Shopping is a whole different ball game today. Now, people don’t rush to brick-and-mortar shops as they used to do a few years ago.
Over 2.14 billion people buy things online, and 76% make purchases on social media, radically transforming how we shop now. Moreover, people rely on social media more. According to recent stats by GlobalWebIndex, 56% of digital shoppers search for products on social media before making up their minds about purchasing. All this has given rise to the popularity of such a new phenomenon as Social eCommerce.
Let's step-by-step enter the world of social eCommerce, breaking down the phenomenon, tackling the challenges it brings, and sharing some tried-and-true eCommerce tactics for businesses to leverage. With these insights, you’ll be able to overcome the hurdles that entrepreneurs face and enhance your eCommerce success. Ready to roll? Buckle up, and let’s get right into it.
Table of Contents
What Is Social eCommerce?
Social eCommerce is just what it sounds like. It’s a blend of eCommerce and social media that entails both activities, i.e., interactions with customers online, producing content, and running transactions. What differs from digital eCommerce is vendors don’t isolate the shopping experience to dedicated websites. Instead, they integrate it into Instagram, Facebook, and other social media environments, where their potential customers will most likely interact with products.
Essentially, social eCommerce isn’t a new thing. It’s a branch of eCommerce. However, it’s proved to be much more effective, with 26% of users looking to purchase products on social media. Take Instagram, for example. Scroll down, and you’ll see dozens of ads mixed with other content. The paradox is that? Most social media users don’t find these ads irritating – quite the opposite. People find them catchy and engaging as they blend naturally into the app format and are more eager to visit vendors’ profiles. The same goes for Facebook. In just a few years, it evolved into a robust marketplace where users connect socially and discover and purchase products.
Social eCommerce is often confused with social selling, which isn’t the same thing, though they are similar. The idea of social selling is that people can make friends online to facilitate selling, which can occur both on social media and beyond. Social eCommerce, on the other hand, can only be carried out on social media platforms after people see and interact with the content.
Challenges Social eCommerce Entrepreneurs May Face
With social media becoming ever so popular, it’s evident that social eCommerce holds a promising future for businesses. However, getting into it comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some of the most common of them:
- Limited resources. This one is perhaps the most obvious. Advertising on social media requires constant investing of money, which, for small businesses, can lead to a budget overstretch. Ideally, the average spend on social media marketing shouldn’t exceed 12% of the total budget. Still, in practice, many companies spend much more than that, forcing them to wind down their campaigns sooner than intended.
- Shortage of personnel. The shortage of dedicated staff can be another bottleneck in implementing an effective social media eCommerce strategy. Running campaigns requires time and effort. However, not everyone has the resources to delegate this work to a specialist with experience in the field.
- Competition. Another big hurdle for businesses, in particular small ones, is competition. The market of social media eCommerce is oversaturated, and getting ahead of big players who have the resources to invest in marketing non-stop can be rather daunting, if not impossible.
- Technical expertise. Integrating social media can be technically challenging for small eCommerce businesses with dedicated websites. In addition, they may need additional tools that are only available through a subscription, which may incur extra costs.
- Keeping on top of the trends. Finally, social media constantly evolves. Algorithms change every other month, and businesses must keep up with the pace to ensure they don’t lose their positions.
Regardless, seeing social eCommerce's many benefits, it’s worth navigating through these challenges and fighting for your place in the sun. Moreover, if you don't have a website, setting up social media isn't that difficult from a technical standpoint. You don’t need to code or test eCommerce websites; enabling shopping functionality takes just a few minutes.
Best Platforms to Use for Integrating Social eCommerce
We’ve compiled a list of the best platforms for integrating social eCommerce, briefly covering the niches in which they work best.
- Instagram. This platform has quickly gained traction since its launch in 2010. In 2020, it has already reached its first billion users, and its active users are growing constantly. Shopping and Shoppable Posts are two Instagram features that allow users to seamlessly browse products and make purchases without leaving the app. The biggest strength of Instagram is its influence on marketing.
- Facebook. Another platform that can’t be passed by is Facebook. The most used social platform with 2.9 million monthly active users, it’s a powerful marketing tool with numerous targeting options. One of Facebook’s standouts is its Facebook Shops feature. Thanks to this, businesses can advertise and sell products through their shopfronts for free.
