By Ellie-Rose Davies, Content Executive at IMRG
Recent IMRG research reveals that 75.7% of customers always or often use social media in their free time and including those customers who sometimes or rarely use it, that totals 95.5% customers who are on these platforms. The high usage reveals how social commerce can be optimised to boost customer’s engagement with brands and inspire sales.
This blog delves into the power of social commerce, looking at the latest developments and what can be expected in the future.
“Threading” in social commerce for online growth
Marketing experts across the industry are putting a lot of time and effort into the likes of BeReal, TikTok, Instagram, and most recently Threads, the direct competitor of Twitter, newly acclaimed as X. Mark Zuckerberg said that 30mil users signed up to Threads on its first day, sending marketers in a frenzy to join the app that presented itself as a new means for building brand awareness.
Influencer Partnerships Executive, Jessica Marshall, at Awin exclaims that ‘With the latest addition of Threads into the social mix, we can start to see the growing need for realism and personality from our brands.’ She describes how ‘Audiences, today, want a genuine and integrated feel towards social commerce – one that is both innovative and relatable.’
As well as this, Jessica explores the shift, with ‘the likes of supermarkets such as Aldi and M&S, who have built a social strategy maximising its short form video content through platforms such as TikTok. This content is both trendy and educational, and we can see more behind the brand, the big advertising set-ups, and really resonate as audiences as a result. Building engagement through these new platforms has highlighted a new way for businesses to expand socially – this showcased through branded memes, quirky threads, CTA driving posts, and use of trending audios and video templates.’
While Threads is great for building brand identity, as Nick Williams, Director of Parcel Services at PayPoint says, many are ‘adopting more of a “wait and watch” strategy because as things stand, there is no advertising product in place. Mark Zuckerberg has said this will follow once the platform reaches a critical mass of a billion users, but Threads is more geared towards organic engagement than social commerce.’ Therefore, other social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok may be better at achieving desired results.
Nick continues, ‘Social commerce is becoming increasingly important for retailers and brands to use and build awareness of, and interest in, their products and services. This is particularly true when targeting younger demographics who now use social platforms not only for consuming content, but also for the advanced search functionality and making purchases. Recent data from Google showed that 40% of Gen Zs are turning away from traditional search engines and using platforms such as Instagram and TikTok instead.’
Utilising Influencers and User Generated Content (UGC)
Gone are the days when products had to speak for themselves and ecommerce leaders had to rely on selling their products alone – now influencers and UGC speaks with them, and for them.
Influencers and UGC are great examples of what Sidra Berman, Chief Marketing Officer at parcelLab describes as ‘interactive ways that brands must now prioritise to create genuine and relatable content. Brands can lead customers to social media and generate more followers from post-purchase communications, such as delivery notifications or pickup confirmations, by including their latest post.’ If these customers see people enjoying their products on the social post, this can inspire repeat purchases.
Sidra shares how ‘Leading retail businesses such as ASOS and Gymshark have harnessed the power of user-generated content and influencer collaborations to drive meaningful engagement and foster brand loyalty.’
Francisco Gomes, Senior VAT Consultant at Sovos explores how ‘In a recent poll, 68% of business-to-consumer (B2C) brands utilised online influencers as part of their marketing strategies’, which reinforces its value in ecommerce today.
If brands are considering incorporating influencers into their social commerce strategy, Francisco warns that ‘When these contracts are made, they often consist of barter transactions, in which products are given in a non-monetary consideration in return for advertising. This might be relevant for VAT purposes and falls under the checks of local tax authorities.’
Preparing for the future of social commerce
With nearly all customers being on at least one type of social media platform, we can confidently say that social commerce is here to stay. It is a cheap and often effective way to drive ecommerce sales, and it might even inspire customers to visit your store the next time they go on a shopping trip, instead of walking past it like they might have done last time.
What is to become of social commerce in the future we ask. Yet, the change is happening right now. Heath Barlow, VP EMEA, at Emarsys says ‘From the emergence of new platforms, the explosion of new and evolving channels shows no sign of slowing down and it is essential retailers keep one step ahead.’
Heath continues, ‘With almost daily changes in where, why and how consumers shop – along with changes in the methods people use to pay thanks to the rise of mobile wallets, brands can not only keep existing customers loyal but attract new user bases on emerging platforms, as well as securing fresh commercial opportunities on existing ones.’
‘Versatility is the name of the game’ – and this can be achieved through having an omnichannel strategy, says Heath. Having a ‘360-degree data-driven view of each customer – regardless of the channel they’re using’ is what Heath sees as a helpful way to facilitate a ‘personalised customer experience.’
Tightening the seams and putting video at the core
Paul Dodd, Innovation Officer & Co-founder at Huboo states how ‘The line between social media and ecommerce has blurred, merging community, communication, and shopping into a single, seamless experience. This shift towards D2C selling is continuing to accelerate via social platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and even the likes of Roblox and Discord, turbocharging what is already a $3tn global industry and setting us on course for a social commerce revolution.’
‘The social platforms are developing innovative buying features, making it possible for products to find consumers, rather than the other way around. For example, TikTok Shop lets customers purchase directly via live shopping experiences, shoppable videos and in-app product showcases.’
This reveals that video will continue to play an important part in social commerce. Yet, creating lots of video content can be time consuming and it may quickly eat into a retailers’ margin.
Theo Hildyard, VP, Demand Generation at Brightcove offers the tip of recycling content, which can help perpetuate a seamless customer experience; ‘Repurposing the best of your video library allows you to recycle tested content for your social media marketing strategy. For example, pending formatting, video content created for a retailer’s website can be shared on TikTok; TikTok content can be posted to Instagram, and Instagram videos published on YouTube.’
‘Video is an asset that, with a few simple edits, can be dressed up, trimmed down, or modified to find new life in an omni-channel video marketing strategy – and ultimately reach and engage new audiences without breaking the bank,’ says Theo.
With Peak season quickly approaching and customer’s propensity to purchase at a continued low, retailers may foreground social commerce to boost sales and walk into 2024 with more confidence.
Want to read more? Here are some other IMRG blogs which cover a range of ecommerce topics: