It’s no secret that eCommerce has rapidly grown, resulting in all kinds of variations: voice commerce, mobile commerce, social commerce, and more.

As the paths to online sales become increasingly non-linear, each offshoot merits its own strategy, and social commerce in particular is poised to have an interesting impact on retail sales.

In fact, 87% of eCommerce customers cite social media as having an impact on their shopping decisions. But social doesn’t just influence a potential customer’s decision-making process. In 2018, 55% of online shoppers made a purchase through a social media channel

Social channels are increasingly profitable as sales platforms, with more and more users beginning to purchase directly through a social channel.

The question traditional retailers and eCommerce companies alike need to ask themselves: why force customers to take an extra step?

It’s time to simplify the shopping experience and enable customers to purchase your products directly through social channels.

What is Social Commerce?

As you’ve likely already guessed, social commerce is simply the practice of selling products or services through social media networks.

There’s some overlap with social media marketing, but the difference is that rather than redirecting someone scrolling on your Instagram profile to your online store, you’d enable them to purchase directly through Instagram. 

While each social platform has taken its own approach to social selling - from Instagram’s shoppable posts to Facebook’s Marketplace (which rivals similar platforms like eBay and Amazon) - social selling can be found across most mainstream social channels. 

Untapped Potential

Yet despite the increasing prevalence of paths to social commerce, and the potential for it to be a game-changer for eCommerce brands, buying online via social media still isn’t as popular as it could be. 

A variety of issues hold shoppers back, with a primary concern being security. In fact, 71% of customers cited concerns over sharing credit card and banking information as the reason that they do not purchase directly through social media platform (per a study by Sumo Heavy). 

Additionally, while shoppers are increasingly following brands on social media in order to peruse products, turning to social media for reviews, and discovering products and brands through friends and influencers, they still aren’t quite ready to click that “Buy” button on Facebook. 

This creates two major opportunities for brands:

  1. A solid social strategy can help expose your brand to new audiences. While your social strategy cannot solely feature social commerce content (i.e. don’t just use your platforms to sell products), you can use a combination of content to help you build your brand’s relationship with a customer, and encourage them to purchase your products. 
  2. Native social commerce (posting content directly to a platform, not links that redirect customers away from the platform, which most social algorithms don’t encourage) can help you organically grow your audience. It also eliminates extra steps in the customer experience, making the path to purchase simpler. 

Improving the Social Commerce Experience for Customers

Acknowledgments that social commerce still has a long way to go before customers fully embrace it aside, there are immediate steps that your brand can take to improve the social commerce experience for potential customers.

Identify which social platforms best fit your brand

smart phones showing different social media platforms

Not all social platforms are created equally. Start small and develop a robust social commerce strategy on the appropriate platform. 

Consider the platforms’ capabilities, but also your target audience, and on which platforms they are most likely to spend time. Run some A/B testing on this platform to see what content resonates, and adjust accordingly. 

Once you’ve got a solid social commerce strategy in place on one platform, consider expanding your reach with a paid advertising strategy. 

Lean on chatbots

It might seem counterintuitive to “outsource” customer service to a bot, but automated chatbots that drive customers directly to Facebook messenger or similar direct messaging options increase engagement with your brand, and increase the likelihood of making a sale.

Chatbots are now sophisticated enough that they can also help automate the checkout process, further simplifying the customer experience. 

Additionally, unlike more traditional email marketing strategies, chatbots allow for two-way communication.

Your customers can connect directly with you, rather than having to submit a clunky contact form via your website. While bots might seem like impersonal customer service, shoppers actually increasingly prefer instant access to answers.

Focus on impulse purchases

Most “stop scrolling and buy” purchases are not for high-end or expensive products. But inexpensive, lower-tier items? Those are impulse purchases that someone browsing on social may be more inclined to make. 

Capture important data

It’s important to remember that while a robust, engaged social following can be critical to a brand’s success, the platform owns your customer data - not you. Find ways to capture critical pieces of data, like email addresses, to use in additional digital marketing strategies. 

Emphasize authentic relationship building

Use social commerce as a way to grow engagement, build connections with customers, and prove that your brand is genuine and trustworthy. The sales will follow. 

In Conclusion

The social commerce revolution hasn’t fully begun, but the potential is there. Brands that can deliver meaningful social commerce experiences can differentiate themselves from competitors, streamline shopping processes, and strengthen brand awareness, reach, engagement, and relationships. 

To learn more about how our commerce expertise can help drive your business, contact us.

About the Author

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Sarah Falcon

VP, Marketing Global

Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.

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