Most business owners will already recognise and understand the value of e-commerce, selling products online. This process has helped many businesses stay afloat during a time when social contact, meetings and events have been strictly limited. However, e-commerce isn’t the only online revenue stream.
Businesses need to start looking at how they can use a process called social commerce to benefit their business. With millions of people using social media, it makes sense of businesses to utilize these platforms. Social commerce is the process of combining e-commerce with social media.
The value of the social commerce market current stands at nearly $90 billion dollars. However, this is projected to grow to over $600 billion in just seven years making it a valuable asset to get behind sooner rather than later.
Selling through social media
Simply put, social commerce is the process of selling products directly on social media. Instead of directing customers away from a platform onto a business’ own website to complete a sale, the whole shopping experience, from browsing to check out, takes place on the social media site.
At this point, most businesses will already be using websites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to connect with their target audience, build brand awareness and increase their engagement. This is likely to already be boosting their sales, however, using a social commerce campaign can increase this even further.
From a consumers perspective, it gives them an opportunity to interact with a business and purchase their products without having to leave the site they were already on. It also allows businesses to follow buyer-led trends easily, allowing them to create more relevant content and really give customers what they want.
The success of social commerce campaigns if often measured by the amount of engagement the businesses posts get on social media. This means the number of likes, retweets, shares and comments a post receives. The more interaction on the post, the more potential customers will see your products.
What makes social commerce different?
Businesses who are already successfully using techniques such as e-commerce and social selling may be wondering why social commerce is any different. The differences in these processes are clear when looking at the customer interaction aspect of the sales process.
As mentioned, social commerce allows a customer to make a purchase without interrupting their social media engagement. E-commerce would mean that the customer had to leave their social media platform and use the businesses website or a dedicated app.
When considering the differences between social commerce and social selling, social selling is a technique that is used to cultivate relationships on social media in order to increase leads and sales prospects. While these two methods may work well together, the way each campaign is implemented would differ.
Why use social commerce?
By making the shopping experience more social for customers they are naturally encouraged to share products and discuss them with their friends or followers. This helps build engagement and promote brand awareness. In the current climate, these interactions can help replace the social aspects of visiting a shopping centre.
As well as improving the social aspect of shopping online for customers, social commerce helps to streamline the buying process. Instead of being redirected to other websites or required to sign up to a new service, the customer can complete their purchase with ease, from a platform they were already familiar with.
It is well known that customers use social media to discuss, review and research products before purchasing. According to data, 81% of customers research products using Facebook and Instagram. By implementing a sales process into these platforms, businesses can make their product highly accessible at the right time.
In addition, using social commerce can also make the sales process easier for businesses. Think of social media users as one massive focus group who are more than happy to share their feedback. Businesses can monitor and reply to this feedback, thereby improving their features and their brand awareness online.
How to implement social commerce successfully
Currently, the social media sites which allow and promote the use of social commerce include Facebook and Instagram. Snapchat is also currently trialing the service with some business accounts getting early access. It is expected that other sites will join them as the market continues to grow.
Social commerce campaigns need to be implemented in a way that compliments businesses existing presence online and reflects their brand messages. Content should be interactive and promote the online sales of their products. Some tactics which are commonly used include:
Using large engaging graphics to get viewers attention
Interactive posts such as polls
Using videos to promote your products
Highlighting current offers
Encouraging user feedback and interaction
Using celebrity endorsements or influencer sponsored posts
Competitions or giveaways
Businesses should follow a social commerce plan, be active online and create valuable content. Reviews and feedback are vital to social commerce so sometimes negative interactions can happen. Businesses should not shy away from this but instead respond to these and try to solve the issue in order to increase brand trust.
It is worth noting that there is no magic formula to making social commerce work for businesses. It will be a process of trial and error to see what works for what product and how audiences respond to different tactics. What works on what platform for one business may not be the right process for another.