Social commerce, the impact of Social Networks on online shopping
Social commerce is the evolution of online commerce.
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the term used to describe the phenomenon of social media platforms affecting online shopping behaviour. It can be traced back to the early days of social networking when MySpace was the most popular site on the internet. At that time, businesses were just starting to realise the potential for selling products and services through social media channels. Fast forward two decades and social commerce has become a major force in e-commerce.
Thanks to social networks consumers are able to research and buy products and services directly on social media platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram, or through a social media-enabled marketplace, such as Etsy.
Moreover, they can read reviews from other consumers, which is particularly important considering the ROPO effect (Research Online, Purchase Offline).
Additionally, social media platforms allow companies to connect with potential customers and reinforce customer engagement and brand loyalty.
How social networks affect purchase decisions
It is no secret that social media platforms have a huge impact on the way people communicate and interact with each other. What may be less well known, however, is the extent to which social networks have also affected consumer behaviour.
A recent study found that social media influences 71% consumer buying decisions. This is a significant shift from just a few years ago, when social media was not even on the radar of most consumers.
So what has changed? The answer lies in the way social media platforms have evolved over time.
In the early days, platforms were primarily used for personal communication and networking. While there were some businesses, they were few and far between. Today, social media platforms have become much more commercialised, with businesses of all sizes using them to reach out to potential customers. Platforms have also created special online stores, such as Facebook Shops, to give companies the opportunity to sell goods directly on their page.
The increased commercialisation of social media made it easier for businesses to reach out to potential customers and promote their products and services. At the same time, social networks became a major source of product information and reviews for consumers.
What can companies do to take advantage of social commerce?
In order to stay competitive, you need to adjust your marketing strategies accordingly to the evolution of social networks.
Here are a few tips to make the most out of social commerce:
1. Be active on social media platforms.
You need to reach out to potential customers and promote your products and services. To do so, you have to understand on which platform your consumers are. In fact, Facebook users are not the same as Tik Tok or Pinterest or LinkedIn.
After that, to reach your target audience you should create content that is interesting to users, mixing organic activity with paid advertising campaigns.
Obviously, you should take advantage of all the shopping tools that social networks give you. So, create a shop with detailed product descriptions and quick and easy purchasing methods. Don't forget to activate a chatbot to offer assistance.
2. Understand your target audience and adjust your social media marketing.
Social networks provide you with numerous insights to understand the behaviour and preferences of your followers. These insights are also available for the shopping section. Remember to monitor the statistics frequently, because they give you all the data you need to find out what is working or what is not. The same goes for the statistics of your paid advertising campaigns.
But don't stop there. You can get the best feedback on your followers from their comments and reviews.
3. Focus on creating a community around your brand.
Before sales, your goal should be to gather people around your brand, to create a group that shares interests and values, and who is interested in what you do and your products. In other words, you should develop an emotional connection between users and your brand. At that point, selling will get easier.
To create a community you need to know your audience well and give them what they want, in terms of content, interaction, speed of response to comments or messages, and, of course, product availability and information, and ease of purchase.
4. Create an interactive and engaging customer experience.
Social media platforms offer you a wide range of possibilities to interact with users, so try to make the most of them. Organise live streams, contests, social actions, product demonstrations or advice sessions, tutorials, and webinars, or ask them for UGC (User Generated Contents)… in short: anything that allows users to get closer to your brand and feel part of it.
To do this, you can use social media even just as a starting point to bring users to your website, to an app, to subscribe to a newsletter or a digital loyalty program. The important thing is that they interact with you as frequently as possible in an engaging way.
5. Use Influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing consists of asking particular users of a social network to show your products to their followers. These users, the influencers, have a large following of people who trust their opinion. Therefore, when they endorse a product or service, their followers are more likely to try it out as well.
According to some studies, you can earn $5.20 for every dollar you spend on influencer marketing.
But be careful, because not all influencers are the same. It is important that you choose those that:
- have a good number of followers (not necessarily millions; even micro-influencers work),
- whose followers are really interested in what they say and recommend and, of course, in your products like yours;
- who match the values of your brand.
6. Pay attention to the competition.
Check what your competitors do on social networks. Thus, you will be able to know their strategies and, why not, take inspiration and improve them.
You can use social media listening tools to track your competitor's social media activity and see what type of content works best for them, which social networks they are most active on, and what kind of campaigns they are running.
7. Create ‘social friendly’ products
Consider how products can be designed so that they encourage social sharing. Creating iconic products makes them easier to recognise and stand out in the chaotic context of social media feeds.
Adopting connected products allows consumers to access content, services and experiences directly from the product, making it easier for them to share with other people, reviews and images of their experiences with the product. Reviews can be certified as being from people that have bought a genuine article and not from false reviews and reviews of fake products.