eCommerce is one of the industries that constantly changes and evolves to accommodate customer’s changing requirements. Unlike the other sectors, eCommerce is significantly more flexible. This means implementing significant eCommerce changes is not as laborious as it is in other industries. However, when it comes to eCommerce, no system is perfect.
It is obvious that the average customer does not want ads to be shoved down their throat every time they use their phone. We have always been on the lookout for easy to market products without having to invade someone’s personal space in the digital world. Instead of bombarding your customers with ads, what you should be focusing on is to create a meaningful engagement with them. We have been working to accomplish this over the years and as a result, we have come up with efficient strategies like content commerce and inbound marketing.
eCommerce has always been synonymous with convenience, and social commerce takes it to a whole new level. Social commerce lets you shop for products from whatever social media platform you are on without having to navigate away from it. With advanced targeting, the right product is marketed to customers who are genuinely interested in the product. The level of convenience that we can see in social commerce is unparalleled.
Defining Social Commerce
Social commerce is the latest among the methods that are now being employed to enhance meaningful customer engagements. By definition, social commerce is the branch of eCommerce that employs social media to interact with its users and assist the online buying and selling of products or services. The best thing about social commerce is that you don’t have to encourage customers to bring them to the platform. Most of us are already using some kind of social media platform regularly.
Social commerce is not the same as social media marketing. In fact, social media marketing can even be considered as a subset or precursor to social commerce. While social media marketing redirects users to an online store, social commerce does not. It enables the user to checkout within the social media platform they are browsing at the moment.
The purchase journey on a typical eCommerce store is often complex and relies on redirects from one platform to another. Social commerce provides a straightforward and convenient alternative for this. Despite being virtual, social interaction still remains the goal of all social media platforms. Social media enables users to create and share content online or participate in social networking.
Social commerce is optimized for social media, and interacting with the customers is one of its core functionalities. With the help of interactive features, social commerce experts create and post content that promotes your products and boosts sales. When the products are presented to the users as an interactive post, they have a much higher chance of engaging the user than regular ads or posts.
Top 6 Tactics and Interactive Options Offered by Social Commerce
1. Social Media Polls
Social media polling is one of the most effective ways to interact with your customers. It enables you to get valuable insights directly from consumers. It can be a useful tool to get feedback from your potential customers before launching a new product.
2. Large and Attractive Graphics
The importance of visually appealing images in social media is self-explanatory. In social commerce, you can employ large and striking graphics to attract the viewers, just like on a social media platform.
3. Videos Featuring Your Products
Videos are an essential part of social media and can create an impact just like images and graphic content. Therefore, it is an integral part of social commerce. You can make use of creative ideas or partner with the influencers to showcase your products through videos.
4. User-generated Content
There is no doubt that the best kind of marketing is still carried out by your customers. Use user-generated content like photos, commentaries, and other content to market your products. Promote these posts with relevant hashtags for the best results.
5. Celebrity Endorsements
Using celebrities to endorse your products may seem like an old-fashioned method to promote your products. However, the truth is, people are attracted to their lifestyles and try to portray the same. Furthermore, it can help you build a brand reputation.
6. Promotions and Giveaways
Promotions and giveaways are the best ways to encourage user-generated content. The best thing about giveaways is that the users themselves will market your products and you don’t have to spend a dime- the bigger the giveaway, the more extensive the reach to your audience.
Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Employ Social Commerce
1. Consistent Audience Growth
Social media is a constantly growing network. Every day, thousands of people join one of the social media sites. Statista has reported that in the second quarter of 2020 itself, Facebook has over 2.6 billion monthly active users. One of the most significant hurdles faced by eCommerce companies, is attracting and retaining the right audience. Social commerce not only accomplishes this, but also enables your business to grow your customer base steadily. Unlike an eCommerce store, you don’t have to break a neck trying to boost the traffic to your store.
2. Authentic Engagement and Traffic
Social commerce empowers businesses to attract and retain the right audience for your business. One of the factors that attract businesses to adopt social commerce, is their capability to reach and engage with the target audience through content. When your followers or target audience comes across your posts, it serves to engrave your brand as a viable option.
Social commerce is an interaction-centric approach. It enables two-way communication between a business and its customers. This means that your customers can not only use the platform for shopping, but also for support. It can serve as an efficient customer service channel pre and post-purchase. Through social commerce, you can help your customers solve problems, address their questions, and provide information about your products. It also lets you share interesting products and services with your loved ones over social media. This, in turn, leads to higher user engagements and traffic.
