Social Commerce is the Future of E-Commerce

The way we use social media has developed over the years.

Initially, we used social media to connect with people, but then the platforms evolved and connected us with brands as well. Now, consumers can complete their purchases without ever having to leave the social media platform. 

Social media has finally matured enough to become a part of the growing e-commerce world.

We’ve entered the era of social commerce where social media platforms are becoming search engines for shoppers.

Social Commerce

Put simply, social commerce is the integration of an entire e-commerce purchasing process into social media.

As a result, users can make purchases directly from their social media feeds.

How does social commerce differ from social media marketing?

The difference is that social media marketing is a strategy designed to drive qualified traffic to a third-party website or online store.

On the other hand, social commerce provides the whole shopping experience on the social media app – this convenience is what makes social commerce an exciting solution.

The Rise of Social Commerce

Shoppers today are impatient, perhaps even spoiled. Our attention spans are less than 10 seconds.

Our addiction to social media has conditioned us to expect instant gratification from digital interactions. Social commerce is the way forward precisely because it understands and caters to this change in consumer preferences.

If we had to single out the most important cause for the rise of social commerce, then it would certainly be the Millennial generation.

In fact, millennials were the catalyst for the shift toward social commerce according to a study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Businesses understand that they have to cater to Millennials – the spending power of this generation in 2020 is estimated at $1.4 trillion. What’s even more astonishing is that by 2030, the annual income of Millennials worldwide will amount to $4 trillion!

When you boil things down, there are only two factors that determine the success of a business:

  • A product or service that addresses a real need in the market
  • A simplified buying process, making it easy for customers to make a purchase

The potential of social commerce lies in the second requirement – the entire purchasing process is streamlined with features like chatbots and autofill payments.

Facebook understands this new crucial feature of shopping. When Facebook rolled out its Shops feature, the platform did so to “give people a place to experience the joy of shopping versus the chore of buying.”

Finally, make no mistake about it, social commerce isn’t some fade that will die off in a couple of months – it represents the way online business will be done from now on.

For businesses that don’t want to be caught off guard, it’s crucial that they pivot towards social commerce.

Advantages of Social Commerce

One of the defining characteristics of social commerce is its seamless nature.

What does “seamless” actually mean?

It refers to a personalised experience for each customer whenever and wherever they want.

Social commerce meets these expectations – brands have a single conversation with a customer, instead of switching from phone to desktop and finally to a brick-and-mortar store.

In other words, a shopping experience tailored to the wants and needs of each individual shopper will become the preferred option. While costs and quality are important, being treated like a valued customer is a huge part of the overall experience for today’s shopper.

An astounding 75% of consumers are likely to make a purchase if the brand uses marketing content that addresses them by name and makes suggestions based on their purchase history.

Retail businesses understood this long ago and introduced greeters at the entrances to welcome shoppers. The attention given to customers went a long way.

Social Commerce vs. Traditional E-Commerce

Traditional e-commerce models have too many steps which present a risk of customers abandoning the entire purchasing process.

Social commerce places the entire customer journey under one roof – customers can find the products they need, go over the reviews, ask any questions they may have and checkout without leaving the platform.

There are fewer steps needed to make a purchase, which is a necessary element for increased conversion rates.

This greatly removes the risk of confusion, cart abandonment, and bounce rates.

Some of the most common examples of social commerce are:

  • Buy buttons on posts on social media
  • Shoppable stories
  • Chat boxes to query about products
  • Facebook Marketplace where members can buy and sell products in local areas
  • Buyable Pins to sell products directly on Pinterest

Finally, note that you still manage your products and market the way you normally do. The thing to pay attention to is linking your inventory with the platform and streamlining the funnel for customers engaged via social media.

Let’s take a closer look at various social commerce strategies that are designed to increase sales.

Social Commerce Strategies

A large percentage of profits that social media platforms generate comes from advertising-related services. While these platforms will certainly get a piece of each transaction, the real goal is to keep users engaged on the social media platforms.

Facebook

Facebook is the biggest social media network in the world with 2.6 billion monthly active users, making it the platform with the greatest social commerce potential.

Facebook’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic came in the form of Facebook Shops. This new feature gives businesses the ability to display and sell products directly on the platform.

With physical stores having to shut down due to government lockdown measures, many businesses turned to e-commerce to weather the storm.

For years, people were using Facebook to buy and sell things, initially posting a picture of a coffee cup with the caption “for sale”, to selling their bike on Marketplace.

Shops is another big step in Facebook’s e-commerce strategy.

Shops

A Facebook Shop is a Facebook business page application that lets you advertise and sell products to Facebook users directly from the platform.

If you’re already using an e-commerce platform, like Shopify, you can integrate it seamlessly with Facebook to sell to your Facebook followers.

Bots vs Email

Blanket marketing messages of days gone by don’t cut it with modern consumers. People want to interact with their brands and have real conversations.

Leading e-commerce businesses understood this demand, and began integrating channels that allowed for a more direct line of communication.

Email marketing was the obvious first choice.

