‘Social Commerce’ is a growing trend which is predicted to boom over the coming years. Online sellers are striving to enable consumers to involve their friends, family and wider social networks in their shopping experience. But who’s doing it best, and is it working?
[We’re hosting a fascinating webinar on Weds 18th Sept on “Social Media Engagement for Retail”, featuring speakers from online clothing store, Boden, and Ford Retail. You can register for free here].
There are lots of differing definitions of social commerce, but this one seems to be the most sensible: “Social commerce is the transactions that result from engagement online“. With 92% of consumers more inclined to purchase from a company that uses social media and more than 20% of UK retailers selling via social media, brands are taking note and starting to invest in social commerce.
Of course, for many brands social commerce is still driven largely by paid media strategies. While consumers will consult friends/family and online communities about products, they can also be encouraged – by targeted adverts – to recommend and promote products,
But earned media is where the interesting action is happening.
Engagement marketing and enlightened social customer service strategies are at the forefront of social commerce marketing. With an increase in the number of consumers activating their ‘social voice’, customer affinity with the brand, positive/negative product reviews and the quality of customer service can significantly impact on a brands ability to make a sale from social.
The bottom line is, brands need to be able to understand what consumers expect from social media, and to provide it.
Companies like eBay and Amazon are just two examples of brands that have adapted their social strategy to drive sales. Evidently, they understand their online audience and they have been successful at driving sales by encouraging the sharing of products and by humanising their content.
eBay’s recently launched ‘Help Me Shop’ allows customers to invite their Facebook friends to assist them with a purchase decision by commenting or voting on their favourite item. This is very smart marketing. Figures show that around 40% of social media users go on to purchase an item after sharing or favourite-ing it.
Other brands use online customer communities to create places where consumers can go to discuss products or ask for advice (recreating that ‘in-store feeling’). By creating platforms through which consumers can discuss, share, favourite and comment on their products, brands can both drive sales and own the conversations created, which can then be used to attract new customers (e.g. through SEO).
Most retailers have plenty of product photos, so Pinterest and Instagram are perhaps the newest darlings of social commerce. For its size, Pinterest is one of the most powerful social networks for driving web traffic and can also deliver impressive online sales. Apparently 20% of Pinterest users have gone on to purchase a product after Pinning it.
Instagram has also been used successfully by brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Heineken to build bubbles of interest and awareness around particular campaigns. The Mercedes CLA campaign alone created over 2100 posts to their promotional hashtag #CLATakeTheWheel and was credited with delivering a highly successful product launch.
And all the time brands are getting more sophisticated in their analysis of social campaigns. In a recent study, online clothing store ASOS shared some of the analysis around it’s use of hashtags. The brand increased Twitter engagement from 2% to 5% by running competitions with specific hashtags, such as #bestnightever and #BlissLuckyDip.
Whilst measuring social media ROI for social commerce is never easy, clear analysis like this – especially if it correlates directly to sales – is making the case for investment in social commerce that much easier. Expect to see more if it in the coming year.