The benefits of social commerce
Social commerce is a method for selling products via social media. Unlike social media marketing, users can purchase goods directly within the social network they are currently using.
For instance, let’s say you’re in the market for new fall clothes. As you scroll through your Instagram feed, you’ll likely take note of the sweaters your friends are wearing, notice some you like, and possibly make a note to find something similar on your next shopping trip. Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy the same ones your friends or micro-influencers are wearing? With social commerce, you can buy those sweaters immediately, straight from the app.
The majority of consumers purchase this way — 74% — relying on social media for information about how a product looks or performs. What’s more, 43% are more likely to purchase a product after learning about it on social media. If you think about it, social commerce is far more preferable to doing extra research on other sites and navigating to external shopping bags and checkout pages. Due to its extremely streamlined workflow, social commerce is an effective way to target consumers at any point in their customer journey.
Types of social commerce
Social commerce can facilitate direct selling, grow your community, and expand your reach. Chat features are one way for customers to communicate with you about products or services. WhatsApp and Messenger enable Facebook merchants to immediately begin messaging customers who click on their ads and landing pages and entice customers to make a purchase. Merchants also using social commerce to sell things straight from social media do so through using services like Facebook Pay or Apple Pay.
A more roundabout way of introducing your product to more users is to join larger forums like Reddit or LinkedIn as a business. There, you can post links to landing pages, testimonials, and product information to get the word out to groups which may not use Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter as much. Lastly, apps like Instagram can use product tags within stories. Just like regular shopping posts, users can click once and be led to a product page.
According to Search Engine Journal, 30% of online shoppers say they would likely make a purchase from a social media network. At present, four social media networks — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest — dominate the social commerce space. Merchants use each of these platforms to generate interest in their products, monitor their inventory, demonstrate social proof, and build targeted ad campaigns.
History of social commerce
Facebook was the first to hit the social commerce scene back in 2007 with the first virtual gift test sale over its platform. Shortly after, Facebook launched Marketplace which took off when 1-800-Flowers, Pampers, and Disney began utilizing their services. By 2014, Facebook had created an autofill checkout feature and rolled out its now-famous buy button. Instagram — one of Facebook’s subsidiaries — followed suit, opening the Instagram Shop in 2015, and announced an integration with Shopify in 2017.
Around the same time, Twitter publicized its “buy now” feature in 2015 to compliment promoted tweets. Pinterest wasn’t far behind, offering buyable pins and shopping carts to all small businesses in 2016 and partnering with retailer Target in 2017.
Facebook social commerce
Facebook ranks second in platform usage only to YouTube — 69% of US adults use Facebook, with 1.79 billion daily active users. With an enormous audience to leverage, Facebook is the highest performer in social commerce. “Facebook Shops” are online B2C storefronts that facilitate sales directly from Facebook. People discover shops through ads or stories, save products they are interested in, and place orders without leaving Facebook. On the back end, sellers can customize their product catalog, update product information, manage their orders, and run ads.
Instagram social commerce
According to Facebook, 70% of shoppers turn to Instagram for product discovery, and a majority (75%) of its users are 18-to-24-year-olds. Instagram Shopping allows merchants to tag physical products in photos, stories, and videos. Instagram also has in-app checkout for several beta merchants like Prada, Revolve, and Zara. But perhaps the most powerful part of Instagram is its built-in social proof from micro-influencers. Influencers with fewer than 35,000 followers get the highest engagement rate, at 5.3%. Consumers trust the “everyday person,” especially if that person posts their own photo or dynamic story using the product in real life.
Pinterest social commerce
Pinterest is the second-largest source of traffic to Shopify stores, where users spend roughly $50 per order (which is a higher average order value than Facebook and Twitter). More specifically, orders from Pinterest on mobile devices have increased by 140% in the last two years, and 300 million people worldwide log into Pinterest every month. Pinterest merchants work hard to make their “buyable pins” visually appealing. Fostering engagement is especially important since 80% of pins on Pinterest are simply re-pins of original content. With a predominantly female user base, brands focused on lifestyle, beauty, vitamins, and groceries perform the most consistently on Pinterest.
Twitter social commerce
Twitter is not as popular as other networks, with only 22% of adults using the platform. Previously, Twitter had a more focused social selling strategy with sponsored tweets, followed by a “buy now” button to sell directly from tweets. However, this never took flight, and the button was discontinued in 2017. Now, merchants still use Twitter to develop their omnichannel campaigns with polls, hashtags, videos, images, and GIFs. Twitter is also perfect for publishing timely content, particularly funny tweets that poke fun at certain events or happenings.
