The Evolution of Social Commerce and Why Brands Should Care

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Not all brands are convinced of social platforms’ capability to become e-commerce channels in their own rights. For example, supermarket chain Morrisons’ Marketing Director stated last year that companies looking to sell products via social media are “making a mistake”. At the same time, user figures for the major platforms continue to surge and consumers increasingly turn to mobile and digital channels for finding and researching products. So how can brands best utilise the power of social media to showcase products and ultimately drive conversions?

There are many factors involved in efficiently leading a potential customer to make a purchase and on social media, as well as on more traditional channels, research and trust are key.  According to studies, 82% of shoppers conduct research online before purchasing a product and 67% say that social media comments and reviews influence their shopping behaviour. In light of this, it is clear that social media is of great importance to the overall e-commerce landscape. By utilising the native ad formats offered by social platforms, brands ensure that they provide precious product insight to potential customers, but in an informal and non-intrusive manner which sits naturally within users’ newsfeeds.

Social channels are communities where people flock multiple times per day for news, inspiration, and interaction with friends. And from an advertiser’s perspective, they offer unparalleled targeting opportunities based on real user data which enable brands to focus their budgets and efforts on those consumers most likely to be interested in their products.

Social is also effective in getting the entire brand message across – from raising initial awareness all the way through to encouraging conversion. By running a sequential messaging campaign, advertisers can start by delivering engaging branding content and then move onto DR-focused ads, which are effective for driving sales.

With mobile users of all ages and demographics interacting with social at an increasing rate (in the UK, there has been a 5.4% increase in the last year alone) and already turning to them for research and inspiration, it makes sense to incorporate as many functionalities as possible within these channels in order to offer people richer and more engaging experiences. What if a user’s purchase journey still consisted of various stages (research, comparison, consideration, purchase etc.), but all of these were hosted within one single environment?

As many of the major social channels have started to introduce shoppable formats, users can now get inspired to investigate a product, research it, compare it, and then eventually buy it – all whilst using the platform of their choice. There is no longer a need to scour the entire internet to make a purchase. This is particularly interesting during major shopping events such as Christmas, when people often look to purchase a wide variety of products yet want to avoid the hassle of going through a lengthy checkout process at multiple e-commerce sites. As long as social platforms supply all the in-depth information customers crave, such as product comparisons, reviews, and delivery information, as well as a smooth and secure checkout process, they are well set up to offer an all-inclusive shopping experience.

It might be true that most social platforms aren’t yet fully operational for all forms of e-commerce, but we can already see impressive conversion rates for certain products and industries. For example, one of Adaptly’s retail clients increased direct online sales by 50% following a multi-platform paid social campaign. Overall, Pinterest is often used to search inspiration for home improvement items, travel services, and other more considered purchases. Twitter capitalises on big real-life moments and fuels viral sharing of products, while Facebook shows great results for driving conversions for insurance, real estate, and similar industries.

In the past, customers would pick up a catalogue from retailers and highlight the items they liked to buy. Essentially, social platforms mirror this experience. While social e-commerce is still in its infancy, there should be significant developments in this space going forward.