Social Selling

The Secret to the Future Growth of Your Ecommerce Channel: Social Commerce

/ 17 min read
social commerce

The Secret to the Future Growth of Your Ecommerce Channel: Social Commerce

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Most purchase journeys have too many unnecessary steps in the conversion funnel.

Each one massively increases the chance your potential customers are going to abandon their purchase and leave your store forever.

The problem lies in modern merchants’ reliance on software and tech solutions.

We’re all too concerned with gamifying the process and making sales through cheap tactics instead of solving genuine consumer problems.

We’re overthinking things.

Because the truth is, you only need two things to create a successful online business.

  1. A product that genuinely helps people solve a problem.
  2. A streamlined purchase journey. One that makes it easy to buy and that begins where the customer is most active and engaged.

You’ll have to find the first on your own.

But for the second, you have to stop looking at things like gamification and low value offers that push the purchase.

You have to examine how you can use technology to create a better customer experience.

Which is what the smartest ecommerce brands in the world are doing with social commerce.

It makes complete sense if you take a second to think about your customers and their actions.

Your audience is on these social media platforms and they want to purchase through those networks.

So why complicate matters with extra steps that require gamification for even paltry conversions?

The smarter option would be to implement a social commerce solution that engages users where they are and turns their social media engagement directly into sales.

I’ll get into the details of exactly how you can leverage social commerce to increase your brand’s revenue, but first, let’s head back-to-basics.

What Is Social Commerce?

Social commerce sells products directly through social media networks.

It differs from social media marketing as you’re not redirecting users to an online store, but offering them the ability to checkout directly within the network they’re using at that moment.

It’s far more streamlined and, thanks to chatbot checkouts and autofill for payment and delivery details, means purchases rarely take more than a handful of clicks.

The social commerce purchase journey massively outperforms the purchase journey you’re familiar with.

social commerce marketing funnel

But social sommerce is more than a string of popular buzzwords.

It’s an easier way for people to complete the purchase of products they want and need.

Most ecommerce purchase journeys are too complex relying on redirects from one platform to another (some platforms requiring multiple steps themselves).

But with social commerce, you’re effectively implementing Amazon’s one-click buy now button on multiple, popular social media networks.

social commerce one click

At its core, it’s about making it easy for users to complete their purchase.

It’s about removing the potential for confusion and thus abandonment.

It is, in my mind, about capitalizing on the point when a user’s purchase intent and excitement about your product is highest.

And it’s hardly anything new, the concept of social commerce has been around for some time now.

The History of Social Commerce

Social commerce is the latest digital marketing buzzword.

However, it’s not a new concept. It’s been tested and refined for quite a while by most of the large social networks.

Here’s a little history lesson by social network.

Facebook Social Commerce:

Facebook is, without a doubt, the big dog.

With over 2.2 billion monthly active users there’s a huge potential audience to leverage.

And as the biggest player, you’d be right to think they’ve ventured into social selling multiple times.

  • Feb 2007: Facebook does a virtual gift test which leads to the ability to buy gifts for friends. Gifts were limited to being used and displayed on the network though.
    social-commerce-facebook-feb-2007
  • May 2007: Facebook marketplace opens allowing you to sell items to those within your network.
  • July 2009: 1-800-Flowers.com starts selling through Facebook leading to other brands setting up Facebook stores (Pampers, Disney).
  • July 2014: Facebook tests the buy button, allowing brands to sell to people without them leaving Facebook.
    social-commerce-facebook-july-2014
  • March 2015: Facebook rolls out payments through Messenger (however, it’s just for splitting payments with friends).
  • July 2015: Facebook implements the first test for shoppable pages.
  • Summer 2018: Facebook launches Facebook Marketplace, a competitor to Amazon, Etsy and Google Shopping.

Those are the major developments with Facebook’s Social Commerce efforts.

There have been a couple more in more recent history, but I’ll get onto them shortly.

For now, let’s look at Instagram.