The benefits of social commerce to the ecommerce business
All four social commerce providers can benefit your business. Below, we’ve listed multiple ways social commerce can positively impact your bottom line:
- Faster, frictionless sales cycle
Social commerce is all about making sales seamless. Users can complete their purchase while on the platform, lessening potential for confusion, cart abandonment, or comparative research. Consumers are opting for convenience even more often during the pandemic.
- Intelligent inventory choices
Since users are already on a social media site, you can ask them to vote on new products or product features. Combining surveys with sales metrics and follower behavior helps merchants plan better for seasonal trends or upcoming order surges without sacrificing on-time delivery. This is crucial, as 91% of shoppers will abandon an online merchant if shipping isn’t free or fast enough.
- Faster conversation
Social media is inherently social, so it should inspire discussion about your products. On Pinterest, consider creating infographics about new uses for your products. On Instagram, share new product launches on your stories. Post unboxing videos on your Facebook page, and write clever tweets on Twitter. Each of these activities stimulates conversation and further expands brand awareness.
- Increased reach
Businesses can leverage a range of social media networks in their marketing strategies. Social media helps make brands more personable and accessible to the consumer, allowing the company to increase the market for products and reach new customers.
One of the many advantages of using social commerce is merchants collect invaluable customer data. Insights that come from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest help merchants personalize customers’ experiences. With online and offline data, retailers can build more robust customer profiles. These profiles can enhance campaign relevance, help merchants hire the right micro-influencers, and dictate the type of content which motivates sales.
- Improved SEO
Social commerce automatically increases traffic to companies’ websites, thereby improving search engine results rankings. Besides using social media to enable a sale, linking to website content on social media is an excellent way to drive traffic from social media followers. Social referral to retail ecommerce sites has grown 110% since 2017, outpacing all other referral channels and encouraging audiences to comment, like, and share sites to an even larger audience.
- Consistent growth
Appearing in a follower’s feed on a regular basis presents an incredible branding opportunity. Active merchants with a lot of visibility stay at top of mind among their followers who in turn are more likely to recommend their products to others. Additionally, social commerce inherently presents a two-way communication channel that can be used for customer support.
Brief overview of social commerce trends
Social commerce has been around for nearly 10 years, so a number of trends have come and gone. One trend was using striking graphics or gifs to draw attention to products. While this was sometimes effective, it was not always easy to understand what exactly was being sold. What’s more, people were more interested in the actor or scene rather than what the ROI of buying the product was.
Celebrity endorsements were also popular. While most marketers would be thrilled with a celebrity endorsement back then, these days micro-influencers are actually more influential. The layperson may not always relate to a celebrity, so influencers with a smaller following often gain more trust.
Social commerce trends have changed along with emerging technology. Video is omnipresent on social media, regardless of the channel. Video makes it easy to demonstrate how to use your product or service and show the impact it has on consumers’ personal life or work. Videos can be organically created by your followers which you can reshare or use as part of ad campaigns.
Although video can be expensive, it’s worth it. 84% of consumers felt convinced enough to buy a product after watching a video about it. Chatbots are also on the rise. As businesses gain global reach, consumers expect to be able to ask questions 24 hours a day without having to wait for a response from a live operator. Automated social commerce chatbots are one way to make your company accessible to everyone.
Social commerce strategies
Once you’ve implemented a few past and present trends, turn to these four strategies successful social commerce businesses follow:
- Use Facebook Messenger
Messenger enables you to communicate with your customers who have questions or want to provide their payment and delivery information. This can seem overwhelming if your customers are making dozens or even hundreds of purchases in a day. It also may seem strange to message customers out of the blue. Luckily, Messenger has automated bots like ManyChat that turn engagements on Facebook into chats. You can program exactly how you want the chatbot to communicate with customers autonomously.
- Showcase low-cost products
Most people browsing social media aren't necessarily scrolling with purpose. They are looking for fun, awesome content. In this mind state, it’s tough to sell high-ticket items. Statista found the average order value of an online purchase was only $79 in 2019. If possible, try offering lower-cost products which lend themselves to impulse buys.
- Build your email list
As you make your sale, be sure to collect your customers’ email addresses. Emails are of course useful for sending purchase confirmations, but more importantly, they enable you to continue to stay in contact with your customers in the future. Once users opt in to your email marketing, you can nurture them over the coming weeks and months. The lifetime values of customers who stay on your list are likely to be much higher. On average, every dollar invested in email marketing generates a return of $42.
- Focus on engagement
Sometimes, engagement is thought of as a vanity metric. Increased traffic, comments, likes, and so forth are great, but they aren’t reflective of direct sales. However, social commerce is entirely dependent on the effectiveness of your social media campaigns. To make sales, your content has to be helpful, interesting, and relevant enough to inspire a share. This can have a substantial impact as 70% of highly engaged customers trust recommendations from a friend. For inspiration, look at competing brands and try to unpack their engagement strategies.
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