
Influencer Marketing Makes a Splash
The rise of influencers reflects how most people crave relatable experiences on social media. Influencers are essentially just regular people who talk about their lives and hobbies casually online compared to celebrity endorsements.
Working with influencers is the perfect way to connect with your audience, as most online purchases are encouraged by advice given by influencers in the market. Don’t neglect micro-influencers; they can be a great way to connect with niche audiences.
Live Chat Even With a Bot
Part of the appeal of social media is having easy access to communicating with the people you want to talk to. From that perspective, businesses need to focus their customer service efforts on responding on social media.
Live chat and even chatbots have been the subject of eCommerce testing, with reasonably positive results in terms of customer engagement and conversion rates. For example, you can talk with users directly about promotions or post-transaction support. Doing so gives your marketing push a personal touch and makes clients think that they’re being valued.
A report from Gartner affirms this notion, as 85% of businesses are expected to offer live chat services by 2022. Alongside a social commerce initiative, marketing teams have a chance to integrate such chat features right into a social networking app.
Tips and Best Practices for Social Commerce
Let’s end with some tips and strategies for success in the lucrative social commerce market.
- Prioritize your platforms: There’s no harm in approaching multiple social networks for your marketing, but you can optimize your efforts by looking at which platforms your target audience uses the most. Likewise, market research will tell you what type of content your target demographic is looking for.
- Let the content match the platform: What works on Facebook might not work well on Instagram, for example. Take a look at the content format generally expected from each network: Twitter values brevity, Instagram offers its Reels feature, and TikTok expects videos.
- Use post scheduling to your advantage: Timing can matter just as much as content. So instead of dumping all your listings at once, maximize your exposure by scheduling them at regular intervals to avoid overloading people’s feeds.
- Make sure your inventory keeps up: Because social commerce encourages short-term demand for products, you certainly don’t want to miss out on conversion because you’re out of stock. So make sure your product catalog is correctly synced with your stock levels.
- Collect data and analytics: Gain information from built-in analytics tools offered by most platforms, such as Google Analytics, and the various conversion data points you can get from Facebook, Instagram, and other channels that support social commerce. You could even ask for survey responses directly from customers.
With the right best practices and some experience under your belt, your organization will be positioned to take advantage of the e-commerce and social media boom.
Are You Getting Social Commerce Right?
It’s clear that social media is a paradigm shift for eCommerce and online marketing, and there’s no better time to get started. Bring your storefront directly to your customers as they’re browsing their news feeds for a powerful way to boost sales.
Ready to adopt social commerce as part of your advertising strategy? Enhance the way you connect and convert online with a direct-to-consumer eCommerce marketing agency like Parkfield Commerce.
Let us show you how our data-driven approach can help you generate even more sales through social media. Get a free assessment from us today to see how far we can take you.