The rise of social commerce

Privacy changes, augmented reality and evolving platforms are all contributing to a growth in purchasing on social media.

Oli Booker, Head of Social at Reprise, talks about the evolving social commerce strategies that brands must adopt...

The last 12 months have changed the shopping landscape for good – making social commerce a critical element in the retail space. Between January 2020 and January 2021, there was a 54% increase in online sales as a proportion of all retail sales in the UK, and this momentum is not slowing down. That means it will be crucial for brands and agencies to adapt to the new ways people consume products and, ultimately, purchase those products.

This, however, is not limited to the sectors you may think. In fact, 40% of Nike’s sales now come from e-commerce sources as an increasing amount of customers have become willing to purchase trainers online. e-commerce sales channels power other sectors as well, for example, beauty, FMCG, and more. And this shift in how we shop is here to stay. 

And social media has overtaken all other sources as the number one place where individuals are finding new products that they want to purchase. 47% of people discover products and brands across social media channels – that’s more than TV, search, and websites. Social is rapidly becoming the place where people are finding products they want to buy, which means now, brands need to have a “shop front” in order to be there for potential customers.

The importance of product feeds

Brands need to move the customer journey out of websites and into Facebook channels to make the final conversion within the Facebook family of apps. To be able to do this, brands must have product feeds in place in order to roll out the payment options to make the social commerce journey as frictionless as possible.

Dynamic product ads

Dynamic product ads cater to the future of social commerce. These ads take a product feed, which includes every product seen across an e-commerce website or other businesses that use feed solutions, and serves the most contextually relevant ads to a range of individuals based on their browsing experience, age, demographic, and the content they consume within the Facebook network of apps. This means brands are only ever serving the most relevant products within ads to potential customers, but it is also proven to drive e-commerce results for retail-focused brands.

Tagged products

Elements from a social media post can be pulled through from a product feed and tagged to ensure a smoother customer experience. However, to tag products, retailers must have a product feed in place.

Augmented reality

Due to the changing customer behaviour driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, brands are starting to test augmented reality. For this, products are pulled through a feed so that if customers are looking at specific products in an augmented reality space, they are being shown the webpage specific to the actual product. To power this type of AR advertising, brands again need to build it from a product feed.

Shops and collection ads

Finally, Instagram and Facebook Shops enable people to add items to basket and experience the entire e-commerce journey in-platform. You can then build it out, update pricing, images and create a beautiful shopfront within the Facebook and Instagram platforms.

The future of social commerce

Selling products in real-time with Facebook live shopping is one area to watch as it allows consumers to explore products and have that one-on-one experience with a brand, whilst utilising social platforms to connect with a product in a new way. Snapchat e-commerce solutions are utilising the dynamic ads functionality and TikTok is upping their game in social commerce by allowing brands to put products directly into an account where shopping options and payment options are all integrated through Shopify. This allows users to complete a purchase directly within the newsfeed or app. 

Preparing for privacy changes

The impending privacy changes that will affect how dynamic product ads work in the future. As Apple are now putting web-to-app tracking and app-to-app tracking in the hands of iOS device users, it means individuals must allow brands to accept the pass back of information between apps and other third-party apps – for example, a journey that starts in Facebook and ends in a Chrome browser. If a user rejects this, Facebook will no longer have the ability to collect the same level of data that was inferring so much of the information powering their algorithm. This massively limits the opportunity for retargeting and, ultimately, finding the customers most likely to convert against a particular product. Also next year, the demise of cookies on browsers like Chrome will further change the landscape for digital advertising partners – so we must think about how we can get around this moving forward. As we navigate the changes to tracking, optimisation, measurement and reporting, it will be crucial for brands and marketers to look at what the data is telling them and keep track of it on a month-by-month basis to stay agile. 

Evolving social commerce strategies

The social commerce space is ever evolving, and there are ways brands can win within the space now. Firstly, integrating products directly in-platform is key. Once this is active, brands can get in-payment platforms sorted as soon as they are available and worry less about the data privacy changes. Marketers should prepare for signal loss and consider the conversion API, thinking about how they can use first-party data to create segments to see uplift and down-lift based on who has been served their ads. Contextual creative will become more important, meaning brands can stop relying on algorithms and instead serve ads based on what they actually know about people.