3. Improves Search Engine Ranking
Your search engine ranking can be influenced based on the engagement of your brand on social media. Although we don’t have an exact picture of how significant the influence of social media engagement is on search engine ranking, we do know that it’s a significant contributing factor. You can influence the search engine ranking by sharing the links to your website on your post on social media.
4. Stronger Relationship With Customers
Social commerce has a superior capability that lets you interact with your customers personally. It allows you to build a stronger customer relationship by providing quality service and support through your social commerce channel. This also has the ability to impact customer loyalty. Social commerce can positively affect customer retention rates and boost customer loyalty with the added advantage of marketing your brand. This can further be influenced using promotions and giveaways which almost always results in happy and satisfied customers who are likely to come back to your store.
5. Valuable Insights and Business Matrices
Every successful business has made use of business matrices to assess and determine the best solution. For any strategy to be deemed successful for a business, it needs to prove that it can generate a positive ROI or Return on Investment. If the results obtained from a strategy cannot be evaluated and determined to generate a positive ROI, then it’s a waste of time and effort.
Social Commerce stores - such as in Facebook and Instagram, are capable of providing you with valuable data and analytics. Social media is capable of delivering data metrics like impressions, engagements, and reach. Furthermore, you even get access to traffic data to your website via website click counts.
The Journey of Social Commerce Over the Years
Social commerce is not a new concept. It has been around for more than a few years now. Over the years, we have seen many social media platforms making a transition to social commerce. The indisputable leader on this is none other than Facebook. Facebook is one social media platform that has always reached for social commerce capabilities. With the launch of Facebook Shops, they have finally made their vision a reality. But that doesn’t mean Facebook is the only one who has been busy laying the foundation for social commerce. Let’s take a look at some of the major social media platforms and how they have prepared themselves for social commerce.
Facebook is without question, the leader when it comes to social commerce. It has been relentless in the pursuit of achieving commerce capability on the platform. Facebook is perhaps, the biggest social media platform in the world right now that has a diverse user base. With 2.2 billion active users and new users joining every day, Facebook offers the best social commerce potential.
Facebook’s social commerce journey began way back in 2007. It opened Facebook Marketplace - allowing its users to sell and buy items within their network. Now that you think about it, Facebook was way ahead of its competition- if they ever had any, from the very beginning. However, as a precursor to this, Facebook carried out a virtual gift test. However, that seems almost insignificant compared to the developments they have made.
The next major development for social commerce on Facebook happened in 2014 when they bought the “Buy” button for testing. The new development would allow brands to sell their products without leaving Facebook. The very next year, in 2015, Facebook implemented payments through Messenger. In the same year, Facebook also tested its first shoppable page. These were another significant stride towards social commerce.
In 2018, Facebook finally launched a full-functioning marketplace. It went head-on with giants like Amazon, Etsy, and Google Shopping. Finally, in 2020, Facebook seems to have taken its biggest step yet towards social commerce by launching Facebook Shops. With the launch of Facebook Shops, we are finally able to set up a shop capable of working entirely on a social media platform. Though it is not yet perfect, it is just a matter of time before it is evolved and fine-tuned for full commerce capability.
In 2012, Instagram was acquired by Facebook and has been an integral part of their operation. Instagram offers one of the best platforms for social commerce and some experts argue that it holds the most potential for it. The reason being that millennials mostly prefer Instagram over Facebook. Millennials also have a buying capacity that is continuously growing which is perfect for social commerce.
Instagram is a platform that communicates through beautiful images and videos, which is perfect for social commerce. If you can produce aesthetically pleasing images featuring your products that can resonate well with your target audience, then you are bound to generate meaningful engagement. Ultimately, it all comes down to your ability to convert these engagements into sales.
Similar to Facebook, Instagram has also been edging closer to social commerce over the past few years. In 2015, Instagram introduced its “Shop Now” button- which is very similar to the ones seen on Facebook. Later in 2016, Instagram implemented product tags, which turned out to be an immense success. It allows the users to identify the products and view their prices in ads which was Instagram’s next major step towards social commerce. Meanwhile, Shopify and BigCommerce integrations were not rolled out until 2017.
The release of eCommerce integrations for Instagram shopping opened new opportunities for thousands of merchants.Instagram’s “Shoppable Posts”, which was launched in 2018 gave brands the ability to tag products in organic posts. These tags would take the user to a new page that would eventually lead to a checkout. Finally, in 2020, Instagram Shops was launched in the United States, which enables you to build an immersive storefront for users to explore and buy your products.