Instagram Social Commerce:

Instagram is one of the most promising platforms when it comes to creating a social selling strategy.

Personally, I think it has the most potential.

People flock to the platform to look at beautiful images and videos.

If you can make your product the feature of those media offerings, you could see some killer engagement.

If you can turn that engagement into quick and easy sales (say…through social shopping), you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Whilst a younger network than Facebook and one without as many social selling experiments, there’s still been a decent effort to create a social shopping experience through the platform.

  • June 2015: Instagram Shop Now button introduced. Taking a leaf out the Facebook playbook, Instagram adds a buy now button for brands.
  • November 2016: Instagram implements product tags so users can quickly identify the products they see in ads and their price (rolled out to a limited number of brands).
    social commerce instagram nov 2016
  • October 2017: Shopify and BigCommerce integrations open the possibility of selling through Instagram to thousands of other merchants using Instagram Shopping.
  • March 2018: Instagram’s Shoppable Posts go live giving brands the ability to tag items in organic posts which, when tapped, brings up a new page which leads to a checkout.

Twitter Social Commerce:

Twitter’s a peculiar company.

Until Q4 2017 they’d never made a profit.

With a lack of revenue, you’d think they’d jump head first into the world of social commerce, but they’ve been dragging their heels a little.

When they have taken action, they’ve not waited long before pivoting their social selling strategy and focused more on Twitter ads.

Here’s how their forays into online shopping breaks down.

  • April 2010: Twitter offers their first feature that could help ecommerce brands – the sponsored Tweet. This would later grow into a suite of paid ads.
  • September 2014: Twitter introduces the buy now button allowing the sale of certain items directly from Tweets.
    social commerce twitter sep 2014
  • January 2017: After expanding the buy now button partnerships, Twitter eventually decides it’s a pointless endeavor and fades out the feature until it no longer exists.

Pinterest Social Commerce:

Pinterest is very much like Instagram in that it’s filled with content that is, first and foremost, visually appealing.

That means showcasing your products with awesome images should help you get some decent reach.

And with the right tools, you could see that engagement turn into sales, especially considering 80% of Pins on Pinterest aren’t actually original content but repins.

  • June 2015: Pinterest offers their original version of buyable pins allowing a select few brands to add a buy button to their pins.
  • March 2016: Pinterestincreased the partnerships for buyable pins making it available to even more brands.
  • June 2016: A shopping cart was added to make it easier for shoppers to buy multiple products from different suppliers in one go.

The Current State of Social Commerce

So that brief breakdown of the different social channels and how they’ve experimented with social commerce brings us up to the modern era.

Social commerce is often talked about as the future of digital sales, yet none of the major networks have nailed the best way of making it work on their platform.

Twitter had so much trouble they even gave it up.

Right now, you’ve only got Facebook’s shoppable pages, Instagram’s buy now button, or Pinterest’s buyable pins.

It’s hardly the mainstream sales channel it was tipped to be.

But with each iteration and test, it becomes more mainstream

With each test, we get closer to seeing social commerce take over as one of the largest drivers of revenue for online commerce.

The problem lies with the big networks.

They’re all limited to their own platform and even in that sense they’re not, being completely honest, pulling their weight.

If you check any major success stories for social commerce they’re using third-party solutions.

They’re leveraging tools like ManyChat with click to Messenger ads to generate 11,000 new leads.

Brands like Marvel are using tools like jumper.ai for automated chatbot checkouts to sell tickets direct from organic and paid social media posts.

There’s plenty of case studies out there on using social commerce and chatbots to create incredibly streamlined purchase journeys for users.

But very few use the native solutions provided by the big networks.

Which is really strange, because not only are retailers seeing some incredible results, but your customers are telling you that this is what they want to see more of.

  • 23% of shoppers are influenced by social media recommendations (so why not sell straight from that recommendation).
  • 51% of millennials (who will soon be the major buying market) are likely to make a purchase over social media.
  • 84% of shoppers review at least one social media site before purchasing (so it makes sense to sell where they’re going to research).

