Thursday, 5 December 2019

How Commerce Has Gone Social

Thomas John, Senior Director and Commerce Practice Lead

Social platforms have transformed into hubs for entertainment, news and product research. But there are new opportunities to reach consumers in this environment and push the boundaries beyond just these common uses. The influence that has been exerted by social media on the online shopping process has increased from 3.1% in 2016 to 9.1% in 2019 according to Adobe Digital Insights. There are unexploited opportunities for brands and retailers to use social media’s reach and convert it to actual sales. 

Here are some of my observations for retailers seeking to maximize their social commerce strategies, including:

·       Go beyond product research into conversions

·       Consider using Instagram as the social foundation with visually captivating and mobile friendly content

·       Adopt a mobile-first mindset not just a delivery mechanism

Go Beyond Product Research into Conversions

Social channels remain an excellent space for brand and product discovery, which makes sense given the ease of sharing campaigns, merchandise and trends they offer. However, social channels still haven’t fulfilled their potential when it comes to getting a shopper to complete a purchase. According to the
GlobalWebIndex, 42% of shoppers still use social networks primarily as a research tool yet is rare (11%) for a consumer to be motivated to purchase by a “buy” button on social media.

One of the most revealing pieces of data in the report was that in 15 out of 45 global markets analyzed, social networks have surpassed search engines as the go-to channel for shoppers during the product research phase of the purchase journey. In other words, social media is becoming the norm for people conducting product searches. The next natural step for companies is to prioritize moving these consumers into the transactional phase.

The Transactional Potential of Instagram

Within the eco-system of social media platforms, Facebook enjoys a commanding lead in usage among social media marketers (89% of them use the network, according to Sprout Social). But among retailers, Instagram has been perhaps the most effective social platform in recent years. Retailers enjoy the mobile-friendliness presentation and clear visuals which support efficient sharing and viewability. Since July 2018, 78% of retailers have adopted Instagram’s shoppable pages. Easy to view icons guide the user within a shoppable post to items that are able to be purchased through the app. By clicking on a photo, the consumer can find relevant information, including a product’s name and price.

In 2019, Instagram launched two new features to their platform: Instagram Checkout and “Shop Looks from Creators” which immediately gave retailers more opportunities to move beyond product discovery into a more transactional experience. Prior to launch of these features, most major social networks couldn’t keep users within their app as they shopped. This alone gives Instagram’s checkout option far more potential value than any other “buy button” predecessors.

It’s Always Been About Mobile-First

Ever since the trend of mobile-first took root it has never subsided. If anything, it got stronger over the years due to consumer adoption. Social is not “mobile-first”, but “mobile-only”. According to eMarketer, as of March 2019, there were 105.8 million “mobile only” social network users in the U.S., comprising 51.7% of all social network users. The mindset of any retailer applying a social commerce strategy should be “mobile first, second and third.”

How You Can Plan for These Trends 

1.Channels and More Channels – build capabilities to sell beyond your website; diversify with additional channels. It is all about being where your consumers are actually shopping, which these days is on mobile and across multiple channels.

2.Data Drives your Experience – data quality remains paramount to help drive the optimal experience across multiple channels. Solutions such as Product Information Management (PIM) and Master Data Management (MDM) help centralize and syndicate data to support various channels.

3.Measure, Tune and Change – success is driven by knowing what is working and what is not. Putting in additional measurements and KPIs will help track the areas within each channel that are working or not. Commerce is constantly adapting based on evolution of customer buying behaviors. Social commerce is no different.

Successful social commerce requires that you maintain a two-way conversation at all times. Retailers can get caught up in the social platforms themselves and simply drive brand awareness which may result in indirect transactions. However, from the consumer’s point of view, social media exists for the engagement with other users and brands. Retailers can’t lose sight of this desire to engage when they build out their strategy.

Interested in learning more about our Commerce and Integrated Marketing capabilities? We’d love to talk. Get started with your commerce transformation here.