Guest comment: Social commerce – the lovechild of digital transformation and changing consumer habits

Guest comment: Social commerce – the lovechild of digital transformation and changing consumer habits

In light of Snap’s move to allow any business to set up shoppable product catalogues and AR filters, Stephen Warrington, Global Vice President of Ecommerce and Retail at Jellyfish, looks at how brands can create social commerce experiences that stand out from competitors.Before the COVID-19 pandemic, limited commerce functions meant that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, were not fully recognised as a genuine area of eCommerce by brands and retailer.

Skip forward 18-months and that has all changed. Shifting consumer habits as a result of the pandemic and the acceleration of digital transformation in the retail sector have finally given social commerce a seat at the eCommerce table.

In fact, social media companies are becoming retailers in their own right. With social commerce revenue forecasted to hit $600 billion in the next six years, each of the platforms will be looking to take that a slice of the lucrative pie and find their space to own .

For brands and retailers, the opportunity presented by social commerce is undoubtedly being realised, and they’ve shown a willingness to experiment with new platforms and invest their media budget in broadening their sales channels.

With an evolving retail landscape, brands have an exceptionally accessible route to market via social commerce that is vastly different from a conventional Direct-to-Consumer offering. For some businesses, social commerce has the potential to become the only sell route, which is why brands and retailer must react now to avoid being left behind.

Why brands need to consider social commerce

Regardless of the commerce side, social media is a key tool for brands to gauge customer opinion, adapt to forthcoming trends and improve operations. The different platforms provide an excellent pathway to interact with users and receive instant feedback on offers and products. That’s even true for older demographic groups, which, history tells us, typically don’t take an interest in newer social media platforms. The numbers paint a different picture; in the US, around 20% of 30–49-year-olds have a TikTok account and for those aged between 50-64, that figure stands at 14%. The audience is there, so brands and retailers can’t afford not to be.

What’s more, when comparing purchase journeys taking place elsewhere online and in-store, the purchase journey on social media is significantly shorter. If this happens, purchasing behaviour will also be accelerated – scroll the timeline, select item, purchase item – as there are fewer competitor advertisements for customers to become distracted with, which also avoids users purchasing for other brands.

As social commerce only continues to mature, the different tools and functions on social media for brands to use will evolve, offering more efficiency and customer engagement.

Tapping into the commerce innovations

Creating an engaging experience for customers is vital for social media platforms as they look to diversify revenue models, to compete with larger eCommerce sites. Fortunately, there is an overabundance of innovative functions available at very little cost – particularly on Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat – for those brands and retailer that are less savvy when it comes to digital.

For instance, Instagram Drops, which provides a fantastic route for brands to create a buzz around upcoming campaigns and products. The Drops feature centralises the launch of a product or product range, making it easier for users to browse through products and purchase items.

In addition, Live Shopping has high degrees of purchase intent that, because of its nature, is rich in valuable data and customer insight through analytics like social amplification, conversion rate, drop off rates and many more. Compared to a relatively static website that most brands are accustomed to, this signals a real shift in strategy and mindset for retailers, if they are to take advantage of the live televisual trading platform.

Another innovation changing the way we shop is Augmented Reality (AR), and many brands are already using it to offer customers product visualisation and virtual try-ons at home. And as more consumers start to own  5G phones, AR will likely become ubiquitous, making the function a vastly more compelling touchpoint for customer. The opportunity is clear for brands, with a Deloitte study highlighted that 71% of consumers say that AR experiences would entice them to go shopping more regularly. Bridging the gap between the physical store and online – like Hoka One One with their virtual pop-up store – and combining this eCommerce features is the key to increasing sales revenue and boosting engagement.

Seeing the positive side of social commerce

Like many other industries, retail has been altered dramatically by the pandemic and retailers must react to changing consumer habits. Although this is unchartered territory, social commerce is a huge positive for brands. Through social shopping, brands have the chance to develop an engaging digital strategy that creates unique customer experiences and increases sales.

However, brand message must remain consistent across all platforms and eCommerce functions. Not all the available functions will match with a brand’s personality, so selecting the platforms and functions that amplify that persona best will be key to a successful social commerce strategy.

The last 18-months have shown brands the benefits of digital when there is a willingness to test new platforms and technology. The route to market offered by social commerce cannot be ignored and will be key to their commerce approach.

By Stephen Warrington

Global Vice President of Ecommerce and Retail