This is all a long-winded way of saying that right now, even in its infancy, social commerce is making a huge impact on the world of ecommerce and marketing.

It might be young, but as the tools become more sophisticated more people are turning to social media to not only research, but also purchase their products.

If I were a betting man, I’d put a sizeable stake on social commerce becoming one of the primary channels in the next decade.

Why am I so confident in this prediction?

What does the Future Hold for Social Commerce?

There’s one primary reason why I’m so confident that social commerce will take over the world.

China.

In the West, it’s easy to focus on the US and European markets.

To look at things like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Christmas, or even Valentine’s Day as the major events and indicators of changing consumer behavior.

But if you want to see how a truly effective ecommerce machine works, look no further than China.

The sales in China are incredibly high.

Their biggest shopping holiday, Single’s Day, massively outstripped Black Friday and Cyber Monday put together in 2017.

social commerce total retail sales

Within 5 years China’s ecommerce market has grown exponentially.

But here’s the interesting bit, the Chinese market prefers one channel above all others.

Mobile.

social commerce mobile dominance

In China, they’re not really using mobile browsers to purchase products.

They’re using social media to engage with brands at every stage of the purchase journey at a rate that puts the West to shame.

social commerce social media china

All well and good, right?

But hold on.

The Chinese market is fundamentally different from the West, right?

They have different concepts of online shopping, the culture around purchasing is different, and they are an absolutely mammoth country with an incredible population.

No way the methods that would work over there would work here… right?

Wrong.

If you take a look at the various developments in social media channels and social commerce, there’s a definite trend of copying what’s already working in China.

Most of the features you’ve come to know and love in Facebook and Messenger were implemented first in China’s Goliath, WeChat.

social commerce wechat

Even Facebook’s most recent patent application, “Processing Payment Transactions Using Artificial Intelligence Messaging Services”, is but another feature already offered in WeChat.

social commerce wechat schematic

It seems like Facebook is trying to implement the wide-ranging applications for social commerce already prevalent in WeChat.

And that’s great news.

Each new social commerce patent, feature, and integration tells us that the biggest players in the social networking space are viewing social commerce as a serious channel.

That they’re investing their time and money into the channel is a sign that things are set to grow.

But that’s all going to come to fruition over the next 5-10 years.

So, do you wait around until this sales phenomenon is at its height?

Hell no.

You jump on the bandwagon right now and get yourself the best head start possible.

Social Commerce Tactics You Can Use Today

Social commerce has already come an extremely long way.

And if Facebook’s trend of copying WeChat is any indication, it’s only going to get bigger and more prevalent.

Knowing that there’s promise is one thing, but knowing how to implement it within your store is quite another.

To help you get your social commerce strategy off to the very best start, I’m going to run through a couple of marketing strategies to help you make your first $1, $1000, and $100,000 through these social platforms.

The first thing I want to look at is a handful of tools that’ll help you get up and running as fast as possible.

1. Improve Facebook Messenger engagement.

Tools like ManyChat can help you accomplish this by turn engagements on Facebook into automated chatbots through Messenger.

It’s a great way to drive Messenger engagement, however, if you want to integrate with platforms other than Facebook you’ll have to set up Zapier integrations.

social commerce manychat

2. Create automated bot checkouts.

Jumper.ai is a new tool which comes with a pre-built automated checkout chatbot.

You can get an automated checkout bot up and running within minutes and, thanks to their numerous native integrations, you can use it across almost all social platforms.

See how it works on Instagram.

3. Manage your social commerce with your ecommerce platform.

BigCommerce isn’t in itself a social commerce tool but it allows you to integrate with multiple sales channels and manage your omni-channel strategy.

However, if you are running your store on BC there’s a number of tools allowing you to quickly integrate your products to your Facebook store, Instagram tags, and buyable Pinterest Pins.

social commerce bigcommerce

So those are three awesome tools to help you get your Social Commerce campaign off to a killer start.

