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What Is Social Commerce And Why Is It Important?8 min read

what-is-social-commerce,-and-why-is-it-important?

“The only constant in life is change.” – Heraclitus

I’m sure you’ve all heard something along these lines before and if you’ve ever even remotely used technology in your work, I’m sure you’ve felt this. Technology is constantly changing and updating and it’s up to you to keep up with the trends to stay ahead of the pack. In fact, the average social media app undergoes an average of 1-4 software updates per month. That’s as many as 48 updates in a year.

The reason for these updates are often linked to some type of changing customer behaviors or desires, and one of the latest trends in the ecommerce world was the introduction and rise of social commerce. Customers are shopping online more and more because it’s easy and convenient, but they’re still seeking a way to make their experience even more seamless.

If this is just another marketing buzzword to you right now, don’t worry. We’re here to walk you through what exactly social commerce is, and why you should be leveraging it to create brand loyalty.

What is social commerce?

The good news is that even if you’re not entirely sure what social commerce is, you’ve probably seen it before. Think about every time you’re scrolling on Facebook or Instagram and see a product image with a “buy” button or product tag.

This relatively new term was introduced by Yahoo! in 2005 and referred to collaborative shopping tools such as online shared shopping lists, user ratings, and other user-generated content or sharing of online product information and advice. Along with the advances in technology, the definition has since evolved into an umbrella term encompassing all activities that occur on social media to help a brand sell things.

“Social commerce is the use of networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as vehicles to promote and sell products and services. The success of a social commerce campaign is measured by the degree to which consumers interact with the company’s marketing through retweets, likes, and shares.”

Today, brands are using social commerce in a variety of ways ranging from basic strategies like creating branded hashtags to more advanced techniques like including user-generated content on both their website and social channels or enabling social shopping where customers can purchase products in-app.

Now that you know what social commerce is, let’s find out why you should even care – and how to start making the most of it for your brand.

How to incorporate social commerce features in your ecommerce store

With such a broad definition of social commerce comes many different opportunities for you to implement into your own ecommerce stores. Social commerce features range from curated Instagram galleries on your website to actionable “buy” buttons on your Twitter or Facebook posts. The next step is figuring out which strategy is best for you – and your customers for that matter.

Facebook shopping

One of the most common types of social commerce is Facebook shopping and the embedded stores many brands have introduced on this platform. Starting to sell on Facebook can sound intimidating – after all, 2 sales channels mean twice the work, right? Not necessarily.

Many different ecommerce platforms make it quite easy to set up a Facebook shopping integration. Whether you operate through Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, WooCommerce, or another platform, these apps allow you to sync your data between your site and Facebook store so that all updates you make are automatically pushed through to your Facebook store and all Facebook orders are sent through to your site.

As long as you have a Facebook business account, setting up your Facebook store can be a seamless experience. Once you’re all set up, you can start tagging products in your posts and ads. Customers can then view product details in-app, and can even save, like, or share these products. The ability to share products allows your brand advocates to help grow your online brand community for you. But before you get started, it’s important to figure out if this is right for you.

social commerce - sprout social fb demographics

One of the main social commerce benefits is that it allows you to engage with your customers where they already are. Ensuring that your ideal customer persona lines up with Facebook demographic users is an essential step in your social commerce journey. According to Sprout Social, Facebook’s demographic is comprised mostly of women and concentrated in the age range of 18-49 in urban areas. If this sounds like your customer base, Facebook shopping might just be the perfect next step for your brand.

Instagram shopping

Instagram is a highly visual platform making it the perfect channel to sell your products. Similarly to Facebook, Instagram allows brands the chance to tag products in their posts and stories to sell them in the app. If you have already set up your Facebook store, selling through Instagram is fairly straightforward since Instagram is also owned by Facebook.

As users scroll through their feeds and see a product they like, it’s a much easier experience to click on the product and view its details in their app rather than searching the store, navigating the website, and then looking for the product. 70% of shopping enthusiasts already turn to Instagram for product discovery so making your products available there just makes sense. That is if your customers fall within that 70%.

social commerce - sprout social instagram demographics

Instagram’s demographic is also mostly female but has a growing male user base, which presents a huge opportunity. This demographic is also much younger than Facebook’s with the majority of users being under 30 years old. Again, if this lines up with your customer base Instagram shopping may be the key to turning your customers’ double taps into purchases.

Third-party app integrations

With technology constantly evolving, there are hundreds of tools available to small businesses aimed at creating positive social media experiences. One of the best ways to leverage your social media for customer loyalty is through the use of social proof. This involves featuring images that your customers are posting on your own social media account to inspire other users. User-generated content also comes in the form of reviews and photos and videos that customers submit on your website.

social commerce - yoga club social proof

Several apps like Loox, Stamped, and Okendo empower ecommerce stores to make it easy for customers to leave product reviews through automated review request emails. They can even allow you to reward loyalty points to customers who leave reviews, with bonus points when they include photos and videos. This motivates your customers to share their opinions and gives you social proof that is so valuable to your customers.

Okendo has even integrated with Foursixty, another app that allows brands to make their Instagram shoppable through galleries on their website. With this integration, ecommerce stores can now offer customers the chance to shop galleries that feature the brand’s Instagram posts, community member’s posts, and product review images.

Why should you care about social commerce?

social commerce - Acquire Engage Retain modelWhen your product posts are shared by your current customers, their social networks are able to discover you, allowing you to reach a target audience that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. This, coupled along with targeted advertisements to generate demand, makes for a strong and affordable acquisition strategy.

Moving your customers from the acquisition to the engagement stage is where your online brand community comes into play. Less intensive social commerce strategies such as branded hashtags and user-generated content are great customer engagement-building tools that create excitement around your brand.

The final piece of the puzzle is retaining these customers to keep them coming back time and time again. Seeing that you’ve built up your social brand communities in the engagement stage, you now have a network of engaged customers following you. When these customers see your tagged product posts they will be more likely to make in-app purchases because they’ve already built a relationship with you. This increased exposure to your brand coupled with the ease to make purchases will increase their purchase frequency.

At the end of the day, social commerce marketing can help you at every stage of the customer loyalty process.

Social media is more than just likes, comments, and follows

The days when creating a “business account” on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and occasionally posting a product picture made up your social media strategy are gone. In order to keep up with your customer’s changing social media behaviors, you need to stay up to date on all the latest social trends and strategies.

The new wave of social commerce is changing the way ecommerce brands need to think about their social media strategy. Whether it’s Facebook or Instagram shopping, curated shoppable galleries, or some combination of the three, social commerce could be the tool you were missing to create lasting customer relationships.

Social commerce is what’s trending now and it’s better to get on board before your brand becomes yesterday’s news.

This article was originally published by our friends at Smile.io.

About the author

Steve Hutt

I'm obsessed with entrepreneurship, commerce, and Shopify. If you have the desire to implement what's working today for direct-to-consumer brands on Shopify, I'm excited you're here! Get the Shopify help you need. This industry blog and podcast is my digital brain where my guests and I share cutting-edge marketing strategy, must-have Shopify apps, and marketing platforms that will help you build and scale lifetime customer loyalty. To do this, I'm part of the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus and host of the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast.