More than 1 out of 4 consumers claim to have purchased a product via a social network (Yougov, 2022). This new practice has a name: social commerce. And it’s already revolutionizing shopping experiences
Just a few years ago, social networks were reserved for personal experiences: meeting new people, exchanging with friends, sharing moments from private life…But now, for close to 53% of the global population on social platforms, the experience goes much further. It’s now possible to buy directly on Facebook, Instagram or even TikTok, without being redirected to a brand’s website or physical store.
Today, the social commerce boom is transforming the customer journey. New customer experiences are taking shape, to the great pleasure of connected customers. But what do the pathways of social commerce look like? What are the advantages for brands? And on which social platforms should you bet on for the development of connected commerce? In this article, Smart Tribune responds to all your questions.
Definition of social commerce
What is social commerce? A definition
Social commerce is considered a subcategory of cyber commerce. It refers to the use of social networks for the direct sale of products or services. Thanks to this practice, B2B or B2C companies can generate sales on a social network like Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
This new possibility is transforming customer journeys and digital experiences. Thanks to social commerce, the customer experience is becoming more fluid and seamless. After discovering a brand and its products on a social network, users can become customers, without leaving the platform. As such, purchase functions integrated into social media facilitate online shopping.
Furthermore, social commerce is in the midst of a boom, notably because it responds to the expectations of modern, connected consumers. Social networks are constantly growing (13 new members every second), and users are spending more and more time on them: an average of 2.5 hours per day, which is a 2.1% increase compared to 2020, according to the Global Statshot Digital Report 2021 by Hootsuite and We Are Social.
For the youngest users, social platforms are even more significant when it comes to making a purchase: 47% of Millennials confirm that, according to Deloitte. And on the company side, social networks are infiltrating habits: 93% of European e-commerce sites are present on social media. So, is the rush towards social commerce in progress?
Social commerce, e-commerce, m-commerce…how are they different?
You’ve got it: For companies, social commerce means the sale of products of services on social networks. In marketing jargon, we also use the term “s-commerce,” which is not to be confused with e-commerce and m-commerce!
E-commerce refers to electronic commerce, grouping all kinds of remote transactions, via computer, smartphone or tablet. These last few years, and especially since the Covid-19 crisis, e-commerce numbers have exploded. In 2021, e-commerce represented 13.4% of all retail sales (compared to 9.8% in 2019), according to Fevad.
M-commerce stands for “mobile commerce.” This type of commerce includes all sales and purchases made via a mobile phone, like a smartphone. M-commerce offers broad flexibility, allowing buyers to do their shopping while on the go. In 2021, over 1 in 2 purchases were made via mobile (Playplug, 2021).
Though e-commerce, m-commerce and s-commerce have different characteristics, their end game is the same: to offer more instantaneous journeys while delivering exceptional digital customer experiences.
7 advantages of social commerce for brands
1. Innovation via a new purchase channel
China is a pioneering country when it comes to social commerce, where this form of online sales represents 12% of all online sales. But today, this purchase channel is expanding around the world. In the UK notably, this trend is a new means of modern-day transaction, a synonym for innovation.
For those skilled in social shopping, the popularity of the concept can be explained through several reasons. 43% of people are seduced by promotional offers. 30% buy on social networks because the products are not commercialized elsewhere and 23% claim to appreciate the rapid process and this new way to buy, according to YouGov (2022).
2. Create a solid link with customers
Social networks are catalyzers of connection and of social experience. Already, brands can use these networks to create strong, sustainable relationships with customers, before, during and after a purchase.
Effectively, social commerce isn’t limited to the act of consumption. The dimension of “conversational commerce” is increasingly present. On social networks, brands can easily use the messaging platforms to stay in touch with their community of customers. The ability to communicate freely with a brand, customer service or a chatbot is a golden opportunity to strengthen customer relations, to create seamless experience and maybe even to accelerate purchase decisions.
As such, thanks to public publications and private exchanges, social platforms reinforce customer relations, for B2B and B2C.
3. Target your audience with precision
Social networks are now shopping centers 2.0, with a key advantage: They’re also a gold mine of customer data. Thanks to online data collection, each brand is able to offer specific products to certain, well-defined customer profiles. For example, social platforms allow for the creation of personalized and targeted ad campaigns.
Social networks and their use within an overall commercial strategy can improve customer knowledge. In turn, this commercial method impacts customer satisfaction and customer relations.
4. Boost the collection of feedback thanks to social commerce
Shopping on social networks doesn’t only offer a simpler and more fluid buying experience. It’s also one of the best ways to gather feedback and comments via content, thanks to the proximity fostered on the platforms.
With social commerce, gathering feedback can be public and collective, or private and individual. Consumers can exchange among themselves below publications or share their opinions on their own profiles, in the form of User Generated Content. They can also contact customer service, ideally through a chatbot. The possibilities for interaction are numerous, which reinforces the community experience online.
For brands, collecting feedback is also an excellent way to demonstrate ongoing improvement: All customer feedback and opinions can enrich a customer knowledge database.
5. Respond to the users of the new generations
Instant, dynamic and autonomous: These are the expectations of the new generation of consumers when it comes to their online experience. In a few years, Millennials and Generation Z will make up the two largest consumer groups in the UK. So starting now, it’s necessary to understand their uses and to respond to them with adapted experiences.
For example, 55% of Gen Z buyers and 62% of Millennial buyers say that they would make purchases directly via live videos, if a brand or influencer launched a new product.
Live shopping on social networks seems to be a trend to explore, in order to improve engagement, conversions and customer satisfaction. The numbers confirm this; according to McKinsey, live shopping on social platforms helps customers to increase the engagement of the young generations by 20%.
6. Guarantee less friction and more autonomy
Thanks to social networks, we’ve entered an era of the customer journey 2.0. Users can check out on their smartphones, anytime, anywhere.
In just a few clicks, an order can be placed. Data like delivery address or payment details can be stored. All these parameters help limit friction around online purchases.
Social shopping also offers the opportunity to gain autonomy. On just one platform, a consumer can reduce their research time, discover content, consult customer opinions and get info about a product…everything, without having to get in touch with the brand or search various pages on the internet.
7. Benefit from constant growth thanks to social commerce
Each day, thousands of users sign up for social networks. For brands, that’s a real opportunity to grow an audience, not to mention a loyal, committed customer base.
Basically, social networks have the advantage of removing physical and geographic barriers. They are also accessible at any time, day or night. Companies who use social commerce can therefore benefit from constant growth in real time, with this ongoing increase in connected consumers.
Furthermore, sales on social networks allow you to reach new markets quickly, by relying on the virality and accessibility of certain platforms. This strategy is a viable long-term opportunity, both for B2B and B2C.
Social commerce platforms
You now know the characteristics of social commerce, as well as its advantages. But how do you take action to develop this new kind of emerging commerce? Which platforms should you bet on to transform the experiences you provide?
Purchases on social networks: the preferred platforms
Each year, new social platforms emerge. Here are the ones which are largely adopted by the French, when it comes to social commerce (Yougov study, 2022).
- 73% of French people surveyed have already purchased a product on the platform, making this network the most advanced in terms of social shopping.
- 26% of French people have already made a purchase on the network. For those who are 18 – 24, this jumps to 46%.
- 11% of French people claim to have purchased a product or service from this social network.
- 7% of French people surveyed have already purchased via this app, which had the most downloads in 2021.
- 6% of French people have made a purchase via this network.
- 5% of French people have tried shopping via this platform which has 10 million unique visitors per month in France.
- 2% of French people have made purchased on this social network, which is dedicated to fashion, still little known.
How to develop an effective Social Commerce strategy on the platforms?
To launch an effective social commerce strategy, here are the 3 latest tips from Smart Tribune:
- Bet on live shopping: This type of sales via live video is an excellent way to convert and engage an audience, as well as to interact in real time with your customer community.
- Collect and share customer opinions: 90% of consumers consult customer opinions before making a purchases (IPSOS). This habit remains present, whatever the purchase channel. To improve brand credibility and to strengthen reassurance, don’t hesitate to integrate customer opinions in your social commerce strategy.
Automate customer service: Before, during and after a purchase, users can have questions. On social networks, it’s possible to respond, thanks to automated features: an FAQ on Instagram, a chatbot on Facebook…the possibilities for accompanying your consumers, without them leaving the platform, are numerous.