Now let’s look at a few tactics and trends to ensure success.

4. Low-cost products sell better.

Why do people browse social media?

It’s not often to find the product they’re looking for, right?

They’re there to look at some awesome, engaging content.

To check on their friends, favorite celebs, or simply look at visual representations of their favorite hobby.

They’re there to waste time in an enjoyable way.

Which makes it difficult to sell high-ticket products that need to be considered.

Imagine you’re a keen cycler.

When walking down the high street you pass a store selling a $5,000 bike.

Are you going to buy it on an impulse?

Hell no.

But if you’re walking along and you see the latest helmet for $80, a more effective pump for $35, or a pair of awesome gloves for $20 are you likely to buy them?

Most probably, yes.

Social media shoppers are there to enjoy themselves, not consider expensive products.

You’re more likely to make the sale if you focus on low-cost products and impulse buys as it’s more in keeping with their state of mind.

If you check most social shopping campaigns, you’ll notice how the products are generally lower priced.

Below is the average order value of referrals by social network.

social commerce aov referral social network

There’s no hard and fast rule, but I’d recommend keeping your social commerce campaigns to $100 and below.

You can see from the above that the AoV by network comes out to about $50.

5. Always collect an email address.

“But hold on, that $5000 bike is my main money maker. How can I get people to buy it? If it won’t sell through social commerce then it’s useless to me”. – You

I hear ya.

You don’t have to stop selling those higher priced products, you simply need to adjust the sales funnel a little.

No one is going to buy a $5,000 bike on an impulse, especially if their first interaction with your brand is that ad on Instagram.

You’ve got to nurture the relationship and build trust before you can ask for the big sale.

And, as much as I love social commerce, it’s not exactly the best for it.

So here’s what you do.

You first get people to buy something from your store.

You focus on that small ~$50 purchase to bring people from your purchase journey into a customer journey.

Once you’ve made that sale, in the immediate follow up you grab their email address to utilize in an email marketing strategy.

social commerce email marketing

Once the user opts-in to the email, you can start nurturing them over the coming weeks and months.

Before long, that $50 initial purchase is followed up with a $250 purchase. Then a $1000 purchase before, finally, you’ve built enough trust and desire to sell them that $5000 bike.

It’s a longer path to that main purchase, but the LTV of that customer is also much higher than it would be if you’d just tried to sell them on the bike.

Focus on Engagement Over Sales

I’ll be the first person to say that focusing on things like traffic, shares, likes and their ilk is a fool’s errand.

You’re running a business, right?

And so you’ve got to be focused on the actions that increase your bottom line.

Vanity metrics aren’t going to help anyone… or are they?

The thing with social commerce is that it’s dependent on the effectiveness of your social media campaigns.

You’ve got to make sales, but the father of sales on social is engagement.

Without it, your sales focused update isn’t going to make any money.

So before you think about turning your entire social media account into something that is only focused on driving sales, look first to engagement.

Look at the other brands in your space and deconstruct what it is they’re doing to get the best engagement.

Use that as a template for your own updates and then place your product at the heat of that template.

social media pinterest example

If like me, you’ve spent your career focusing on sales and revenue this can feel a little odd.

Instead of thinking about it in terms of “growing likes”, think of it as getting enough traffic to run an effective A/B test.

Without the traffic, you can’t depend on your results.

Without engagement, you can’t judge the effectiveness of your social commerce campaigns.

Fascinating Social Commerce Trends

Social commerce might not be an entirely new channel, but it is finally getting attention after a period of time in the dark.

With this new attention comes new trends and new methods of engagement.

Whilst the tactics above help with the mechanics of your campaigns, you also have to understand how the trends are shifting so you can stay one step ahead.

1. Trust Lies in Micro-Influencers.

The dream for most ecommerce brands and retailers is to get a ringing endorsement from a huge celebrity like a Kardashian, world authority, or sporting hero.

