Social commerce: how it boosts your sales
If you didn't initiate a digital transformation a few years ago, you missed the boat. Big time. Now another one of those boats is passing by: social commerce. In this blog, we'll cover all the ins and outs of social commerce. Where does it come from? How exactly is it useful for brands? What are the capabilities of each platform? Be sure to read on if you want to know the answers to all these questions!
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is a side branch of e-commerce. The platforms under Meta, Facebook and Instagram of course, both have a native shops feature. In these, e-commerce brands upload their product catalog to a virtual storefront.
As a user, you can visit a brand's social shop to see available products, read product specifications and see what sizes and colors are in stock. In addition, you can have your shop appear in users' feeds with sponsored posts. Other platforms are also transforming. For example, TikTok recently launched shopping ads, and advertisers already have a lot of possibilities on Pinterest Ads as well.
Users buy immediately at the moment of inspiration. Where previously users were referred to the #linkinbio, now a product page loads directly into the feed. Thus Meta kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand, Meta ensures that the user stays on the platform itself. On the other hand, it benefits sellers by significantly shortening the customer journey and lowering barriers to purchase. Oh, and Meta is not the only one with a native shops feature. TikTok and Pinterest are also well on their way.
Social commerce compared to e-commerce
Ever since Web 2.0 in the early 2000s, there has been steady growth in the number of e-commerce platforms. Nothing new. The COVID-19 pandemic kicked that up a notch and left a big mark on the online landscape. Webshops were getting bigger and bigger, and delivery services could barely handle the influx of online purchases.
The U.S. social commerce market alone is set to grow some 38% to $27 billion by 2020. It is expected to exceed $50 billion by 2023. Not bad at all!
So social commerce has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. What else is there to do when you're sitting on the couch at night? It is also not very surprising that social commerce has grown so much. Facebook and Instagram combined have about 3 billion users. According to a report by eMarketers, about one-third of social media users expect to make a purchase on the platform.
With social commerce, shopping is a social experience because users are in a much more interactive environment. You can easily forward products to your friends and ask for advice. Social commerce is the next best thing to shopping together at the mall! Only without long lines for the checkout.
Optimal mobile friendliness
About 70% of users access websites via a mobile device. Therefore, a user-friendly mobile website is extremely important. And that is precisely the power of social commerce.
Social media platforms are built on mobile-friendliness and are accessible to a huge audience. And instead of leading visitors to a shop, with social commerce you bring the shop to them. Social commerce brushes away some unnecessary steps from the buying process and streamlines the customer journey.
We discuss below what each platform's social commerce capabilities are and how to deploy it for your business.
The possibilities on Pinterest
What do you get when you cross a search engine with a social medium? Pinterest! Now more than 450 million Pinterest users create mood boards, pin inspiration ánd discover new products. Pinterest is the perfect medium to appeal to a new target group of people who are still unfamiliar with your brand.
About 97% of searches are unbranded. User intent sets Pinterest apart from other social media. People use Pinterest to find inspiration and discover new brands and products. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, where the main purpose is actually to engage in social interaction or be entertained.
On Pinterest, native advertising is being taken to the next level. Users are not disturbed by ads, but focus entirely on finding the products they need. Consequently, about 50% of Pinterest users are in the Do phase of the customer journey. Relevant and creatively designed ads do well on this visual platform.
Social commerce on Facebook
According to Statista, Facebook was the most used social platform for purchases in 2021. Brands that wanted to venture into social commerce likely started with a Facebook page to set up their shop in.
With Shopify integration, you automatically sync products with Facebook and can create shoppable posts and ads. This way, you don't have the hassle of uploading product feeds and make sure your branding is applied right away.
The topper: social commerce on Instagram
Instagram research shows that about 44% of users use Instagram to shop weekly. Instagram also offers many opportunities for brands to facilitate that:
Shopping tags: tag products from your shop in your feed posts and stories.
Shopping tab: this is where Instagram users browse and buy products tagged by influencers or products from brands' shop.
Ads: this type of Instagram ads allows users to view a selection of products and read descriptions.
Shop in DMs: with this feature, users buy from brands via direct messages. Users ask questions about products, make purchases and track their orders all in one place!
New kid on the block: social commerce on TikTok
TikTok has grown like crazy. In June 2020, TikTok launched for business: a platform where businesses could share tips and links with each other. In October 2020, TikTok announced a partnership with Shopify: TikTok Shopping was born! In just six months, social commerce capabilities on TikTok were as good as those on Meta (and Pinterest for that matter).
With your TikTok for Business account you can promote your own content in TikTok Shopping or very easily create cool videos from your own dashboard. Your shopping ads can reach users in different ways:
For you ads: the 'for you' page is curated based on the user's choices and interests. Ads on this page are likely to get more attention because this is the first thing users see when they open the app. Since TikTok is an interest-based platform, chances are your message will resonate with your audience.