- Pinterest. We should also mention Pinterest, one of the most visually appealing platforms. With its Buyable Pins and the Shop tab, this platform is perfect for selling purposes. However, it’s worth noting that unlike Facebook, where you can sell pretty much everything, Pinterest is best suited for the fashion, DIY, and home decor industries.
- TikTok. TikTok is the best bet for businesses looking to tap into the Gen Z market. With its engaging short-format videos and shoppable live streams, it’s one of the best platforms to capture the attention of younger demographics and encourage them to take action. Like Instagram, TikTok is known for influencer marketing, which is ideal for driving sales.
Building a Solid Social Media eCommerce Strategy
Now that we’ve covered what social eCommerce is, how social media and eCommerce intersect, and what challenges businesses may face in social eCommerce, let’s delve into building a solid social media strategy for eCommerce. A robust system will make overcoming hurdles easier, driving product sales and fostering brand awareness, even if you don’t have thousands of bucks to spend.
1. Know your audience
Before you do anything, the first step is to research and understand your audience. This is the cornerstone of a successful strategy, ensuring you choose the right tools and tactics to interact with your potential prospects. Analyze the demographics, preferences, and behaviors of your customers. You may need to create multiple personas to select practical engagement tools and present relevant product offerings.
2. Choose the right platforms
Next, it’s essential to choose the most suitable social media platform. Different platforms attract diverse user demographics and have different engagement rates. Think about where your target audience is most active. You may need to run A/B campaigns to understand which platform brings the most engagement. For example, Facebook works best for businesses selling home goods, while Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for fashion, beauty, style, and other niches where visual aesthetics is essential.
3. Optimize your profile
Optimizing your profile is crucial in establishing a brand presence and building relationships with your consumer base. The way your profile looks often determines if the potential customers will interact with it or decide to look somewhere else. With this in mind, take the time to create high-quality visuals. For those who are not artistically inclined, it may be a good idea to hire designers to help organize the profile in a visually appealing way.
Besides high-quality images, filling out all business-related information, such as bio, contact details, website links, prices, and anything else that may help with decision-making, is essential. The information you put on social media should be the same across all platforms to create consistent branding and help build brand awareness.
4. Visual storytelling matters
Although the competition in the market is quite fierce, there’s one thing that not all large businesses are good at. This is storytelling. New companies can use this to their advantage. By ensuring their profiles not only showcase products or services but also tell the story, they can capture the attention of their target audience and build a base of engaged customers.
5. Enable seamless shopping
Just listing your products isn’t enough to drive sales. To make the most of your social media and achieve sustainable growth, it’s vital to integrate shopping features like product tags, “Shop Now” buttons, and in-app purchasing directly into your platforms.
If budget isn’t an issue, you may take it further by incorporating Augmented Reality (AR) shopping features. Allowing users to virtually try on things before making a purchase decision will help your business stand out and give users confidence in their product choices.
6. Collaborate with influencers
Influencer marketing is one of the best social media tactics for businesses that work and can bring significant results. It’s become a common practice to approach influencers from relevant industries and ask them to advertise your products. Since they already have thousands of followers, one ad through their profile can significantly increase your product sales and give your brand more credibility.
It can also be helpful to publish posts on your profile of the influencers you’ve partnered with. This tactic works equally well for new businesses just starting and establishing their online presence and those in the industry for a while.
7. Encourage user-generated content
Another great way to build trust with your audience and boost brand authority is through user-generated content. By encouraging customers to share reviews, testimonials, and photos of the products or services they’ve bought from you, you get proof your products are loved by people and are worth buying.
It’s worth noting that getting reviews is not an easy game. With so many brands asking for the same thing, many people feel overwhelmed and leave without any comments. At the same time, fake reviews lead nowhere and can mar a company’s reputation if Google spots suspicious activity.
Therefore, the only way to get reviews is to create genuine consumer desire. This is where offering discounts and special promotions can go a long way.
8. Utilize social ads effectively
It’s not enough to optimize your brand’s social media profile. For it to be discovered by potential customers, it’s necessary to invest in targeted social media advertising. All popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have advertising tools, enabling businesses to reach audiences by specific criteria like age, gender, interests, and geographical location.
Allocate the marketing budget wisely. If you notice that one platform generates more leads, it’ll make more sense to ramp up your campaigns there rather than thinly spread your budget across multiple platforms.
9. Website as an additional step in the sales funnel
The beauty of social eCommerce is that it’s accessible, simple to manage, and offers phenomenal exposure when done right. For this reason, some entrepreneurs want to abandon websites and focus only on social networks. However, such a decision can be highly erroneous. Here’s why – a website is that extra layer in your sales process that steps in to support your marketing efforts.
