What was the last thing you bought that wasn’t a necessary household item or food?
Can you imagine the steps you took to make that purchase?
It’s ok if you can’t remember. We can use me as an example. Even though it may be snowing wherever you are, it’s sunny and warm here, and the golf courses are open!
Which, of course, means I am all over my favourite social apps watching videos about how to improve my swing. It also means new golf clothes.
Now for the fun part – shopping!
There are now two distinctly different online shopping experiences I can have while shopping for my clothes, and the one we are deep diving into today is social eCommerce.
This form of ecommerce occurs right inside the social media platform, combining the convenience of social media with the ease of online shopping, creating a seamless experience for consumers and a significant opportunity for businesses to increase sales.
However, to take advantage of this opportunity, businesses must know how to engage in social eCommerce and be aware of the barriers they may face. In this blog post, we’ll explore these topics in more detail and examine the trends for the future of social eCommerce.
Here’s the scoop…
Let’s return to my search for new golf clothes for a minute.
Online shopping is still far more convenient than visiting a brick-and-mortar shop.
And, as an old hand at spending far too much money online shopping, it’s a relatively quick process to get to a product I might be interested in. I know what brands I like and about some other potential brands that might sell what I am looking for.
That being said, there are approximately 6-8 clicks and a whole lot of typing between me and that final transaction. And that’s a long path where I can easily get distracted, see ads that might be closer to what I am looking for, or change my mind completely.
This process I am engaging in is called the sales funnel. A simple funnel looks like this:
If we apply this sales funnel to my search for golf clothes, I am probably already in the interest section of the funnel. Which is great; however, those 6-8 clicks are still between me and making that final purchase.
One of the advantages social eCommerce presents is that it shortens the sales funnel, thereby removing many of the potential holes between me and the final purchase.
Instead of having to actively search for golf clothes on a search engine like Google, my previous engagement with golf accounts on social apps will undoubtedly result in me being served ads for accounts that have exactly what I’m looking for – that perfect golf dress with a special pocket for my tees.
The best part is that I can click the ad, which directs me straight to that product on the brand’s website or in-app storefront. During this shopping experience, I am still in the interest section of the funnel. Instead of 6-8 clicks, it’s 4-5 clicks with little deviation from the original product I was interested in.
This shorter sales funnel occurs because everything I need is happening inside the app. Whether I go through the ad or go to the brand’s account, all the information I need is right there for me: reviews, product information, and brand information. I can see real people’s comments and product use, and I don’t have to leave to make the purchase.
A more direct sale is only one of the great benefits of social eCommerce.
Another significant aspect of this approach to selling online is that social apps offer enhanced customer engagement, where you can interact with your customers on a more personal level.
By creating engaging content, responding to comments and messages, and building a community, businesses can create a loyal customer base more likely to make repeat purchases. It also lets you listen strategically to your customers and discover what they seek, allowing you to provide that product or service.
A final critical aspect of any online endeavour is data collection. Social media platforms provide a wealth of data on user behaviour, demographics, and preferences. By analyzing this data, businesses can gain valuable insights into their target audience and create more targeted marketing campaigns. If you’re selling that perfect golf dress, you can target your ads directly to people like me engaging in specific browsing behaviours.
This sounds like the perfect selling approach – why aren’t more people doing it?!
The truth is, lots of people are. But like any good thing, selling online has some downsides, which make for a slower adoption rate. It’s coming, just slowly.
For one, it won’t work for every single product or service out there. You need to consider who is on these apps (hint: the shoppers are primarily Gen-Z and Millennial females) and what those people are looking for.
There are also limitations when it comes to functionality. For example, some platforms may not allow businesses to customize their online stores or offer specific payment options, making it more challenging for businesses to sell products.
Of course, in this highly saturated ecosystem, there will be competition. With more and more businesses turning to social media to sell products, competition is fierce. It can be challenging for businesses to stand out and differentiate themselves from other brands.
A third barrier is that the online world is rapidly changing, and your business is at the mercy of the algorithm, which means if you are not staying up to date with these changes, you may lose sales due to your content not reaching your target audience.
This last one might be the biggest obstacle, but certainly not the most surprising.
It comes down to trust.
According to a survey of over 10,000 customers, Accenture found that the two main concerns for people buying on social media are the protection of their purchases (will I get a refund if I need it?) and the quality and authenticity of the product they are purchasing(is it actually massive sequins, or just a picture of sequins printed on a threadbare t-shirt dress (This is a true story).)
The third concern they discovered is the trust in social media networks (Is my financial information safe there?)
Despite these barriers, social eCommerce is still emerging as a revolutionary online shopping outlet, predicted to generate $1.6 trillion + in the next three years.
You should at least consider if this approach is right for you… right?
Businesses must have a clear strategy and approach to engage in social eCommerce. Here are some key considerations when developing a social commerce strategy:
Choose the right platform
There are numerous social media platforms to choose from, but the four that have native shopping functionality within the platform are Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest. Each platform has its strengths and weaknesses, so businesses must choose the one that best fits their needs and target audience. We can hop into these in more detail, but for now, here’s a quick overview:
- As of January 2023, Facebook’s largest audience was males aged 25-34 (17.6% of global users. The second largest audience was males aged 18-24.
