The traditional ecommerce shopping experience as we know it is rapidly being eclipsed by social commerce, or the use of social networks to facilitate buying and selling. Think of social commerce as the digital version of the old days when shopping involved lively social interactions, time with friends and maybe even a little fun haggling. Brands now see it as a must-have, and social media platforms are eager to accommodate them. Social commerce has taken off in the U.S. and other regions, fueling what is estimated to be a $605 billion market by 2027.
Companies and retailers with an ecommerce presence can benefit tremendously by getting into social commerce. Here are five keys to success in this rapidly growing space.
Social commerce features uncover novel social insights not identified by traditional ecommerce. Traditional ecommerce uses objective measures such as clickstream, time spent on page, checkout conversion and so on to measure the success of a product on the website. However, using only these objective measures misses out on extremely valuable social insights, such as customer comments, reviews, likes, etc, that provide valuable information about how customers connect emotionally with products, what they like or dislike, and where the market trends are or are going.
Creative products are particularly well-suited for social commerce
Retailers in creative product categories should actively use social commerce, as they can especially benefit from it. Products can largely be divided into creative products and functional products. Creative products are things like fashion, toys and media, while examples of functional products are electronics, appliances and tools.
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Creative products are differentiated subjectively, largely depending on consumer taste and what’s on trend, whereas functional products are differentiated based on objective measures or features such as number of gigabytes of memory. Therefore, retailers selling creative products will benefit immensely from actively using social commerce to engage with customers on a more emotional level, stay up-to-date with the latest trends, and set new trends.
Use social commerce to amplify your brand
Social commerce is not just about person-to-person sales. Retailers have a major opportunity to work with influencers on social media for brand-building. Influencers’ personal brands help lend external credibility and trust for your brand and products, and hence should be part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. Social influencers also tend to have a younger audience, which makes them a very effective way to reach this demographic.
Use social commerce to enhance customer service
In addition to brand-building, retailers should take advantage of social media to provide customer service. Customer service is an often-overlooked part of social commerce but can be just as important as direct sales. Engage customers on social media via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, etc. to resolve their problems. This helps the company appear more responsive to customer needs and reduces chances of product problems going viral on social media.
Understand your local market to maximize impact
Founders looking to get into social commerce need to start by taking a close look at the trends in their particular market. For example, if you’re targeting Latin America, expect there to be a strong in-person component. Many LatAm consumers don’t have access to digital technology or card payments to allow them to easily shop online; therefore, social commerce will often require in-person interactions.
A final word
The evolution of ecommerce into social commerce is escalating as brands discover that social can drive sales, brand growth and new customer shopping experiences. Accordingly, both global social media platforms and startups can benefit greatly by capitalizing on this transition to better understand customer preferences and the latest market trends.
Bob Ma is an investment manager at WIND Ventures.
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