Email boasts the highest ROI of all digital marketing strategies. However, social media messenger sales have far surpassed email.

There’s also another drawback. The open-rates and click-through rates of e-commerce emails tend to be pretty low: 15% – 25% and 2.5% respectively.

Facebook Messenger chatbots generate an 80% open rate and 20% click-through rates on average!

Facebook Messenger

Most marketers think of Facebook marketing in terms of Facebook ads and completely forget about messaging apps.

Facebook users are spending most of their time on Facebook Messenger – messenger apps have more users than social media platforms.

Facebook Messenger chatbots come strapped with many powerful features including:

  • Greeting capabilities and helping customers to “Get Started”
  • Allowing you to send and receive text and images with calls-to-action
  • Messenger templates that let customers interact with the chatbot with the help of interactive visuals

While many brands use chatbots primarily for customer service, they are also great for generating brand awareness and increasing engagement.

However, before you include chatbots into your overall marketing approach, ask yourself if your customers communicate with you on Facebook Messenger? If they don’t, then this tactic might not be that effective.

Also, is your team able to support customers when the chatbot can no longer provide adequate solutions? Your reps will have to complete the customer experience using the Facebook Messenger chatbot.

These are some of the questions to consider before you commit to a chatbot strategy.

Facebook Buy Buttons

Previously, brands used call-to-action buttons on social media posts to redirect users to a third-party site to complete their purchase.

By including “buy” buttons on your social media channels, customers can now buy your products easily and then continue on Facebook where they left off.

Instagram

Instagram is largely used for brand discovery – the latest data indicates that 70% of consumers go to Instagram to discover new products.

However, Instagram has taken a strategic step and is now becoming an e-commerce hub – more than 200 million users visit at least one business profile daily.

Instagram Checkout

This feature enables shoppers to look through images and videos of products in their feed. Once they find an item they want to buy, they click on the post, select the dimensions or colour, and then pay without leaving Instagram.

Shoppable Instagram Stories Stickers

These stickers can be added on both images and videos, and when a user clicks on them they can see the name, price, and description of the product from your catalogue.

Instagram Stories are valuable social media real-estate, making this an effective tactic.

Pinterest

Pinterest has more than 322 million active monthly users worldwide, making it another powerful social commerce channel.

Brands can use Rich Pins to sell products on the platform. Rich Pins are an organic format that provides extra up-to-date information on the Pin itself, including price and availability.

Buyable Pins

Buyable Pins allow customers to buy products directly on Pinterest without the platform redirecting them somewhere else.

Buyable Pins come with a big blue “Buy it” button next to the iconic “Pin it” one. They also allow users to see the product’s price, its seller, and its descriptions. Once shoppers click on the blue button, they are automatically taken to the checkout page within the platform.

Social commerce on Pinterest is best suited for mobile users.

Snapchat

You may be surprised to find Snapchat here, but after a series of updates, it’s making a play for social commerce.

What’s the most interesting (but not surprising) thing about Snapchat’s bid to compete with larger platforms? The fact that it’s using augmented reality.

Snapchat’s 229 million users will soon be able to use the app’s lens-altering selfies to digitally try on shoes, referred to amusingly as “shoefies.”

This is an important step in the platform’s bid to allow users to digitally try on a full wardrobe.

Snapchat is expected to become one of the premier social commerce channels given that:

  • Reality altering lenses are integral to the app
  • Its core users are Millennials and Gen Z who are main drivers of social commerce

Augmented reality is a powerful tool that e-commerce businesses can’t afford to underestimate:

  • 61% of consumers prefer shopping on sites which offer augmented reality
  • 49% of online shoppers are ready to pay more for an item if they can preview it in AR
  • 45% of consumers report that AR decreases time spent on making a decision

Best Practices

Keep these important best practices in mind as you’re developing your social commerce strategy.

User-Generated Content

This tactic is very effective at attracting new customers and building loyalty. User-generated content refers to content posted by users, rather than a business. It can be a text, an image, or even a video.

For example, let’s say that a satisfied customer tags your business in an Instagram post. In that case, the smart thing to do is to share it on your story to attract new traffic.

Brand Ambassadors

This is one of the most cost-effective ways of incorporating social commerce into your business, but you need to track mentions and react quickly.

By acting promptly, you’ll be able to find your early brand ambassadors with whom you might collaborate for a long time. Don’t ignore this potential.

To simplify things, create a unique hashtag that will help you identify brand ambassadors early on. Satisfied customers can upload their images of your product and prospects can be convinced of the quality of your brand – they see people just like them enjoying the product.

So, as you see, user-generated content is also a type of social proof which can convert prospects independent of influencers.

Are You Going to Use a Social Commerce Strategy?

Social media platforms are constantly thinking of new ways to streamline the purchasing process.

If you invest time now to learn about the essentials of social commerce, while the trend is still in its early stages, you’ll provide unparalleled service to your customers.

Do you have any other questions about social commerce trends covered in this post? Are you thinking about making social commerce a part of your overall marketing strategy?

Get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you!