- Facebook shopping has more than 1 billion monthly active users.
- 44% of users say that Facebook influences their shopping decision.
- 15% of Facebook users shop on Facebook.
- Facebook’s largest markets are fashion, electronics, home appliances and decor, personal care and hygiene, and baby products.
- As of January 2023, ~31% of global Instagram audiences were between 18-24 years, 30.3% were 25-34, and 16% were 35-44.
- More than 130 million people shop on Instagram each month.
- 72% of Instagram users indicated they make purchase decisions based on what they see on Instagram.
- Instagram’s largest markets are beauty, health and fitness, travel, fashion, lifestyle, business, and animals.
- TikTok’s largest age group is between 18 and 24, and 54.1% of global users are female, while 45.19% are male.
- TikTok is the most popular with Gen-Z, with 62% of them using the app.
- 36% of Gen-Z and 22% of Millennials want to learn about products through short-form videos.
- According to TikTok, 2 out of 3 users buy something while scrolling, 50% have bought something after watching a TikTok LIVE, and 55% use the platform to research brands and products.
According to Pinterest
- 450 million people use Pinterest monthly – 60% women and 40% men.
- 80% of users have found a new brand or product on Pinterest.
- The top two categories on Pinterest are Food & Drink and Women’s Fashion and Beauty.
- 50% of users live outside the U.S.
As always, keep in mind that your product MUST fit the audience. There is no point in trying to sell high-end glass windows to a bunch of teenagers. Some platforms may work, and some may not.
Create engaging content
Businesses must create interesting content that resonates with their target audience to attract and retain followers. Content could include product demos, behind-the-scenes looks, and user-generated content (UGC) demonstrating it in real life. UGC is your secret weapon to create trust among your audience. Statistics show that UGC highly impacts 79% of people’s purchase decisions, and campaigns using UGC result in a 29% higher conversion rate than those without.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge the impact of influencers and their role in the purchase process, but that relationship is so deep, it could be its own blog.
Remember, buyers trust other buyers.
Optimize for mobile
With most social media users accessing platforms on their mobile devices, businesses need to ensure that their social commerce strategy is optimized for mobile. Optimization includes:
- Creating mobile-friendly websites.
- Using high-quality images and videos.
- Ensuring that the purchasing process is seamless and user-friendly.
Use social media ads
Social media ads can be a powerful tool for driving traffic and sales. By targeting specific demographics and interests, businesses can ensure that the right people see their ads. Most platforms allow for buy capabilities right inside the ads. If you’ve already engaged the viewer somewhere within the app and then retargeted them with an ad, you’ve drastically increased the likelihood that they will complete their purchase.
How else did you think I discovered that some golf dresses have built-in tee holders?
Offer promotions and incentives
Businesses can offer promotions and incentives such as discounts, free shipping, or loyalty programs to incentivize purchases and increase sales.
Again, the more valuable content you provide to your customers, the more likely they will stick around to see what happens next.
Talk to a marketing agency
Having experts on your side can help you navigate this ever-evolving digital landscape and guide you through the best use of your marketing dollars.
So what’s next?
As social media continues to evolve, there are several trends that businesses should be aware of when it comes to social eCommerce:
- Increased use of purchasing through social media: With more and more consumers turning to social media to research products and make purchases, social eCommerce is set to become an even more important part of the ecommerce landscape. This doesn’t mean you must make this your primary selling outlet, but it is a great way to integrate further sales opportunities into your marketing plan.
- Integration with messaging apps: Messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are becoming increasingly popular for customer service and sales. Businesses integrating social commerce into these apps will likely see increased engagement and sales. A well-managed messaging service, including functions like a chatbot, make the sales process and post-sale user experience more seamless. Buyers value the ability to be heard and cared for by their favourite brands in a timely and professional manner.
- Augmented reality: Augmented reality (AR) is becoming more prevalent on social media platforms, allowing customers to try on products virtually before making a purchase. This addition can improve the customer experience and reduce the likelihood of returns. You are likely already seeing this ability on platforms like Amazon, where you can use the video function on your phone to see the product on you, in your room and so on.
- Personalization: Social media platforms are becoming more adept at collecting and analyzing customer data, allowing businesses to personalize their marketing and sales strategies to individual customers. This collection ability is huge. Customers appreciate being a named member of a community and are more likely to stand by the brands that pay attention to them as more than just a buyer.
Social eCommerce presents a significant opportunity for businesses to engage with customers on social media platforms and increase sales. By understanding the opportunities and challenges that social eCommerce presents and future trends, businesses can develop a strategy leveraging social media’s power to drive growth and success.
By creating engaging content, optimizing for mobile, using social media ads, and offering promotions and incentives, businesses can engage with customers meaningfully and build a loyal customer base. As social media continues to evolve, businesses that stay ahead of the trends will likely see continued success with social eCommerce.
Remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg when integrating social eCommerce into your business. Keep an eye out here for further insight into the fascinating world of online shopping.
If you’ve made it this far, I know you’re dying to know two crucial things. Have I improved my golf swing, and did I buy the dress with the tee holders?
And also, not yet.