Swipeable ads: swipeable ads are the most common ads. They contain product details in the form of cards that users swipe through. We already know these from Instagram, of course.
TikTok Live Shopping: Live shopping is a tool for creators and influencers. It allows users to load the products you are talking about into your live session. Live Shopping is like a real-time digital marketplace.
TikTok product tags: tags related to your business you can link to your post. When users click on them, they are sent in-app to your website or the shopping hub in the app itself.
Other ads: custom ads are the best way to reach and track specific users. You target these ads to specific characteristics of your target audience.
Custom audiences in TikTok
There are several ways to create custom audiences in TikTok. Here’s a list for you:
Customer match lists. Just like in Google Ads and Meta, you can upload customer lists in TikTok for look-a-like audiences. Again, the list must contain at least 1,000 users to ensure privacy on the one hand and to provide the algorithm with sufficient input on the other.
Engagement audiences. In TikTok, you can create audiences of users who previously interacted with your brand. Think clicks and video impressions, but also how long they watched your videos (2 seconds, 6 seconds or 25%, 50%, etc.)
App activity. App activity audiences are based on certain events in the app. Subscribes, add to wishlist, login, purchases, leaving reviews and so on.
Website traffic. A website traffic target group consists of users who have completed actions on your website. For this, again, you need to upload a list in TikTok of at least 1,000 users. Actions include users who clicked a certain button, added products to their shopping cart or started the checkout but did not complete it.
Lead generation audiences. Perhaps less relevant to social commerce, but lead generation audiences also have a lot of potential. These are audiences of users who viewed or (partially) completed a form. If you want to know more about your target audience and enrich your database, forms are very useful!
Business account audiences. This type of audience allows you to retarget users who completed certain actions on your profile exclusively organically. This includes a follow, profile visit, video view (2s, 6s, 100% view) and video engagement (like/share/comment).
Social commerce and livestream shopping
Combine influencer marketing with livestreaming and you have a powerful tool on your hands. Brands and influencers use live commerce to interact with their viewers in real-time. Viewers ask questions about products and the host of the livestream helps them make a product choice. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok all offer livestream shopping opportunities.
Although livestream shopping is still in its infancy in Europe and the U.S., the market exploded in China. In just three years, livestream shopping grew from about $3 billion to $171 billion. If we transfer even a small portion of this growth to the European market, according to McKinsey, live commerce purchases will account for 10-20% of all e-commerce purchases by 2026.
The conversion rates of livestream shopping do not lie. With a conversion rate of 30%, it is 10x higher than in regular online stores.... And even with a conversion ratio of 3% you are doing well as a webshop. In addition, there are also lower costs associated with live commerce, because the return rates are 50% lower.
The benefits of social commerce
1. Smooth customer journey
With social commerce, life is a lot easier for both users and brands. Users no longer even have to leave the app, reducing the number of steps to a purchase. And with it, the number of users who drop out prematurely. In-app functionalities like checkout and DMs with customer service make shopping on social platforms incredibly easy.
2. Strong persuasion
When one sheep crosses the dam, more follow: social media is riddled with social proof heuristics. Just about every post is user-generated content, whether from one of your friends or an influencer. In addition, posts go right along with likes, shares and comments. Brands can also reward interaction: think giveaways, discount codes and a share on your favorite brand's social account.
3. Driven by data
Social media have become big by using data as currency. The deal is simple: you get to use my social platform if you leave some data. Using the platform itself also creates a whole bucket of data. From age and gender statistics to job titles, relationship status, education level, areas of interest and hobbies.
Marketers eagerly use all this data to unleash targeted campaigns on their ideal audience. Social commerce allows brands to put their shop in front of their target audience, where traditional e-commerce websites must á attract traffic.
4. Relevant and large audiences
Some 57% of the world's population uses social media. That's almost five billion people. Let that sink in. And it doesn't look like these numbers are going to shrink in the coming years. What's in it for you? As a brand, you can reach your target audience worldwide!
Do you focus on 18 to 34-year-olds? Then you can bet they'll be scrolling through life on social platforms. For Gen Z and millennials, chances are they have already made a purchase through a social channel.
5. Direct contact with customers
Many companies claim to be "customer centric. But how does that manifest itself in practice? On social media, you have the opportunity to be in direct contact with your customers. Social media are also perfect for asking your customers for feedback on your products and services. You can do that with polls, in the comment section and for extra engaged users in DMs!
This way you strengthen your relationship with your customers. Customers like to give feedback. It makes them feel appreciated! This way you make sure that your products connect even better with the target group and you strengthen the relationship. Whether it is about features of a product, new collections or improved customer service.
The bottom line
Social media is always evolving and today offers tremendous opportunities for brands and content creators. The #linkinbio now finds a worthy replacement in the native shops feature that more and more platforms are rolling out. With this virtual shop window and the advertising opportunities, you generate an enormous amount of attention as a brand. Not to mention livestream shopping. The question is not whether you should start with social commerce, but when. And then rather yesterday than today!