Five things brands need to get right to succeed at social commerce

By Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder, Vamp.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up, now is the time for brands to consider ideas for boosting their sales – and there are few options as simple and effective as embracing social commerce.

Worldwide, internet users spend an average of 145 minutes every day on social networking apps. That’s almost two and half hours of catching up with our favourite influencers, swapping memes and enjoying the latest viral videos.

Lately, this list has come to include another pastime: shopping.

Over the past several years, social media has become the place for shopping and discovering new products. So much so, in fact, that global consumers spent $32 billion shopping in apps – in just the first quarter of 2021. According to market research by Kantar, 83% of shoppers on TikTok report that seeing trending content has inspired them to buy.

Thanks to its wide reach and frictionless experiences – and the increased amount of time people were spending online during the early stages of the pandemic – social commerce has firmly established itself. It’s a modern-day retail gold rush, and it’s a route with significant appeal to brands.

Here are five things that brands need to do to ensure that their strategy takes full advantage of the trend and earns them a slice of the new buying experience pie.

1 Understand the customer:

Every social media platform can be used successfully for social commerce, but not every channel will be right for every brand. While TikTok works well for Gen Z, Instagram has a broader appeal, and Facebook tends to attract an older demographic. Brands must think carefully about where their target audience is online, and ensure they know the sort of language and messaging their audience will be receptive to before getting started.

2 Use influencers to drive sales:

Influencers provide compelling content to thousands – and in some cases millions – of loyal followers and are highly effective at driving awareness for key brand messages. Conveniently residing on the very platforms that can now process transactions seamlessly and quickly, they build powerful engagement, brand loyalty and sales.

By collaborating with a content creator to develop custom content that promotes a brand, marketers can benefit from their unique reach, authenticity and character. Brands need to choose the influencers they work with carefully – or use a system to help them find the right fit – to ensure that they reach the right audience.

3 Boost great posts:

Organic influencer content is incredibly effective in engaging their followers, but it can be limited in reach. To increase the number of potential customers that see influencer-generated content and potentially tap ‘buy’ brands can leverage the boosting tool on the platform. Instagram’s Branded Content tool, for instance, enables brands to turn posts that have used the Paid Partnership tag into an ad.

This setup is the best of both worlds: an impactful post reaches the influencer’s audience with the Paid Partnership tag, and boosting it brings it beyond that influencer to reach an even broader group of people. Facebook even offers sophisticated ad-targeting tools that make it easy to reach likely customers.

4 Increase reviews and recommendations:

Invariably, a social commerce customer cannot trial their new product before purchasing. This means that a buying decision can be seen as a risk – so use reviews and recommendations to provide reassurance and guide the customer to make an informed choice. We surveyed shoppers and found that a vast majority, 87%, use online reviews to inform their Christmas shopping decisions.

Of course, it’s important that such reviews are truly independent, and that sellers responds positively to bad reports. After all, no product or delivery operation will please everyone all the time, and those with a poorer experience are more likely to voice it. A concerned, proactive customer care operation will do much to generate increased trust in the brand.

5 Streamline the buying process:

Sprout Social study found that more than half of all internet traffic is via mobile devices – but mobile users have a much higher rate of cart abandonment than desktop shoppers. With phones used increasingly for online purchases, the checkout process must be streamlined. The most streamlined and accessible checkout experience anywhere on the internet today is probably social commerce, where customers can go from discovery to purchase in just a couple of taps.

Instagram and TikTok are both continually updating their social commerce on their apps. Instagram recently introduced its Drops feature, while TikTok has implemented Shoppable links and livestream shopping. All of these developments have made the social commerce route even more streamlined and efficient for customers.

Social commerce is fast becoming a key part of the shopping experience for billions of consumers, with the potential sales are colossal. It is vital that brands who have not yet got to grips with the new route to do so now, to retain competitive advantage.

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