There used to be a time when social media was only a tool for building brand awareness and engaging with current and potential customers. But from awareness to conversion, social media changed and started to play a crucial role through the whole shopping experience online. The relationship between social media and shopping has changed dramatically over the past years, and brands and retailers are exploring ways to take full advantage of that. It’s evident that social media became a handy and powerful tool for social commerce, and prominent social media players like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are using it.

Let’s take you on a tour of what social commerce is all about and how to form your digital strategy for social commerce. 

Social commerce and social shopping – shopping on your favorite social media networks? 

It was not long ago that social media presence was enough for brands to have an advantage from their competitors. Social media became a crucial point of communication and brand advocacy for many companies, and as more and more companies have begun to use social media, the focus shifted. The spotlight from interpersonal communication online changed to sharing opinions about different brands. People started using social media for different purposes – to read the news, follow trends, and even shop. It also seems that it is in the nature of social media to share, recommend, and basically to shortcut the shopping customer journey. Given all of that, the possibility of purchasing products directly from social media platforms seems like a logical step. 

But let’s get back to the start. What is social commerce anyway? It is often described as online commerce that involves social media. Moreover, it represents social media as a selling point for different products. Essentially, it’s a simple way for people to complete the purchase of the product. Social shopping gives a break from the usual complex purchase journey on e-commerce sites that often involves redirecting from one platform to another. An excellent example of social commerce can be found on Instagram – where user-generated content and advertisement assist the online buying process. Still, also, there is the possibility to tag products. On top of that, Instagram is working on the Instagram Shopping option.  But is social shopping a realistic opportunity? Statistics are on the social commerce side – more than 30% of millennials and Generation Z are willing to buy directly on social media. And with over 72% of users already making buying decisions based on Instagram posts, it is clear that social shopping is the next big thing in e-commerce. 

Social shopping uses the best from social media – product sharing and consumer influence and puts it into one shopping experience, created especially for the user. It differs from the usual social media marketing, as you are not redirecting your potential consumers to an online store or webshop. Yet, you are offering them the ability to purchase directly on the social media network they’re using at that moment.

We need to ask the obvious question now – why is social media so successful when combined with shopping? Is there something in the essence of social media that attracts shopping, and how did we overcome the “like culture” on social media networks and transformed it into buying concept?

The evolution of social commerce – from like to buy

Social media always had a big advantage over traditional selling options – it has a huge power to target the right audiences. This created a special, real, form of engagement between the audience and the brand, and created a path for social shopping. Even before the social commerce expansion, social media already had a specific role in shopping – online and offline. We know for a fact that online reviews and social media comments influence on shopping behavior – just as 82% of Americans consult online reviews before buying something.  

Furthermore, a recent study claims that 59% of people still consult friends and family for help with a purchase decision, so if our friends recommend a product to us – in person or posting about it on social media – we will probably buy it.

This only confirms the theory that humans, as social beings, have a certain way of behaving while making buying decisions. They are always going through a similar buying process – the first stage is the recognition of a specific need, following a stage when consumers search for more information. People often seek recommendations and opinions from friends, family, and neighbors about their experiences – similar as they are behaving online. A good example of an online shopping site that is using this fact about consumer behavior would be that has plenty of information about the products but also offers product reviews written by consumers.  

The third stage of a consumer shopping process is evaluation. Here consumers make evaluative criteria that are important to them such as price, size, color and similar. The right digital marketing strategy would convince you that the evaluative criteria you are considering reflect the strengths of their products and services. The final stage is the point at which shoppers decide on the product they will purchase. However, consumers in this stage also make other decisions, including where and how to purchase the products and on what terms. Maybe they like brick and mortgage stores and communication with salespersons, or maybe online, because there is a special discount. 

In this case, social media also does a great job for getting the consumer’s attention and awareness via ads and recommendations – but a lot of the purchase is one somewhere else (offline or on other e-commerce sites). 

However, with sending consumers to buy online, you are often sending them different sites and providing them with additional steps in the shopping journey the conversion rates decrease – and that’s why social shopping is so successful. Social shopping and buy buttons have the power to make online shopping easy and accessible. 

There is no doubt that social commerce will play a huge role as more and more consumers purchase goods and services on their mobile phones. The shift from like to buy button on social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest seems like a natural development of people wanting to have a secure and easy shopping experience like with some other apps – Uber for example. 

The stats are telling this too – brands are selling through and with the help of social media more than ever – 25% of businesses are selling through Facebook and 40% use social media to generate conversions. Moreover, 30% of consumers are ready to purchase through social media apps like Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat. 

It’s obvious that consumers are prepared for the social shopping experience, while social platforms are just getting up to date and integrating direct, on-platform, selling tools. Given the fact that social shopping is a relatively new idea, it’s potential is huge. But this is only the beginning – there is more room for innovations and exploitation of social commerce on different sides – social media apps and brands. 

The combination of social media and shopping will become more and more important for brands and retailers to survive in online e-commerce and the question is – how can your business prepare?

How to make a social commerce strategy for your brand?

Knowing that something is going on with social shopping is one thing, but implementing it in your digital strategy is quite another. But how can you incorporate all of what social commerce offers in your digital strategy without spamming your followers or without just going with the flow and letting the social shopping figure itself out? It would help if you had clear and well-thought goals that are deeply connected with your digital strategy. Luckily, we will reveal some tips & tricks on how to fuse social commerce into your overall digital marketing strategy.

  1. Focus on mobile users

Given the intense social media usage on mobile phones, if you wish to succeed with social commerce, you need to think about your mobile users. Make sure your online presence is optimized for mobile devices because the chances of consumers leaving are higher if your pages aren’t optimized. Moreover, feel free to offer exclusive deals for mobile app users – it will pay off for sure.

  1. Use chatbots

We know, chatbots are not exactly a new tool you can use – but not all brands are using this to leverage e-commerce. Chatbots act as digital assistants for shoppers, looking for recommendations, and that is especially valid for Facebook Messenger. Chatbots present a layer of personalization for the buyers – bots can help deliver the products directly and recommend the product on a preference basis. Taking the statistics in mind that 56% of buyers are more likely to return to a brand that recommends products, chatbots are a go-to for the future of social shopping. 

Brands that want to merge social shopping into their digital strategy need to pay attention to chatbots on their social media platforms.

  1. Connect with your customers

Make your social media networks work for you and use them in the right way to connect better with your customers. Connecting with your consumers will create the trust that is essential for the success of social commerce. According to research, customers, especially older ones, feel unsafe to give social networks access to their personal and banking information. 

That is why it is crucial to gain their trust and connect, and you can do that by:

  • Maintaining a high response rate with customer service questions,
  • Building a collection of positive reviews, thus making the customers trust you more
  • Create a smooth shopping process that will make social commerce feel like a secure and seamless purchasing action 
  1. Make it simple – use socially integrated shops

We said this more than once, but it is important so that we will repeat it once again. The more steps you put between your potential customers and the checkout counter, the more likely it is that there will be many customers leaving your sales funnel. That is why, in order to put social commerce in your digital strategy, you need to opt for one-click purchasing options. Besides, you need to consider the increasing use of social media on mobile phones– it is mainly for them important to minimize the purchasing journey. One clicks options, and social stores are becoming the norm for modern buyers and a must for brands that want to get serious with social shopping. Those brands that fail to embrace social integration and simplified purchasing steps will be in danger of losing potential customers via social commerce.

We revealed some of the essential tips & tricks of the new digital strategy buzz – social commerce. But, for a serious and detailed social shopping and social commerce strategy, contact us!