The Rise of Social Commerce: How Businesses Can Integrate Social Media into Their eCommerce Strategy
In a connected world, online shopping has undergone a remarkable transformation because of the rise of social media and eCommerce businesses. Social commerce is a dynamic blend between social networking and online shopping that revolutionised the retail industry, reshaped consumer behaviour and empowered interactions. In this article, we will delve deeper into the concept of social commerce, the way we shop online and examine the factors that contributed to its rise in today’s digital landscape.
What Is Social Commerce?
Social commerce is a fusion between social media and eCommerce, where social interactions, user-generated content and online shopping converge seamlessly. Social commerce leverages the social nature of various online platforms to facilitate product discovery, decision-making and purchases. Instead of the traditional model of isolating the entire shopping experience on dedicated eCommerce websites, social commerce brings the process directly into the social media landscape. Simply put, consumers can buy their favourite products directly from social media platforms.
Social commerce is a branch of eCommerce which is more convenient and offers a more interactive shopping experience. According to Statista, the global value of social commerce will reach about 2.9 trillion dollars by 2026.
Social platforms like Facebook and Instagram have implemented virtual storefronts such as Facebook Shop and Instagram Shop to facilitate the buying process and allow consumers to purchase the desired product on the spot. This approach eliminates friction and offers a seamless shopping experience.
Because social media usage is booming, social commerce has more success than traditional social media marketing strategies. Datareportal underlines on their Global Social Media Statistics that 26% of the social media users are looking for products to purchase.
On Instagram, for example, while scrolling, users can see their favourite products, tap on the Shop Now button, add the products to their shopping carts, and check out within the app.
Social commerce and social selling are frequently mistaken for one another. Social selling involves establishing relationships to facilitate product sales, which can occur online and offline. However, it is more commonly practised on social media networks. On the other hand, social commerce is sometimes misconstrued with social selling, but they differ in that social commerce involves conducting sales directly through social media platforms after engaging customers with interactive content.
The Key Distinctions Between Social Commerce and eCommerce
Even if eCommerce and social commerce are both related to online retail, they differ significantly in their approach, features, and objectives.
Approach and Definition
- eCommerce, short for electronic commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet. It involves the transactional online shopping process, where potential customers visit dedicated eCommerce websites or online stores to browse products, make purchase decisions, and complete transactions. The main focus of eCommerce is on facilitating smooth and secure online transactions.
- On the other hand, social commerce is an extension of eCommerce that includes social media elements in the shopping experience. It leverages social media platforms to enable product discovery, interaction, and sharing within the social ecosystem. The main focus of this strategy is to create a more social, engaging and interactive shopping experience by integrating online shopping with social media activities.
- eCommerce platforms are standalone websites or dedicated online stores where businesses showcase their products and services. The eCommerce stores are designed for conducting commercial transactions and offer visitors shopping features such as shopping carts, secure payment gateways, and product catalogues.
- Social commerce platforms are social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Brands and businesses can set up shops and product listings directly on these platforms, allowing customers to explore, engage, and purchase without leaving the social media environment.
- eCommerce platforms can include social features like customer reviews and product ratings. However, the level of user engagement is limited to the shopping process. The interactions between customers and businesses have a transactional approach.
- User engagement in social commerce plays a central role. Social media platforms encourage interactions, discussions, and sharing. This creates a sense of community and fosters trust. Social commerce relies heavily on user-generated content, influencer marketing, and social proof to drive conversions.
Influence and Trust
- In traditional eCommerce, users rely on product descriptions, images and reviews on the website to make a purchase decision, and trust is built through the website’s reputation, customer service, website performance, responsive design and brand credibility.
- In the world of social commerce, trust is a vital component. The trust and social proof come from user-generated content, peers and influencers’ recommendations. The social nature of the platform allows users to see how often others interact with products and services, increasing credibility and building trust.
Discovery and Personalisation
- Search engines, paid advertising, and email marketing primarily drive the product discovery phase for eCommerce websites. eCommerce personalisation is based on browsing history, website purchase behaviour, and customer profiling.
- Social media channels provide a proper environment for product discovery through user-generated content, influencer posts, and algorithm-driven recommendations. Social commerce personalisation is powered by social media behaviour and preferences, enabling more targeted and relevant product suggestions.
What Are the 5 Advantages of Social Commerce?
Based on a Statista study, social commerce has an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.6 per cent from 2023 to 2030. Therefore, we strongly recommend retail businesses leverage the power of this transformative approach to online shopping experiences. Let’s enumerate the main advantages of social commerce:
1. Increased User Engagement and Broader Target Audience
Social commerce fosters higher levels of user engagement compared to traditional eCommerce. Integrating online shopping within social channels creates opportunities for brands to leverage the interactive nature of social media to encourage lives, comments, shares and discussion about products and services. The engagement leads to increased visibility and awareness. Moreover, businesses can reach a broader target audience because it transcends geographical boundaries. Your message can be tailored to cater to different demographics. The potential customer base can also be expanded because social media platforms are predominately accessed through mobile devices, and your content might go viral and attract the attention of users who may not have been exposed to your brand. Over 4.5 billion people worldwide use social media.
