Rhys Westwell, Head of Social, Performics @ Zenith, cuts through the noise and looks at owned assets, promoted content and technical integrations...
There’s lots of hype around social commerce as the ‘next big thing’ in digital. The pandemic has caused a huge shift to digital in all aspects of life - we’ve gone through 10 years of digital evolution in just one year. The move to online, mobile and social commerce has been on the cards for a while, but the pandemic acted as a catalyst, making this move happen much faster than expected. Because of this, social commerce is expected to grow by +31% in 2021 in the US alone.
Thanks to this, all the major social platforms are driving demand and building competitive solutions, and brands are calling out for clarity around this new lucrative opportunity. However, as it stands, social commerce is still just a way to refer traffic to retailers; it’s not a sales channel in itself yet, despite what the industry and publishers might lead you to believe.
The challenge for brands and agencies alike is to understand and plan for the social-commerce era by making the most of the opportunities these channels have on offer today. Essentially, there are three key areas of opportunity that brands need to think about to ensure they’re making the most of the social commerce opportunity: owned assets, social content, and the technical integrations they can implement. These aspects combined will improve a brand’s availability, perceptibility and feasibility to customers looking to shop on social channels.
If a brand is to seriously consider competing in the social commerce space, they need to ensure their social accounts are adopting the latest available solutions to organically generate online sales and manage customer interactions. An example of this is Facebook Shops, which is a free mobile-first shopping solution that allows brands to easily create an online store on Facebook and Instagram. Shops let you curate your merchandise and product collections so when a user visits your page or account, they can discover the latest products and shop immediately, without the need for re-direction.
As well as making it easier to discover products on social, it’s just as vital brands leverage the instant messaging functionality across all social channels to effectively support their customers throughout the buying process. Customers expect to be able to contact brands on the channel’s they are discovering and purchasing their products. To really win in this area, brands should consider automated messaging solutions and integrate this into their customer service operations. Making the most of the specific native solutions available on each social channel will ensure customers are comfortable browsing and buying products.
Social platforms have paved the way in terms of ad product innovation, ensuring that social commerce content still excites and inspires the consumer. Brands should ensure they are leveraging the range of engaging and innovative formats to increase brand affinity and purchase intent across these channels. For example, a trend across many social channels is shoppable augmented reality. This allows the user to try on a product from sunglasses to eyeshadow – and then through to purchase. Additionally, brands can leverage the power of influencers and brand ambassadors – a natural fit in the social space. For example, TikTok’s creator marketplace allows brands to seamlessly collaborate with relevant platform influencers to promote highly-engaging ads which fit with platform behaviours. Understanding the behaviour on each social channel, making ads interactive and relevant will go a long way in improving your bottom-line sales performance.
This is the least noticeable aspect of social commerce, but the most important to ensure an uplift in sales. If brands have the right automation, integrations and partners, they can really make their sales activity sing on social media channels. Technical integrations can assist with a variety of challenges, but each adoption will allow a brand to target smartly, deliver more relevant creative or attribute sales more effectively. For example, it’s vital for retailers with a product set to integrate their feeds with social channels. This will allow dynamic retargeting and ensure a customer is getting the right message when they are in market. Brands should also ensure they have server-server connections set up. Facebook Conversion API can be used to measure both on and offline sales and mitigate against cookieless browsing. In conjunction with the above, brands should implement instant checkout, removing barriers to purchase and allowing a user to discover and buy product within the platform. There are numerous integrations at a brand's disposal to improve performance in the social space: it’s important to look into which integrations can remove friction, increase automation and improve sales.
Whilst there’s a long way to go until social platforms become sales channels in themselves, there are key areas that brands can focus on to improve their social commerce output now. As long as brands get up to speed with the available social commerce solutions now, they'll be at the forefront for the continued shift to mobile and social commerce in the future.