What’s the Future of Social Shopping and Social Commerce?
As we already talked about it – social commerce is entering the space of social media big time. The winning combination of social media and shopping is becoming more important for brands and retailers in e-commerce. We said it, but it’s nice to confirm it once again – social shopping combines the best from social media – its niche product sharing and consumer influence. And social media platforms are working hard to eliminate the gap between finding products on social media and actually buying it there.
We know it’s hard to predict the future, but if you check all the facts, you got one obvious thing – social shopping is changing the way we look and interact with social media. In the time that is coming social commerce can only have a more significant impact on online shopping.
Just keep reading to find out what the future of social commerce will look like and what you can do about it to further your brand and business.
How Social Commerce is speeding up the future of the Shopping Process
Whether you just found out about social commerce or you already have a successful e-commerce business, you need to know that creating a shopping experience without social media platforms is not an option.
Well, 60% of people discover products on Instagram, and 78% of Americans use Facebook to find new products and 30% of consumers would buy through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. People are letting social media guide their purchasing decisions, and for brands, it is an ideal place to boost sales and bring brand awareness.
That’s why social media and e-commerce go together and not even luxury brands can ignore that fact or expect to have online sales without a dedicated social commerce strategy. Likewise, social media can only become more embedded with e-commerce and brands need to be aware of changes, trends and take advantage of the opportunities social commerce can bring to the overall shopping process. Just think about Instagram, which in mid-2018 launched its shoppable posts feature, that allows a business to tag products in organic posts and an online shopping feature that will allow buying products directly on Instagram. Or Facebook, where many brands have incorporated chatbots to enable customers to raise customer service queries or complete purchases.
These are all the ways social commerce already is and, in the future, will speed up the shopping process for businesses. Social media, in combination with e-commerce, is undeniably impacting the consumers and the business world is very optimistic about the rise of social media and e-commerce and, in the time to come, these two becoming one. With more people being attached to their phones and social media platforms, brands almost should merge e-commerce and social media right away. So, the proper question is now – what’s on the horizon for social commerce in the nearest future?
So, what’s the future of Social Shopping?
To talk about the future of social shopping, we need to look to the East. Because, despite being quite new in the West, social commerce in China is already a big thing. The main difference is that, in China, consumers are not using social media and apps just to purchase products. They are using social media platforms to engage with brands at every level of the purchasing journey, and that is something the West needs to implement yet.
If you take a closer look at the various improvements in social media and social commerce, there is a clear trend of copying what’s already working in China. Most of the features on Facebook and Facebook Messenger first started in China’s Goliath, WeChat. It means they are developing their online business and platforms much faster than the West is. But, as we mentioned, when it comes to Chinese social commerce, buying is an ecosystem made of e-commerce platforms and social networks. Their way of doing e-commerce and online shopping is no longer defined as e-commerce. The Chinese, innovative, way is social commerce as a “hybrid” that has combined social networks, communication platforms, and shopping.
In particular, in China, social commerce means getting in touch with people that share the same interest rather than just purchasing an item. It is a way of social engagement, not just a platform for buying. The future of social commerce lies in this precise thing – it will become a form of social engagement, not just a process. It’s about gathering people in online communities rather than nudging them to purchase products on social media.
WeChat app has created a communication-based ecosystem where sellers meet customers by creating a trustworthy relationship that is very different from classic e-commerce business. This is the main difference between Facebook and WeChat.
Within WeChat, brands can present anything from content, payment methods, and social interactions to live streaming, personalized e-commerce experience, and customer service. That way, WeChat can provide a more customized and personal experience for potential customers. With all of this said, it is evident where the future of social shopping is going. There will be a merger of social and e-commerce applications in the future. It does not mean that brands will only add ecommerce functionality to an already developed social network as Instagram did with its online shopping feature, but about turning things around.
The core of social commerce will be online brand communities based on trust and mutual values between the brand and customers. Social shopping future lies in the hybrid between social media, social commerce, and online brand communities.
But what is a brand community? A brand community is a group of customers who are invested in a brand beyond the product – they allow companies to strengthen relationships with customers and involve them in brand co-creation. So, while this might be a new idea for you, many of the world’s best brands, like Nike, have been building their communities for years. In an age where marketing is becoming increasingly personalized, online communities will be the places where people of distinct interests, from wide ones like parents and dog owners to Labrador dog owners or Lego toy collectors, will gather around in online communities. This will be the starter for the bright future of social commerce.
Some brands are already taking advantage of their online brand community. We can talk about numerous success stories about online communities, like Nike does with NikePlus, a membership that gives you advice, support, online chat and also member-exclusive products. But, one inspiring example of an online brand community is certainly Sephora’s Beauty Talk. Beauty Talk was created in response to the thousands of online reviews and consumer questions on Sephora.com. They created the platform by using their existing audience and buyers to develop an online community for beauty fans.
Their online community is now a vivid forum where consumers share tips, advice, and reviews about Sephora products. However, the Beauty Talk also offers another way to engage with the products and the community – users can upload pictures of themselves wearing Sephora products. The photos then link to the product page of all the items used. That’s real social commerce in action. Plus, brands can use the forum to find out which products customers are interested in as well as respond to customer service issues. With the example of Sephora, we can see that when the customers are gathered around a specific brand, then it is only necessary to introduce a sales opportunity and focus on a particular product that meets precisely the wishes, interests and needs of community members. That is the real sales and engagement generator for any brand.
While building an interactive and vivid community takes much work, once set right, as you can see from the examples, it offers a gold mine of opportunities for your brand and marketing strategy.
But how can you build a vibrant and long-lasting online community?
How to create a Brand Community?
Social commerce needs to become a whole system where people don’t only go shop or “stalk” people on social media. The focus should move to online brand communities that gather specific people and focus on specific products that meet their wishes, interest, and needs.
But how to create your own loyal brand community?
- Nurture Your Community Management
With the premise that you already have your social media platform, you need to take extra care of the community management. Your posts, your language and “social media persona” should reflect the brand’s values. Moreover, you should be interested in the social media community by allowing them to contribute to discussions.
The important thing is that you keep the conversations on topic and make sure members aren’t attacking one another. Allow consumers to report offensive behavior and know when to step in the conversations. That way, your online community will sense that there is a “person “behind the brand.
- Invest in Good Content Marketing
To get the most business value out of your online community, you’ll need a great content marketing that will keep your consumers engaged. Engaged members create a loyal customer base and are a good source of data-driven insights.
And for your content to be interesting and worth reading and sharing, it needs to be centered around the needs, wants, and problems relevant to your community. A great example of this is Procter & Gamble’s online community that is focused on women-centric lifestyle, relationships, and culture. That way, they add value to their content for their target audience.
A great way to drive engagement is to include your social media members in the content creation process by allowing them to suggest topics or featuring them in your content. This will help encourage connections between members.
With just improving these two, your brand can slowly but surely create their own loyal online community that will boost sales and engagement. While more brands are enjoying the benefits of online communities, we will for sure witness the change in perception from e-commerce to the development of online communities as places where people discuss their joint interest but also buy products. Still, as with all online marketing strategies, there is no one-size-fits-all way. Some industries are ideal for forum-based platforms, while others need other creative ways to inspire customer engagement.
By creating your online brand community, you can create a platform for your potential and current customers that starts a significant relationship with your business. Building your community should be your long-term marketing strategy.
But, without the strategic approach, carefully built community and adequate community-friendly content, there will be no sales. That’s why we are here!
Feel free to contact us to get your social shopping and social commerce strategies going.