Remember when ecommerce was the go-to tactic for increasing brand awareness, finding new customers, and boosting sales? Remember when you could just list products on your site and advertise your cheapest, stripped down offer and people would buy from you in droves?
Newsflash: The golden era has come to an end. Using ecommerce to drive sales is a lot more complicated than it used to be. If it was still a straightforward process, companies like Target wouldn’t see a decline in sales.
The underlying reason? Today’s shoppers are skeptic of pure play tactics. They see value in connecting and acquiring rather than reliance on a brand’s library of products. As a result, they are looking for shopping destinations or inspirational sites.
Perhaps that’s why brands are agog over social commerce.
For those unaware, it is the concept of utilizing social networks to increase sales transactions. Actionable marketing expert Heidi Cohen defines it as the maturation and evolution of social media meets shopping.
Social media hasn’t just changed the way people communicate; it has significantly changed the way they purchase. They can seek peer advice and interact with brands before making purchase decisions. But most important, it has reduced the friction on their path to purchase.
Think about how you would enable consumers to purchase items via social media. Would you post a link to your store in the content feed? Create an ad and link it to the landing page that features your offerings? (A standard funnel may be anywhere between 8-16 screens.)
Or would you prefer selling directly via social networks?
As consumers migrate to social networks for online purchases, Twitter, Facebook and others are fine tuning their platforms to align with the shift in online consumption and facilitate sellers. That’s why Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter have added “shop now” or “buy now” buttons to their platforms. The aim is to facilitate retailers in simplifying the buying process from these networks.
eMarketer revealed that social commerce revenue has grown from $5 billion in 2011 to eclipsing $30 billion in 2015. And here are interesting finds about commerce on specific social networks:
With the Facebook buy button, retailers can either let shoppers check out their products directly on Facebook, or take them to their websites. It can bring a 5-10% incremental lift in revenue.
Golden State Warriors offered $35 commemorative T-shirts to their followers after they won the NBA championships via a Twitter buy button. It resulted in $125,000 of merchandise sales.
Instagram advertisers can use 4 CTA buttons: Install Now (for apps), Sign Up, Shop Now, and Learn More. A survey by GlobalWebIndex revealed that 49% of Instagram users would welcome buy buttons.
93% Pinterest users plan purchases via the platform. In Q4, 2015, it was reported that Pinterest has 60 million buyable pins. Pinterest also reports an average of 90% first time buyers, making it an attractive channel for customer acquisition.
The findings indicate that the time is ripe for brands to increase revenue with buy buttons.
Native Social Commerce Sets Stage Advertisers
Social commerce environments showcase how a blended model – advertising and shopping – can work together. They’re enabling merchants to set up native storefronts, add buy buttons, and utilize hashtags to initiate a sale. Continued success will be contingent on native social ads that offer value without tarnishing the user experience.
To create and maintain natural affinity with the audience on each platform, there are tactical level opportunities that brands can utilize to become even more contextual. Here’s how to delve in:
On Facebook, you can curate a shop where people on Facebook can make purchases without ever needing to leave the platform.
This native buying experience can severely shorten the purchasing funnel, requiring users to go through half as many screens to make a purchase. Credit card information can also be stored, enabling one click buying without too much hassle for the merchant.
While it’s tempting to for merchants to just list existing inventory on Facebook, merchants should consider the benefits of a "Facebook Exclusive" strategy - for instance, by incorporating dropshipping into your supply chain, you can tap into trending topics and create timely, on brand sales opportunities that are native and relevant to the Facebook environment.
With Twitter ads, you can make a sale within the platform as you interact with target audiences in real-time. For instance, you can create a sponsored tweet that features the buy now button and use geographic targeting to reach audiences near your locality. This is particularly useful for local businesses who’re looking to tap into neighborhood audiences.
Another strategy is to relate sponsored tweets to an event-based keyword or hashtag which offers a special price or limited-time discounts on merchandise. Think the impact of sponsored tweets selling merchandise once #GameofThrones or #TheWalkingDead comes back on the air.
Twitter’s buy now button also works for retargeting campaigns. With it, you can deliver ads to visitors who came to your website and spent time on a product page, or abandoned the shopping cart after adding items to it.
On Instagram, you can create video ads, carousel ads, or photo ads depending on your campaign goal and budget. But make sure to offer a native experience. If your audience sees a post that gives a feel of an ad, chances are they’ll ignore it regardless of the shop now CTA. Successful ad campaigns feature ads that blend in with organic content rather than disrupting the overall Instagram experience.
For targeting, you can utilize your premade Facebook ad targeting. This means that Facebook categories, behaviors, and interests targeting can all be used for ad targeting on Instagram. Moreover, these ads can be cross-promoted quickly between Instagram and Facebook, making it easy to reach both platform’s audiences. And as for Twitter ads, you can use event-based or popular hashtags to reach relevant audiences.
Successful buyable pins campaigns target specific interests, groups and timely events. When creating buyable pins, select keywords that are directly or indirectly related to your online storefront.
To optimize the buyable pin, curate/create a blend of high-quality images and write keyword-relevant captions. Where Pinterest differs from other social networks is that it allows you to use only one hashtag, so consider that piece of the puzzle wisely.
Note: Shopify merchants can use their admin dashboard to add Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest sales channels. On Facebook, they can create a native store to sell directly to consumers.
Will Social Commerce Transform Local Businesses?
Local businesses, whose primary marketing tactic has been word-of-mouth, could use social commerce to personalize the customer experience. Buy buttons will enable them to sell to customers in nearby locations and in-store. Also, when rush delivery services like UberRUSH become more mainstream, retailers will be able to leverage the connectivity and speed of social networks to increase sales transactions.
When you place an UberRUSH order, an Uber driver shows up at your retail outlet or warehouse, picks up the ordered item, and delivers it promptly to the customer. You can combine this service with social commerce. For instance, if you’re selling swimsuit apparel, you can create social media ads and target vacationers based on their beach location, with the promise of quick delivery of swimsuit, sunscreen, scuba gear, and other beach essentials.
The same tactic can be used for targeting people at community festivals, family events, and concerts; these are low hanging fruits when it comes to utilizing UberRUSH to measurably boost sales and improve the customer experience. Imagine what it might be like at a special event where you use social media ads to promote products (with the buy now/shop now button) and promise rush delivery.
At the end of the day, blending the convenience of social shopping and speed while providing a highly personalized experience via targeted ads is key for the future of social commerce.
Originally published Feb 25, 2016 5:00:00 PM, updated July 28 2017