Are you combining online shopping with social media? Here’s why you shouldLaura Leiva
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What happens when you combine an ecomm business with the powers of social media?
You get something called social commerce.
As an ecommerce brand, you already know that selling online is everything. But if you’re not using social media as a platform for extra sales, you’re missing out on some serious cash. Brands using social media to sell products are bringing in a whopping $90 billion—and it’s projected to hit $605 billion within the next seven years.
Okay, so what’s the difference between selling online and using social media?
In the case of social commerce, it’s about taking the customer experience and keeping it within a given social platform. And, since they’re already on social media throughout the day, adding the benefit of shopping without the need to leave a platform makes it that much easier for them to buy what catches their eye.
Given the vast number of users (especially your target market) browsing social media at any given time, it makes sense to use social media in addition to your website to boost sales. If you’re not currently using Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest (even TikTok!) as part of your strategy, now’s a good time to start.
Here’s the key difference between ecommerce and social commerce: the buying process as it relates to social commerce completely takes place within the social media platform. This differs from how most ecomm businesses use social media by building relationships and then moving them to the website or mailing list.
How social commerce helps your brand
There are plenty of reasons why social commerce makes sense for DTC or ecommerce brands.
It’s about the social experience.
Why do people like social media so much? It connects them to friends, family, and those with similar interests. By incorporating social ecommerce into your brand, you’re speaking to those habits. This also gives your brand some leverage—now you have an opportunity to connect with your target customer.
There’s less friction for the customer.
Taking your store into a social platform makes it easy for the customer to make a sale. They see something, click on it, and buy it. That’s it! The more friction a customer has on a website, the likelier it is they could abandon a cart or opt not to buy anything at all.
Especially when there are hoops (inputting information, grabbing credit or debit cards, looking for promotional codes, etc.) to jump through.
Your products are more visible.
Is your target customer on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook? Then it makes sense to sell your products there, too. For a good amount of shoppers, being on a social platform elevates the perception of your brand. Here are some statistics to consider:
- 78% of customers think brands selling through social media are more popular
- 77% of them believe a brand is more creative if they have a social media presence
- 74% of customers regard brands on social media to be more relevant
Brands NOT on social media are at a considerable disadvantage, and with the growing number of sales taking place on these platforms.
Social commerce creates instant feedback
As a brand, feedback from the customer is essential. By utilizing social commerce, you’re getting feedback in real-time. Besides social commerce benefits, the ability to connect and communicate with your customers through commenting or direct messaging is even more useful for relationship building and tracking analytics.
Advertising is extra focused and relevant
With target market data and analytics taken from social media, you now have a wealth of information on advertising to them using an intentional approach. Is your current advertising strategy missing the mark? With social commerce, tweak or adjust advertising to get the results you want.
Read this if you target the Gen Z or Millennial demographic
If your ideal customer falls within the Millennial or Gen Z demographic, avoiding social commerce could cost you in the long run.
It’s where 75% of this market shops and it’s only going to grow in the next few years.
Around 48% of social users in the United States purchased something online last year, and for those who haven’t yet purchased anything online, 27% of them say they would be willing to try it.
As malls across the country become obsolete, social commerce is taking the community aspect of shopping to online platforms – making it even more of an opportunity for ecomm brands to hop on board.
Bottom line: Using social commerce gives your brand advantage. Between the visibility and the ability to put the right products in front of the desired customer, you’re making it super easy for them to buy and taking away any hurdles that come with traditional marketing or advertising strategies.
Social media and ecomm is a match made in heaven
Are you struggling to compete for customers against mega-brands like Amazon or Walmart?
As a small or ecommerce business, being as accessible as possible to customers is important. While most shoppers are used to clicking on an item and having it delivered within a day or two, incorporating social commerce into your strategy makes your brand more competitive.
Not convinced that adding social commerce to your brand is the right move? EasyPost shares some stats that might change your mind:
- 60% of social media users discover products through Instagram
- 33% of Instagram users have purchased an item while on the mobile app
- 51% of millennials say they would buy something through social media
- 30% of those who shop online say they would likely buy through a social network
Internationally, social commerce is at the forefront of what these changes in online shopping will look like in the United States within the coming years.
Chinese businesses have made it easy to connect their audience to the products they were already browsing through social commerce, limiting the hurdles and making the transaction seamless from start to finish.
Key takeaway: While there is always a potential to encourage sales through either ecommerce or social media alone, combining the two creates a better shopping experience for customers and allows your brand to tap into the convenience while offering benefits like targeted analytics and increased revenue.
The future of online shopping (hint: it includes social media)
With massive online competitors like Amazon growing larger by the year, social media platforms are trying to stay in the game.
Facebook Shops is one such example of what it looks like to combine ecomm with social media. As the Coronavirus pandemic forced millions of people to stay home for the better part of 2020 and 2021, online shopping and digital platforms became a literal lifeline to customers.
For small businesses, jumping on the social commerce wagon offers powerful benefits and helps more customers find your brand. Niche businesses are especially at an advantage.
It’s all about the discovery.
A social media user scrolling through their feed discovers your product, chooses to visit your page and become a follower, or even goes so far as to make a sale on the spot.
That sale didn’t cost much in advertising, and the customer found your product when they didn’t even realize they were in the market.