2. Seamless Shopping Experience
Social commerce eliminates the need for users to navigate away from social channels to complete a purchase. With in-app shopping features and “Shop Now” CTAs (calls to action), customers can purchase directly within their favourite social media apps, streamlining the shopping process and offering a frictionless shopping experience. Moreover, instant messaging tools and the “Buy” buttons have made purchasing goods more convenient. Using this technique to enhance your sales, you can eliminate unnecessary steps, avoid losing customers’ interest and abandoning their cart when they want to purchase items. Keeping shoppers within the app throughout the entire shopping journey, from the initial discovery phase to the checkout process, minimises the risk of them abandoning the purchase.
3. Influencer Marketing Opportunities
Social commerce thrives on influencer marketing. Micro-influencers help brands to build an authentic connection with their audience. By collaborating with influencers, businesses can easily promote their products and services because it fosters trust. Moreover, social proof is essential for online sales because people must trust a brand or business before purchasing. Social commerce provides social proof from the start through user-generated content, comments, likes and shares. When someone’s favourite influencer promotes a brand and vouches for the quality of the products, people are more likely to engage with that brand.
4. Real-time Customer Interaction and Feedback
Social commerce facilitates real-time communication between businesses and potential buyers. Customers can ask questions, seek advice, and receive immediate responses from brands, leading to improved customer service and satisfaction. Moreover, you can get valuable insights and customer feedback and better understand their expectations, pain points, bottlenecks and preferences. This will help you adapt and optimise your marketing strategies and offerings. People love sharing their opinions; when listened to, they feel valued and are more likely to become loyal customers. You can implement feedback features in your posts, such as polls, asking their opinion in the comments, or sending them instant messages.
5. Make Informed Decisions Based on Customer Data
Social media platforms offer customer insights that help you better understand your audience and make data-based decisions for future product development and marketing campaigns. You can use tools such as Instagram Insights to gather demographic and geographic data and Facebook Audience Insights to get more detailed data such as job titles, education levels, relationship statuses, hobbies and user interests.
This data will help online retailers target ad campaigns better and get their products and services in front of relevant individuals.
What Are the Types of Social Commerce?
Based on the company’s goals and budget, brands can explore multiple aspects of social commerce as follows:
- Marketplaces or digital stores within social platforms where customers can explore and buy products. Social media channels support shopping features such as product catalogues or in-app checkouts. Examples include Facebook Shops and Instagram checkout.
- Conversational Commerce is where brands implement direct messaging or voice support features and contact consumers with offers.
- Livestreaming Commerce, often hosted by influencers or brands, allow viewers to interact in real-time and make purchases directly from the live stream. Usually, these live streams include offers, discounts and promotions.
- Influencer Commerce is where influencers and content creators collaborate with brands and promote their products and services on social media. They drive direct sales through their posts and content.
- Augmented Reality (AR) Commerce uses features like AR filters, allowing consumers to try on items in a virtual environment.
- Gaming Commerce allows brands to create virtual worlds where potential customers can interact with and purchase the products.
- Community Commerce refers to online communities or groups on social platforms that focus on shopping-related discussions, recommendations, and deals. Members can share product reviews, buying advice, and collaborate on finding the best deals.
Our Advice – Tips on How to Create a Social Commerce Strategy
In this chapter, we will give you some tips on how to create a social commerce strategy. Keep in mind that there is no right way to curate a strategy, but you have to test and adjust your strategy based on what your users want and need.
- We advise you to start by defining your budget. Not every brand has the same resources or funds. Therefore, before starting selling on social media, make sure you know how much you can allocate to these efforts. We suggest allocating a budget where you include expenses such as content creation, influencer collaboration, paid ads, etc. After a complete budget is defined, it is easier to understand the ROI expectation from your strategy.
- Second, we strongly advise you to set clear objectives and create a plan. Based on what your aim is, objectives and goals will guide your strategy. Your end goals can be increasing sales, expanding your customer base, improving brand awareness, enhancing customer engagement, etc. Ensure that your goals are measurable and your plan is aligned with them. Moreover, we strongly recommend you be flexible and keep up with the social commerce trends. Adapting and improving your strategy is mandatory to reach success.
- The next step is to know your target audience and choose the right social media platforms. Understanding your target audience’s preferences, behaviours, and social media habits is critical for your strategy to work. Based on these elements, you should choose the social networks that cater to your audience. For example, if you target Gen Z, TikTok can be the best choice. Moreover, Instagram also caters to a younger crowd. The age group between 25 and 34 tend to spend more time on Facebook and Pinterest. We also advise you to check what your competitors are doing and where they are the most active with their social media content. Ensure you tailor your strategy based on the specifics of each platform and audience.
