Social media commerce presents retailers with one of the biggest changes and opportunities since the emergence of online shopping. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are becoming stand-alone direct sales channels, meaning retailers have to change how they approach social media to cash-in on this new opportunity.
Social commerce – a new era of online shopping
Retailers have long been the benchmark for connecting with consumers on social media. They were the forerunners of effectively advertising, both to the masses and via a more targeted approach, through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. They now have the opportunity to be the pioneers capitalising on a social media evolution.
Platforms are developing to not just advertise products, but to sell these directly to consumers. Instagram has launched Checkout, which enables users to buy within its app. Snapchat has created a ‘shop’ button for powerful influencers such as Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian West to sell their products. There has also been the emergence of Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Pay, while video sharing app TikTok is also testing shopping features.
These new features are evolving social media platforms into commerce hubs, altering the whole online shopping journey. Consumers will no longer be redirected by an advert to a retailer’s website to make their purchase. The whole transaction will be completed within the social media platform and it is for this reason that retailers need to adapt their social media strategies.
Add to your basket
When a consumer who clicks on a social media advert is redirected to a retailer’s website, it creates a lucrative opportunity for cross-selling and up-selling. The consumer becomes emerged within the retailer’s website. It’s the equivalent to them walking around in a physical shop. They naturally see other products and through sophisticated algorithms, they can be targeted and retargeted with suggested products based on what they like.
This creates multiple opportunities for them to add to their baskets before they checkout, which is suddenly minimised if the shopper remains with social media and doesn’t visit the retailer’s website.
To overcome this, retailers should adapt content strategies to ‘build’ their shop within social media platforms. Content, whether it’s photos or videos, needs to feature a wider array of products. This approach appears to go against the grain of everything retailers believe-in when it comes to social media. It seems too product-focused and salesy.
It shouldn’t be. Retailers should continue to put consumers at the heart of their content strategies, but not be afraid to be more direct when it comes to sales.
How consumers view and use social media today is very different to a decade ago when many platforms were in their infancy. Consumers are much more receptive to sales messages when scrolling through their feeds and platforms are moving more towards direct-selling tools because this is what shoppers want.
Retailers should create the equivalent of a window display in their posts. For example, provide consumers with full outfit suggestions, inspiration for creating a room interior, a range of products for a full beauty treatment regime or make-over, or provide a menu of food and drinks for entertaining at home. The key is to keep the content timely, relevant and unique.
Influencers – a shift from amplification to advocacy
Social media is already a competitive and highly monetised space. Retailers have to work hard to ensure their content is seen by their target audiences. This will become even more challenging as social commerce attracts more businesses to sell via social. PayPal predicts the 8.4million British consumers who are already social media shopping will be able to shop on the social channels of 600,000 more UK businesses in the next six months.
To stand-out from the crowd, retailers will need to invest in influence. Working with the right influencers will drive awareness of products and services. However, to be effective, the influencer marketing strategy needs to shift from amplification to advocacy. Retailers must work with influencers who have a genuine affiliation with their products and should be involving them in product research and development.
Consumers are, and will become, even more questioning of what influencers are telling them and what the influencer’s motivation for promoting brands is.People see straight through simple paid-for placements and partnerships, which can prove meaningless and even damaging for brands.
Create goodwill and brand equity
As selling becomes more commonplace in social media, retailers will need to worker harder to maintain, grow and engage their social media fans. This will need to involve initiatives which are truly distinct to sales activities and are more focused on sharing brand values.
A fantastic and recent example of this was when the CEO and founder of fashion brand PrettyLittleThing went one a one-man gifting spree on Twitter. Umar Kamani ran a short campaign – #PrettyLittleWishes – which saw him gifting everything from vouchers to clearing credit card debts and arranging a trip to Disneyland Paris for a child battling leukaemia.
This was very audience-focused and says much more about the brand’s personality beyond its clothing. It creates goodwill, which translates into brand equity. It’s important though that retailers are authentic when doing this. They can achieve this by using social media to understand what matters to their fans and even asking their communities to decide what goodwill looks like.
Amongst the evolution of social commerce, retailers should embrace one of the earliest principles of best-practice social media engagement; create conversations. While social media users are increasingly receptive to sales and platforms are becoming more commercial, the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are still places for entertainment, sources of information and making connections.
Retailers need to inspire consumers to talk through posts and shares. This is possible by being on-trend, quirky and creative. Retailers must have real-time data and insight about their audiences to deliver planned and reactive content that’s original and inclusive.
This will elevate brand awareness and increase the likelihood of sales, which is crucial as direct-selling starts to occur more within the confines of the platforms.
Social media is becoming more sales-orientated and users’ shopping and scrolling habits are changing accordingly. It’s important that retailers’ social media strategies evolve with these trends by not being afraid to sell, without losing focus on the fundamentals of social media platforms. Retailers need to socialise their sales.
Liam Patton is a director of digital marketing agency Mayfly