A surge in using the new marketing channel called social commerce requires online retailers to adapt their selling strategies to succeed. For that new marketing platform to get results for sellers, however, brands must recognize that traditional e-commerce and social media marketing are not the same.
Years of research optimized the e-commerce checkout process. Researchers have poked into every facet of the customer experience so data marketers can maximize conversions. But that is not the case with social commerce, the next marketing frontier.
Understanding consumer motivations will be crucial to building a lucrative strategy for social commerce, according to data hunters searching for strategies to mine new techniques to cultivate social commerce results.
Researchers found that a large majority of consumers with brand familiarity are more likely to buy on social media platforms. So, did TikTok or Facebook really make you buy that product? No doubt, those and similar channels made you a more receptive potential purchaser. That newfound brand awareness improved your customer experience and excited your shopping appetite.
Social media management software provider Sprout Social surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers to better understand what drives their perceptions and behaviors around social commerce. The resultant data shows 65 percent of participants have already made purchases directly through social media.
The rapid growth of social commerce has taken the marketing world by storm, with U.S. retail social commerce sales projected to exceed $56 billion by 2023, according to Jamie Gilpin, CMO at Sprout Social.
“While some brands have yet to take advantage of social commerce, about eight in 10 businesses anticipate using social commerce features in the next three years,” she told the E-Commerce Times.
Similar Yet Different Channels
The advantages derived from social commerce illustrate the main differences between social media, e-commerce, and social commerce. Unlike traditional e-commerce, social commerce completely removes the barrier between social discovery and purchase, noted Gilpin.
“This is an incredible advantage for businesses of any size to tap into an engaged audience and convert sales where consumers are already spending their time,” she said.
In fact, consumers report spending more time on social than ever before, she noted. With this shift in consumer attention, it is no longer enough to rely entirely on e-commerce.
“Brands who do not leverage social commerce risk leaving money on the table. Social commerce is here to stay and presents an incredible opportunity for retailers to reach consumers at a global scale,” Gilpin added.
Social Economy Factors
The key to unlocking more purchases on social media is brand awareness, according to Sprout’s research. Given that people are spending more time on social media, they are spending more time shopping. Seventy-one percent of consumers found themselves using social media more in the last year than in the past. Nearly half of that number (34 percent) admitted to using that time for learning about products, services, and brands.
When you are scrolling through a sea of content from friends, family, and creators, posts that make you want to stop and shop are likely coming from brands you already know. Often social media users are familiar with a product from other channels and will turn to social outlets for some quick product research. Social media is now one crucial lever in an integrated marketing strategy.
Consumers discover products through social commerce through in-feed ads, discovery pages, story ads, posts from influencers and creators, live stream video feeds, and hashtags. Thus, to get more ROI on social commerce, brands need to get noticed.
This is where hybrid paid and organic social strategies can increase brand discoverability. This approach gets featured popular content in front of relevant prospects right when they are ready to buy, according to Sprout Social’s findings.
Research shows that consumers use social commerce to treat themselves as a way of getting relief from mounting stress. Social commerce tends to inspire people to indulge in retail therapy. The study found 71 percent of consumers are most likely to shop for themselves when buying directly from social.
Who Buys What?
Topping that list is apparel purchases at 45 percent. The second most purchased category (26 percent) on social media is media itself: movies, songs, games, and app subscriptions.
The remaining categories were also-rans with buying percentages holding between 23 percent to 20 percent each. In descending order, the remaining categories are books, food and beverages, cosmetics, pet supplies, and arts and crafts supplies.
Researchers analyzed purchases by gender and discovered that women more likely shop for arts and crafts, cosmetics, and jewelry. Men, however, show a bigger interest in app subscriptions and electronics.
Plan New Strategies
Demographic-driven differences in social commerce habits point to the importance of understanding the needs and wants of your target audience. The developing social commerce networks continue to release transactional features unique to their own standards of engagement. This means marketers must rethink what an effective product listing looks like.
Strategy Alert: Marketers wanting to make in-platform sales must dig into audience data to find out what people are looking for, and why.
Pro Tip: Use a social media management tool to track how your audience varies by platform. Use that data to plan your product listings and promotion strategy based on consumer interest.
Also recognize that not all social commerce user experiences are the same, suggests Sprout’s report. So, brands need to rethink product listings to catch consumer attention.
To do that successfully, take a close look at how you apply user-generated content, show the product in action, and provide pricing details. Marketers also need to provide polished photography and offer coupons and promotional codes, suggested the report.
Content, Social Platforms Matter
Compelling visual content is king. Consumers expect detailed product listings that showcase user-generated content, reviews, live video, and more. The more detailed the listing, the more potential buyers on social media can see the value a particular product adds to their daily lives.
Where marketers fine-tune their visual sales pitches also carries a considerable influence on social economy outlets. In the Sprout Social report, the overwhelming top choice for consumers to most likely make a purchase is Facebook, which garnered 75 percent of respondents’ choice platform.
Instagram and YouTube shared the second-most preferred channel, splitting hairs at 41 and 40 percent respectively. TikTok and Pinterest shared the third most preferred platform spot at 21 percent each.
The least preferred social commerce outlets had slightly wider gaps, according to Sprout’s research. Consumers ranked their less likely preference for making a purchase as:
- Twitter 17%
- WhatsApp 10%
- Reddit 8%
- Twitch 6%
The combined results show the power of media-rich listing. Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube all support it.
Instagram, although not supporting media-rich content, allows brand product listings to include tagged posts from real customers. This gives users a more authentic look at why people love a product, noted researchers.
The takeaway is obvious, observed researchers. Content-rich product listings are a dealmaker when it comes to social commerce.
What *Not* To Do
Social commerce is an opportunity to rethink how e-tailers connect with their audiences and how brands generate revenue. It is easy to make mistakes that dissuade consumers from buying.
To find out what tweaks companies can apply to transform their social commerce experience from lackluster to seamless, researchers posed a simple question: What do brands get wrong when it comes to social commerce?
Here are the top three cited social commerce issues and how to avoid them:
#1. Not responding to consumer questions or comments posted on social media platforms (44 percent). More than email or a company’s website, social media is the preferred channel for customer service issues or questions.
#2. Promoting irrelevant products or services to their audience (44 percent). Paid ads gone wrong waste money and your audience’s time. Audience research is a critical ﬁrst step in deciding what to list and promote.
#3. Not providing a convenient checkout experience (38 percent). Instead, even if consumers have to leave a social network to complete a purchase, immediately direct them to the right product page so the path to purchase is clear and eﬀortless.
Social Media Messaging the New CX Channel
Omnichannel communications provider Mitto reported recently that brand-consumer social media messaging is on the rise. The company’s research shows that 70 percent of U.S. consumers have increased their overall social media use since the pandemic began.
That is significantly connected with the surge developing in social commerce usage. Some 58 percent of surveyed consumers reported their messaging with brands via social media has also increased.
So many communications channels are now available that brands are stretched to adapt their messaging strategy to meet consumers where they are, according to Andrea Giacomini, CEO of Mitto.
“With social media usage up since the beginning of the pandemic, it is no surprise that consumers are now turning to social media more to message with brands, and those brands that evolve their digital customer experiences to include social media messaging will reap the benefits of effective customer engagement,” she told the E-Commerce Times.