Social Commerce In 2018 And Its Future In Online Retail

Social commerce enables user contributions, product reviews, assistance in the online purchase of the product, social advertisements and social shopping.

Since social media enables customer-to-customer interactions retailers can leverage these connections to offer commercial retail solutions in order to build a strong customer community and fan base.

Social commerce builds a reliable shopping environment for consumers as they count on the feedback and advice from people and acquaintances they already know and trust.

Social commerce provides an opportunity for retailers to listen to their customers, engage with them on a personal level, resolve their queries, understand their concerns, analyze the customer sentiment about various products and services, and improve the overall shopping experience.

Social shopping has become popular over the last few years but social commerce has been around for more than a decade in the form of customer reviews on large online retailers like Amazon and Ebay. Since then social commerce has evolved because of adoption by social networks, fancy APIs, apps and open graphs.

5 Social Commerce ideas for your online store

The possibilities for social commerce are endless. Listed below are the popular social commerce trends and actionable Ideas to get started.

Enable Peer To Peer Commerce

These are marketplaces where people sell products to other peers and the online store is more of a mediator and a convenience provider. Popular examples are sites like OLX, QuikrEbay and Etsy. You can use this as a strategy for your online store but you should have a plan for building a large community in order to succeed.

Sell On Social Networks Directly

You can sell on most popular social media channels. Your audience can buy directly from these platforms without a need to leave the website. In order to sell on such platforms, you need to have an e-commerce platform which is integrated with each of these social networks.

  1. Pinterest – You can use Pinterest Buyable Pins to directly sell on Pinterest. The Pinterest audience is high on buying intent and using its buyable pins feature you can increase your revenue. You can sign up for buyable pins by filling this form.
  2. FaceBook – If you have a Facebook Business page you can sell your products on FaceBook if you are from the US. If you are outside the US you can showcase your products and converse with your customers. Click here to learn to set up a FaceBook store.
  3. Twitter – You can NOT sell using the Twitter native platform. However, you can create Ads for your products and even create a product summary card by integrating it with your e-commerce platform.
  4. Instagram – You can sell your products directly on Instagram using apps like Soldsie and Yopto.

Leverage Group Buying

In group buying the online store gives a discount based on the number of people who have shown demand for the product.Popular examples of Group Buying sites are Groupon and LivingSocial.

If building such a system is too tedious and doesn’t align with your e-commerce plans then you can consider selling your best products on popular group buying sites in your niche. This will place your products in front of a new audience.

Encourage Peer Recommendations

Peer recommendations are your typical product customer reviews with a social twist. You can enable peer recommendations on your online store so that users know which among their other friends shopped with you. The web is a lot more conversational.

The same applies to e-commerce sites. Many people look forward to having conversations online and also rave or rant about products they care about. Facebook’s social comments system makes comments visible on your online store and shares a link on commentator’s Facebook wall with the link pointing back to your online store.

Zovi has very interactive Facebook conversations on their product pages.

Empower Users To Create Content

User-curated social shopping involves people who can create shopping lists and ideas for their peers to explore, engage and buy. The popular example is Polyvore. You can build lookbooks and clothing ideas on Polyvore for other’s to explore. Users can shop online if they like your ideas or can recommend it to their friend.

Incentivize People For Social Shares

You can provide a discount on your products if a person shares it on social media. This is a win-win since the customer is availing a discount and you are getting a much needed free referral. You can use services like Paywithatweet for this purpose.

Once a user completes a purchase he or she is more susceptible to further offers from you. This is a great time to encourage social sharing of the product or even ask them to follow you on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. Redbus does this best. The moment a ticket is bought the landing page displays a confirmation message along with a follow us on Facebook widget and social sharing buttons which a user can use to share his activity with his friends.

The Social Commerce 2018 And Beyond

Social commerce is here to stay. But you will see a change in how we approach social commerce in 2018.

Think beyond revenue

Retailers looking at social commerce merely as a revenue channel will be disappointed. A better approach to measuring social commerce impact would be measuring KPIs around generating and monitoring interest, reinforcing brand loyalty, brand recall, gauging shopping habits and preferences, analyzing purchase motivations, engaging at a personal level, and becoming a customer service medium.

  1. Make it personalized – By allowing social login on your site you can craft the user experience on site to meet user interests. TripAdvisor uses this best. You can login using FaceBook and see which all places your friends have been to and recommend.
  2. Increase conversations – More the number of people talking about your brand more the trust you build among your target audience. Encouraging conversations and being part of them is an effort which pays off in revenue in the long run.
  3. Reach a wider audience – Using social media you can reach a new audience without spending any money. Good content and everyday commitment to execution can bring in more attention to your business.
  4. Make smart inventory choices – Based on the affinity people have shown to your competitor products you can plan your inventory and marketing campaigns. You can see which of your product categories and styles got the most shares and likes and plan your inventory or talk to a relevant drop shipper accordingly.

Build for trust not revenue

Generating considerable revenue is still a challenge with social media as the context is NOT as specific as traffic from a search engine. Consumers trust sites which have feedback and advice about a product or service from the people they know.

Having a social presence influences revenue via assisted conversions. Assisted conversions are when a user visits your online store via social media but end up buying the product via other marketing channels like email or search engine. Social media accounts for assisted conversions meaning that users do trust brands which have social presence making its critical factor for revenue generation for your online store.

Use Social Commerce bots for customer service

You can use your FaceBook page messenger as a way to deal with customer hassles online. This opens up another platform for communication and potentially reduces customer social outrage to a certain degree. With the new FaceBook Messenger platform you can even build a personal shopping assistant which can help your customers discover products effectively.

You can even sell your product in China using WalkTheChat app which enables you to reach out to WeChat’s large customer base of 900 Million in China.

People have privacy concerns

When you sell on FaceBook or other social platforms people might have the fear of their privacy being breached. Shopping is sometimes a private affair and trusting social channels with sensitive information is huge cultural shift which happens over years. A lot depends on how social platforms give users the buying confidence.

Social Media is still not the hero for online commerce

As a retailer, you want to sell. To sell is to live. As per Wolfgangdigital study of 87 million online sessions, social media is the least traffic driving channel at a meager 5-6% of the total website traffic. If you have just started you might want to focus on other marketing channels like SEO, PPC and Email to drive sales than focusing your time and effort on social media.

Social media is still out of context

Social media misses a buying context. As an online retailer or a digital marketer, you might do your best to target the right audience. I might be interested in “MMA Accessories” but if I am being sold to when I am watching a baby or cat video I might ignore the Ad. Buying is based on fulfillment of current or future needs. The way around is creating a desire for the product which is about storytelling. Storytelling is difficult when you sell on straightforward product page without any unique edge to it.

Take it slow

As an e-commerce entrepreneur in 2018, you must get started with social commerce but should not invest heavy right away. Scale social features slowly. You can start with simple things like social login. Later you can add more complex features like personalized recommendations, social referral discounts and shop with a friend feature. Look at social commerce as an added to your marketing mix, not just a sole platform.

Ask Yourself

  1. How can I leverage the power of remarking lists on Facebook to sell to people who know you?
  2. It is free to set up shops on FaceBook and Pinterest. What is stopping me from getting started?
  3. How can I integrate social conversations about my brand online into my online store and vice versa?
  4. Does my e-commerce platform integrate with FaceBook and Pinterest?
  5. Is my online store optimized for mobile experience?

After working 7+ years as a digital marketer for startups and large enterprises I quit my job to start EcommerceYogi. Here I share the exact same tactics which I have used to drive millions of users per month to e-commerce stores. Follow me on Linkedin and Twitter to stay connected.