Insight

Why social media is changing the face of ecommerce

Lindsay Dayanik

,

23.07.2021

social media and ecommerce

I’ve worked in social media right from the very start. Right back when Facebook launched and brands started to dip their toe in by creating a Facebook page to directly communicate with their customers. It was revolutionary. 

Roll forward the clock and I’ve been privileged to work with some massive brands and seen the stunning growth of each platform, partnered with the initial reluctance of marketeers to get on-board as they grappled to demonstrate ROIs – but this has changed. Investment into social continues to soar as the attached business results become clear. Marketers have no choice to opt out. 

The shift to paid social

As a channel for advertising, the results through paid social speak for themselves. I’ve certainly witnessed a shift from more traditional forms of advertising like TV, into paid social – with full funnel strategies taking customers all the way from awareness to conversion, in-platform. Although channels like TV can still play a huge part in reaching mass audiences and driving brand awareness, paid social is giving it a run for its money, as well as driving tangible revenue. 

Up until now, shopping behaviour on social has largely been limited to discovery and consideration, with purchase taking place off-platform on a brand or retailer website – but that has changed. Businesses can now sell products directly to customers using Social Shops (s-commerce), closing the loop directly on platform, even circumventing the need for a traditional e-commerce website. What’s more, people are predicting that the roll out of Social Shops could change the face of e-commerce forever. 

And here’s why; the best thing about Social Shops is they remove friction from the customer journey, making it easy to follow through from discovery to purchase. Ultimately, every click of the mouse is an opportunity for a potential customer to change their mind. If they have to go from your ad to your website to purchase, there’s a lot of moments to lose their attention. Social Shops allow businesses to take those unnecessary steps away and bring the shopping right to social. See it on your feed, buy it in a click. 

Capitalising on consumer behaviour

On average most people spend 2 hours 24minutes per day on social media. The social platforms have got it scarily right when it comes to getting your attention and hitting that, “I need to scroll” button in our brains – giving instant gratification. It’s addictive and for the platforms and brands who get it right, s-commerce could lead to mega bucks. Just think, awesome video content and demos selling a product in an engaging way…and boom, click, select, buy. Getting customers right there in that moment is where the magic happens.    

One of the primary drivers of the success of social commerce has been the shift of preference by Generation Z and Millennials away from Facebook and towards platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. The key is short-form video content, which is rapidly becoming the dominant form of online content. It is fast-paced, engaging and especially powerful when created by influencers and digital creators who know their audiences. 

Researchers are forecasting that e-sales will surpass $735 billion in the next three years, so for businesses that want in on this action, it makes sense to bring your goods to the online spaces where your customers are already scrolling and consuming content.

How social platforms are evolving the shopping experience

Instagram has beta-tested its Checkout feature, which allows users to search and shop directly within the app. The mass rollout of this feature will transform how people shop with brands online, making it more convenient to shop not only directly from a brand’s posts, but from influencer posts too. These platform changes will make the social shopping experience on Instagram feel effortless and seamless – all the way from discovery to purchase.

The rollout of Shops across Facebook, meanwhile, allows brands to create digital storefronts, with links to purchase products either on the retailer’s website or directly within Facebook itself. Even YouTube and TikTok are experimenting with social commerce. YouTube Shopping allows customers to make purchases directly on-site by browsing through catalogues offered by sellers, while TikTok’s partnership with Shopify allows merchants to create and show shoppable content on the platform.

Even before these functionality considerations, each platform lends itself differently to the shopping experience and users’ openness to brand advertising. Instagram, for example, feels like a natural fit for commerce as its highly visual nature emulates a glossy magazine, where products feel native and premium.

How brands can dodge common pitfalls for social commerce

To create a great social commerce experience, businesses must remember the “social” part. They shouldn’t just pull through their catalogue to Facebook and Instagram Shops and forget about it – they need to keep their communities engaged with content and top tier community management. The same best practices that you usually use for engaging your following all apply here:

  • Answer questions
  • Offer valuable and interesting content
  • Be human and authentic

Consider setting up a chatbot to help people move forward with their shopping journey.

The winners of tomorrow will be the brands that embrace social commerce as a real tool for customer acquisition and retention. With this in mind, organic social content has never been so important – keeping your followers engaged and interested keeps them closer to you for that moment when they are ready to purchase. For those that fail to act, loss of market share could become a real concern. In a social world, learning how to navigate these waters is no longer just a ‘nice to have’.

The multiple roles of social media should play in your brand’s strategy

There’s no doubt that the social landscape continues to change and evolve, but what I do know is there’s always one key thing to remember…social isn’t just a channel, it is so much more and can play lots of roles for different areas of your business. It needs a whole strategy of its own covering three key areas: 

Paid social ads (performance): using a typical marketing funnel and social ads to acquire new customers and sell products outside of your own pages/accounts 

Owned social 

  • Commerce: your social shops and sales strategy  
  • Content (organic): Content for your own channels for building communities and brand love – all wrapped up with stand-out community management that is pro-active and positive 
Earned social: having a plan in place to drive earned social coverage (including influencers) and user-generated content (UGC) managed by fantastic social customer service.  

We are BBI, an award-winning integrated marketing agency. We have been helping leading brands to achieve their goals through content-led performance marketing since 2011. 

Multichannel marketing strategies that leverage social media are a particular strength. Take a look at some of our work, or get in touch to discover how we can help with your next social media project.