In this piece for RetailTechNews, Chloe Cox, e-commerce consultant, Salmon, explores the new realm of purchasing through social channels.
Everyone is talking about ‘social commerce’ – it’s the hottest buzzword in commerce right now. Many have argued that social commerce is no more than just an illusion – no more than advertising masquerading as a new purchase channel. In reality, all it does is use the social platform to push the customer through to the retailer or brand DTC (Direct to Consumer) site, where they then complete their purchase.
But, as consumers all over the world spend more and more time on social networks, and become less and less eager to leave them, the platforms have been looking for integrated solutions. They know that the real success lies with enabling the customer to physically complete the purchase within the social channels – aka ‘native shopping’. Customers are increasingly looking to search, find, choose, and pay for their items without ever having to leave their favourite social apps.
Although this is not commonplace amongst the platforms yet, Instagram’s proposed expansion into e-commerce shows its ambitions to become a key player in this market, offering retailers the opportunity to tap into the transactional capabilities of social media. Instagram’s IG Shopping app is helping brands and retailers move towards giving their customers what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.
And it’s not just Instagram. Earlier in the year, Snapchat partnered with Nike to sell its new Air Jordan trainer directly within the platform, becoming the first brand to sell a product directly on the popular app.
Our recent report ‘The Future Shopper: 2018 and Beyond’ explained how the use of social media to shop is on the rise, especially amongst the younger consumer, with one-in-five respondents stating that they actively use social media to make purchases.
Currently, Instagram holds a significant share of the younger market; our research shows that millennials who shop online make up around 50% of total online spend. This move by Instagram therefore makes perfect sense, allowing brands and retailers to explore a new platform and new audience to add to their balanced strategy.
And, with that in mind, ahead of the launch of a standalone app, Instagram is adding more commerce to their platform through a shopping tab to the Explore page and letting consumers make purchases from the Stories feed by tapping on the merchandise.
This is one step closer to one-click purchasing and is further bridging the gap between using social networks to find inspiration for purchases and recommendations for friends, and actually purchasing through the channels. However, this will inevitably bring challenges to brands and retailers, such as ensuring stock availability and timely delivery services, which will need to be considered.
Becoming a leader in social shopping
‘Shoppable social media’ will increasingly make up a significant proportion of predicted e-commerce growth in future years, with around 90 million people a month already tapping Instagram posts to reveal shopping tags. If social commerce is a key element of a future-balanced e-commerce strategy, what do retailers and brands need to do to make sure they’re ready?
To be a future social commerce leader, there are four key areas to consider:
Internal organisation change: Implementing a social commerce strategy will touch numerous parts of your business, from product and marketing, to logistics, inventory management, and customer care. These departments need to work in an integrated fashion – social cannot operate alone if it wants to provide a customer journey that consumers will embrace. Brands are not providing a great customer experience if their customers are finding that the products promoted through social are out of stock when they click through to the e-commerce site. Getting the business process right is fundamental for social commerce success.
Making your products stand out and be aspirational: Although this approach is nothing new, it becomes even more important when a transaction lies at the end of the engagement. Many brands have embraced influencers as a means of promoting their products, and influencers will remain key to social selling, particularly with millennial consumers – 40% of those who follow an influencer are said to be more likely to buy the product (YouGov). It comes as no surprise that Instagram is the hub for influencers, holding 99.3% of the influencer base. Choosing the right partner, with the right positioning on the right platform, will help accelerate brand awareness within social commerce.
Making products relatable and achievable: User Generated Content (UGC) is a goldmine for brands and has been statistically proven to increase conversion by 70% and increase engagement by 20%. Instagram is the obvious platform choice, with many brands such as ASOS, Steve Madden, and All Saints all using UGC to link to their e-commerce site. Furthermore, DFS reported a 40% increase in conversion through those consumers who interacted with the UGC pulled in from Instagram and displayed on their site. Harnessing the power of UGC will aid community collaboration and peer feedback, helping to engage customers and encourage purchase.
Shoppable content: Although it may not be ‘true’ social commerce, many brands and retailers are diving in head first with platform developments. And it comes as no surprise that Instagram is leading the way, from using a tool to make your feed shoppable, to introducing shoppable ads and, more recently, IG Shopping. Testing and learning is a great way for companies to stay ahead!
A basic checklist
It’s safe to say that social media is going to be playing an ever-greater role within organisations’ balanced e-commerce strategies. Social selling is just another customer touchpoint that brands and retailers need to master in order to succeed within e-commerce.
Therefore, brands and retailers need to make sure they are getting the basics of e-commerce right:
– Are all of the systems integrated, with a real-time view of stock?
– How will they ensure that their delivery model fulfils the demand, but remains true to their brand?
– What are their capabilities and partners like? Do they have great branding, great content, great inventory systems, and a successful delivery model?
– Will they be able to ensure brand consistency through their various e-commerce channels?
With this in mind, coupled with the developing demands of consumer lifestyles, capturing commerce through the channels where your customers spend the majority of their time is going to be essential.
It’s time we started to put this into action.