- A crucial element is to have your social media business profile optimised on each platform you are active. Check and update your information, visuals, and links to your website or online store. Social buyers must resonate with your content. Ensure your brand identity is reflected in every piece of content you publish. We recommend using a mix of product images, videos, customer testimonials, behind-the-scenes content and interactive posts to offer an engaging social commerce experience and humanise your brand. To produce high-quality content, focus on your audience by creating user-centric posts. Craft content that aids, informs, or captivates users, addressing their preferences, interests, and challenges. Tailor your messaging to cater to their needs and desires, demonstrating how your products offer value. As a result, you’ll notice increased interactions and conversions.
- One of the most important elements of social shopping is implementing shoppable content and a shoppable storefront. We recommend using shoppable posts and tags on Instagram Shopping and Facebook Shops to enable active users to purchase directly from your social media posts. You can enhance the shopping experience for your audience by seamlessly integrating content and commerce. Include product tags, links, or buttons in your social media posts to enable effortless shopping while consuming content. By incorporating shoppable elements, customers can easily explore products, understand pricing, and purchase without leaving the platform. This approach appeals to impulsive buyers and enhances their overall user experience.
- To enhance your social commerce sales, we recommend incentivising your social media followers with exclusive discounts, limited-time offers, and special promotions to foster increased engagement and drive sales. Additionally, encourage customers to share feedback through reviews, testimonials, and user-generated content (UGC). Utilising content created by your customers not only builds trust in your brand but also persuades potential customers to make a purchase.
- Expand the shopping opportunities with influencer marketing. As you focus on creating shoppable and engaging content, the next vital step is to connect with a broader audience. Collaborating with influencers is one of the most powerful methods to achieve this goal. We recommend partnering with influencers who align with your brand and products to promote your offerings. You can create content together and share it on your social media accounts or have them feature your products and tag your brand in their content. Leveraging their reach and credibility will significantly boost sales and brand awareness. Remember to choose influencers relevant to your brand and resonate with your target audience to ensure the most effective impact.
- We strongly recommend responding promptly to customer inquiries, comments, and support questions. Active engagement plays a vital role in social commerce success. Responding promptly to customer inquiries, comments, and support questions helps build a positive brand reputation. One effective way to enhance customer support is by implementing social shopping bots. These bots offer instant responses to customer queries, provide personalised recommendations, and guide users through purchasing. Social shopping bots can improve customer satisfaction and save time for customers and your team.
- An extra step to achieve your ultimate goal is to run paid ads. While organic posts contribute to brand loyalty and a positive image, paid advertisements provide access to a broader audience and targeted options to reach individuals with specific interests and purchasing behaviours. You can maximise your marketing potential and elevate your social commerce strategy by utilising both organic and paid marketing.
- If you want to ensure smooth conversions for brand success, we recommend optimising your social commerce storefront. This way, you minimise friction points, offer customers multiple payment options, and ensure secure transactions and social checkout capabilities. By doing so, you will not only reduce cart abandonment rates but also significantly improve your conversion rates. A seamless and user-friendly checkout process is crucial in driving successful conversions for your brand.
- To generate extra engagement and provide dynamic social experiences, we recommend hosting regular live streams, live shopping events, product demonstrations, and Q&A sessions to infuse excitement among customers and establish real-time connections with your audience. During such online events, consider providing limited-time offers to create a sense of urgency and boost sales. Keeping your audience engaged in these dynamic ways will enhance their interaction and loyalty towards your brand. We recommend TikTok Live or Facebook Live for these events, based on where your target audience is more active.
- You must stay ahead of trends to take advantage of social commerce capabilities. We recommend continuously educating your marketing and social media team on the developments in the social media landscape, emerging social commerce trends, platform updates, and shifts in consumer behaviour, including location-specific, gender-based, and other relevant factors. Moreover, by staying informed and learning the social commerce tools, you can adapt and refine your social commerce strategy accordingly.
- To always ensure a frictionless social shopping experience, we strongly recommend regularly tracking, analysing, optimising and measuring ROI. Use analytics tools provided by social media platforms and eCommerce software to understand what is working and what needs improvement. As social media and the eCommerce landscape constantly change, stay up-to-date with industry trends and adapt your strategy to meet new challenges and opportunities. Lastly, calculate the return on investment for your social commerce efforts. Evaluate the revenue generated, customer acquisition costs, and overall impact on your business.
Keep in mind that social commerce is an ongoing journey of refinement and growth. Achieving significant results may require time and dedication to fine-tune your strategy. Patience, consistency and a willingness to learn from your experiences are essential for making continuous improvements. Embrace the iterative nature of social commerce and embrace every opportunity to enhance your approach, ultimately paving the way for greater success in the long run.
Social media and the eCommerce landscape continue to evolve. We are here to ensure your business remains agile and productive in exploring new possibilities, embracing emerging trends, and aligning your social commerce strategy with your target audience’s preferences. Partnering with us will unlock the full potential of social commerce and position your business for sustained success in the ever-evolving digital market. Contact us today!