Unfortunately, Twitter is lagging behind its competitors when it comes to social commerce. There are a couple of reasons why this seems to be the case. Unlike other platforms, they are unable to use multimedia posts for interactions since they are relatively focused on text-based content. However, Twitter did make some strides towards social commerce considering their sponsored tweet feature launched in 2010. Although in 2014, they did put up an earnest attempt to enable social commerce on their platform with the “Buy Now” button but it was later dropped in 2017.
Pinterest is pretty similar to Instagram, considering how both are filled with artistic visual content. Because of this, it is relatively easier to market your products with the help of the right content. Pinterest, in 2015, offered its original version of buyable pins, which enabled a select few brands to implement the buy button. However, it wasn’t until next year that Pinterest rolled out the feature to more brands making it more accessible. Pinterest went so far as to implement a shopping cart so that the users could buy multiple products from various suppliers.
TikTok is without a question the new and upcoming platform because of its use of highly interactive multimedia content. Although the functionality to make a purchase on the platform has not yet been implemented, there is a possibility that they decide to add this feature knowing it could lead to potential sales. As seen on every other social media platform, TikTok has also started its social commerce journey with ads. You can choose from multiple ad formats for your video ads on TikTok. This includes hashtag challenge, biddable ads, brand takeover, and branded lenses.
Top 7 Practices in Social Commerce
1. Establish a Niche With Your Best and Low-Cost Products
When starting on social commerce, it is better to establish a niche using your best product- which seems pretty obvious. However, what may not seem obvious is that you should start with your low-cost products. The point here is to make the users who are leisurely browsing through their social media feed buy from your store. In other words, you will be targeting users who are casual shoppers and those who are eager to buy and not users who’d weigh the pros and cons of an expensive purchase.
2. Partner With Influencers and Communities
Your social commerce game can get a major boost if you are able to partner with the right influencers and communities on social media platforms. When making your decision on who to choose as an influencer for your brand, make sure that they are capable of appealing to your target audience. Ensure that the influencers and communities you employ to market your products are relevant to your industry. After all, there is no point appointing an influencer who is popular for fashion-related content to market a camping business.
3. Evaluate Your Strategy
Social commerce, like any other eCommerce model, focuses on guiding your customers to checkout. Social commerce accomplishes this through captivating content and two-way communication. However, the ultimate measure of a successful strategy is based on the money spent and revenue generated. The methodology of evaluating your social commerce strategy is completely different from that of traditional eCommerce strategies. Hence, we have to base it not just on its sales but also on customer engagement.
4. Optimize With the Right Tools
Similar to a regular eCommerce store, you can make use of the right tools for your store and make your business easier to manage. Social commerce still has a long way to go, and the perfect tool for your business may not yet be available. Streamlining your business operation by using messaging tools, checkout chat bots, and more, helps facilitate communication with potential customers. In case you can’t find the right tool for your specific requirements, it is only a matter of time before one is developed.
5. Optimize Messengers for Engagement
Social commerce thrives on customer engagement and your messenger needs to be optimized for the same. As far as Facebook shopping is concerned, they have the capability to implement automated chat bots through messenger. Similarly, it would be best for you to implement features like a chat bot that can enhance the engagement on your store. You can even look after the customer engagement via messenger by yourself or even employ someone to do the same.
6. Automated Bot Checkouts
Automated bot checkout is relatively easy to implement on your social commerce store. There are tools that you could employ on your social commerce store that comes with built-in automated checkout chat bots. It only takes a few minutes to get the automated checkout chat bots set up on your store. What is even more interesting is that these tools work seamlessly across all social media platforms.
7. Manage From Your eCommerce Platform
As mentioned before, Facebook is the social media platform that has made the most advancement when it comes to applying social commerce practically. Although we have yet reached a stage where you can integrate your business’ social media account to eCommerce platforms, the day is not far away. Facebook shops already allow a number of eCommerce platforms to be integrated to it and lets you manage many aspects from your eCommerce platform itself. In the near future, the system will become more streamlined and you will be able to manage all activities from your eCommerce platform itself- resulting in a true omni-channel experience.
Social commerce is slowly gaining traction and holds significant potential for growth. With Facebook and Instagram Shops being launched recently, it is evident in which direction we are headed. Businesses of all sizes- including giants like Converse, are embracing social commerce and with good reasons. Thanks to social commerce, it is now even easier to set up an online store for your business. With two-way communication and enhanced interactions with your consumers, eCommerce is no longer what it used to be. We can expect great things from the new social commerce and once perfected, it is capable of revolutionizing social media, omni-channel selling, and eCommerce itself. The sooner you can provide a social commerce experience to your customer, the better it will be for your business.