Even if your website is as essential as they come, it’s vital. It helps you build credibility, earn trust, and spread the word about your brand. However, you can’t just set it and forget it with websites. To ensure no technical issues such as broken forms, inactive fields, and so on that may turn off potential customers, it’s essential to incorporate eCommerce testing services into your website management strategy.
10. Analyze and iterate
Finally, whatever you do, make sure that you analyze your social media performance. Use the platforms' analytics tools to measure engagement, conversion rates, and other metrics. Interestingly, “likes” used to be the key metric when social media only emerged. Now, as algorithms have changed, interactions are measured by “shares” and “saves” that show a deeper level of engagement.
To bring it to an end, the role of social media in eCommerce cannot be underestimated. Everything has changed since social media has become integral to our lives. Now, people use social media to connect socially, discover new brands, and make purchases. And businesses that want to succeed in this dynamic world can’t ignore it. Hopefully, after reading this article, you understand the significance of social media for eCommerce businesses and know exactly what your next steps will be to harness its full potential.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is social eCommerce, and how is it different from traditional online shopping?
Social eCommerce refers to buying and selling directly on social media platforms, blending social interaction with commercial transactions. It differs from traditional online shopping by offering a more integrated and social experience.
How has the rise of social eCommerce impacted consumer behavior?
The rise of social eCommerce has led consumers to expect more interactive and social shopping experiences where they can quickly discover and purchase products within their preferred social media platforms.
What are the challenges businesses face in social eCommerce?
Challenges include navigating different social media algorithms, creating engaging content, managing inventory across platforms, and staying updated with evolving consumer trends.
Can small businesses effectively compete in social eCommerce?
Yes, small businesses can compete by focusing on niche markets, leveraging influencer partnerships, and creating unique, authentic content that resonates with their audience.
What role do influencers play in social eCommerce?
Influencers act as brand ambassadors, leveraging their credibility and audience to promote products, driving brand awareness and sales.
How important is it to have a seamless shopping experience in social eCommerce?
A seamless shopping experience is crucial as it reduces friction in the buying process, enhancing customer satisfaction and increasing the likelihood of conversions.
What are the key platforms for social eCommerce?
Key platforms include Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok, each offering unique features for integrating eCommerce.
How does social eCommerce benefit consumers?
Social eCommerce offers consumers convenience, a more engaging shopping experience, and the ability to discover new products within their social networks.
What strategies can businesses use to excel in social eCommerce?
Effective strategies include understanding the target audience, choosing the right platform, optimizing profiles, embracing visual storytelling, and utilizing social ads effectively.
How does user-generated content impact social eCommerce?
User-generated content boosts brand credibility, enhances consumer trust, and provides authentic product endorsements, influencing purchasing decisions.
How can businesses measure success in social eCommerce?
Success can be measured through engagement metrics, conversion rates, customer feedback, and the effectiveness of social media campaigns.
Is it necessary to have a website in addition to social media for eCommerce?
While not mandatory, having a website can add credibility, serve as an additional sales channel, and provide more control over the customer experience.
Can social eCommerce replace traditional eCommerce?
While social eCommerce is increasing, it's unlikely to completely replace traditional eCommerce due to consumers' diverse needs and preferences.
What impact does social eCommerce have on brand awareness?
Social eCommerce significantly boosts brand awareness by increasing visibility and engagement within social media networks.
How can businesses create engaging content for social eCommerce?
Engaging content can be created by understanding audience preferences, using high-quality visuals, telling compelling stories, and maintaining brand consistency.
What role does technology play in enhancing the social eCommerce experience?
Technology is vital in streamlining shopping, offering features like AR try-ons, easy checkouts, and personalized recommendations.
How can businesses leverage analytics in social eCommerce?
Analytics can track engagement, understand consumer behavior, optimize campaigns, and make data-driven decisions.
What are the future trends in social eCommerce?
Future trends include increased use of AR and VR, greater emphasis on sustainability, more personalized shopping experiences, and the integration of AI for customer service.
Can social eCommerce be integrated with traditional marketing strategies?
Social eCommerce can complement traditional marketing strategies by providing additional channels for customer engagement and sales.
What is the importance of customer service in social eCommerce?
Excellent customer service is crucial in building trust, fostering loyalty, and ensuring a positive shopping experience in social eCommerce.