Selling through social media offers these specific benefits for your ecomm business:
- You’re showcasing products to your target market
- It’s less expensive than other traditional forms of advertising
- There’s an opportunity to create a unique shopping experience for your customer
- Customers have the chance to learn about your brand and follow you
- Loyalty builds over time while getting more eyes in front of your ecomm business
There’s also the ability to create campaigns shared by followers. When something’s interactive, the potential to go viral is always on the table.
Want to know how else utilizing social commerce works for the discovery process of your brand? Create elements like games, loyalty discounts, or giveaways/contests to create an interactive shopping experience.
Don’t count Facebook (or Instagram) out yet
It seems like Facebook is always getting a bad rap. But with new features like Facebook Shops, it’s worth it for small business and ecommerce brands to pay attention.
Shoppers are now more open to the idea of purchasing through social media platforms, especially when the experience is personal.
Micro and nano influencers—those with small but engaged followers—have proved to be super valuable to niche markets and small businesses.
The global pandemic has also played a major role in the increased demand for social commerce. Within the last year, flexibility and convenience have been two key attributes for consumers.
Those who might have been hesitant to shop online found themselves more comfortable with the idea and now might prefer to browse their favorite stores on social media rather than trekking in store.
How are social media platforms answering? By creating digital storefronts.
Facebook and Instagram Shops rolled out in the spring of 2020 to make the online shopping experience offline.
Features offered to ecomm, and small business owners include:
- Customizable collections that allow brands to highlight products
- Single shopping experiences for both Instagram and Facebook
- Creative tools and design features
Facebook and Instagram Shops take a consumer through the entire buying process by offering a secure checkout, keeping users within the app from start to finish.
Pinterest and online shopping – new features and benefits for your business
Another way to reach customers is through Pinterest.
In 2010, Pinterest started first as an online destination for users to pin dinner recipes and home décor ideas.
Pinterest is now one of the leading social media platforms for ecommerce businesses. Businesses that pin products and content to the platform can tap into massive traffic flow and potential sales.
According to Sellbrite, the average order placed from Pinterest is $50—more than competitive platforms featuring a marketplace. With 250 million active users each month, Pinterest connects ecommerce brands with plenty of interested consumers.
What’s the benefit of using Pinterest as part of your marketing strategy?
Browsers go onto the platform looking for something specific. Once they find what they’re looking for (a pin from a brand’s website), they’ll save it to their board and reference it later or hop over to the ecomm website and make a sale.
While this doesn’t align exactly with social commerce by definition, it does open up the possibility for increased traffic and sales to a brand’s website.
Where does TikTok fit in?
Okay, so where does that leave the newest social platform, TikTok?
Popular with not only Gen Z but TikTok’s audience has also skyrocketed over the last year and continues to grow month after month within all demographics.
But while other established platforms are getting more attention related to social commerce, there’s growing interest in TikTok’s potential.
There’s a good reason behind it, too:
- Visual experiences are more in demand. Static feeds on Instagram and Facebook see a decline in activity, while video-based content through TikTok or IG Reels sees an uptick. TikTok’s appeal is all about the visual experience using short-form content that’s scrollable and a strong, unique algorithm to match.
- The newness is an advantage. Because TikTok is still new(ish), there’s a lot of opportunities for brands to stick out to their target demographic (especially if it’s Gen Z). While older platforms are diverse and reach older demographics, this would be a good time to jump in if your brand appeals to shoppers between 25 and 34.
While TikTok currently connects with ecommerce brands and allows users to click within the app to go to specific websites, the rollout of social commerce features is still coming.
According to Business Insider, in-app features will include live-streamed shopping content and product catalogs.
Boosting ROI with social media (and how to start making it work for your brand)
Looking for ways to integrate social media into your marketing strategy aside from social commerce? There are plenty of actionable steps to take now that will help drive traffic to your website and boost ROI:
- Create a branded page for Instagram and Facebook. If you’re an ecomm or small business, creating a brand page on social media is a good idea if you want to grow your audience or reach. It also lends to your brand’s credibility—users today point out that if a brand’s NOT on social media, they’re not as competitive. The branded page also allows you to include links to your website or product pages, making it easier for consumers to find what they’re looking for.
Here's a tip: Make it EASY for your customers to find what they’re looking for and make a sale. The more hoops to jump through, the increased chance of abandoned carts.
- Include your social accounts in email content or newsletters. Connect with your customers and build community by reminding them that they should follow you on social media. Embed clickable links into your content to make it easy for everyone to follow you and stay connected. Do you have a branded hashtag? This is also a great place to include it.
- Add shoppable tags. This feature, available on Facebook and Instagram, allows ecomm and small businesses to connect to products available, linking customers to a product page that details the product and highlights other products from the shop. Here’s how this feature looks from the platform.
- Don’t use the same copy across all your social platforms. What works on Facebook for your brand might not translate well if you’re also using TikTok as part of your marketing strategy due to the varying demographics and content formats. Using the same images or video is okay, but make sure the copy and tone match the platform.
Another way to drive sales back to your website or increase awareness for a product through social commerce is to use brand ambassadors or influencers. Micro and nano influencers are especially helpful because they know their following wants and needs—key for any brand.
Contests, referral codes, and loyalty programs are also worth considering to build brand awareness and loyalty.
Here’s the deal: No matter what size or market your ecomm or small business attracts, social media is here to stay, so it’s worth it to see how to best increase your ROI and traffic by integrating the provided tools and features into your strategy.