Problem is, these folk are hard to nail down and, even if you do manage to organize something, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny to get them to promote your brand.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for an influencer marketing strategy.

In fact, consumers are more concerned now with authenticity.

Something which celebrities far removed from the day-to-day struggles of you and I cannot replicate.

More and more people are starting to turn away from blatant advertising instead trusting the word of smaller influencers to whom they feel a stronger connection.

In fact, influencers with less than 35,000 followers get the highest engagement rate at 5.3%.

social commerce instagram engagement

Sure, they might not have the reach of the mega influencers, but the engagement is better and you’re more likely to attract customers who you’re able to build lasting relationships with.

The trend towards favoring smaller influencers is something you definitely need to be taking advantage of with social commerce.

2. Video is King.

Video. Is. Everywhere.

Log onto Facebook and you’ll find autoplay social media videos of influencers hawking their new course.

Retargeting ads of that product you looked at in action.

And you’ll find a reprieve from those hard sells in video shorts from your favorite TV shows and movies.

Video is moving from strength to strength in social media.

According to Forrester Research, video is worth 1.8 million words. Not sure how they came up with that stat, but it’s also proven to be far more engaging which, if you’ve been paying attention, is the name of the game.

But the most important stat – 84% of consumers felt convinced enough to buy a product after watching a video about it.

3. Conversations are Leading the Pack.

Email is a personal favorite channel of mine.

The ROI is incredible, transactional triggers allow you to automate much of your customer communications, and it’s my own personal favorite medium – text.

But there’s a problem with email.

A problem which even the lovers of the channel like myself cannot ignore.

Email is almost 100% one-directional.

You’re not speaking with your users, but are speaking at them.

Sure, they can respond, but it’ll take you hours or days to offer the feedback they want.

And customers are getting a little fed up of waiting for those responses.

Modern consumers are, above all, impatient.

They want what they want and they want it now.

In studying the desires of modern consumers, Drift found there to be a huge swing towards instant answers which can only be achieved through automated chatbots.

social commerce problems

Consumers want to interact with your brand 24 hours a day without having to wait for a response.

Conversational commerce and automated social commerce chatbots are the only real method to implement this successfully right now.

4. It Capitalizes on a Growing Purchase Behavior.

Social media is not where users go to compare, contrast, and analyze potential products.

They’re there to scroll through their friends’ updates, to stalk the Instagram of their ex, or catch up on the latest updates in their hobby of choice.

Which means you’re going to have a hard time selling high consideration, high-ticket items.

You’ve got to amend your promotional tactics to fall in line with their expectations which means highly engaging, eye-catching social promotions.

But that’s not necessarily going to make sales, is it?

Well, it could. Especially considering how there’s an ever increasing level of impulse purchases online.

When broken down by generation, it’s easy to see why – upcoming generations are more prone to impulse buys.

social commerce impluse buy

These younger people are those more in tune with social media. They’re also more prone to impulse purchases.

Couple the two together and you’ve got the potential for a massively profitable process.

Which is exactly what social commerce is.

It is, in effect, a two-stage funnel that capitalizes on someone’s impulse urges by giving them a direct checkout within the updates they find most captivating.

If the trend of increased impulse purchases continues to increase, so too will the need for social shopping.

5. Built-in Social Proof.

It’s difficult to convince a complete stranger, through little more than a compelling social update, to open their wallet.

Your potential customers know you will directly profit from every single sale, and so they’re going to treat your promotions with a healthy amount of skepticism.

The same can be said, to a lesser extent, for the micro-influencers mentioned above. People know they’ll have been paid and so view their claims with some doubt.

But other users are beyond reproach. Their word is honest and thus, trustworthy.

The problem has always been getting people to leave the reviews other users trust so much.

Generally, you’re limited to social proof generating email campaigns which look something like the below.

social commerce amazon

The problem here is you’ve first got to get through the spam filter, and custom filters, and then you’re hoping you reach the user at a time when they’re feeling generous enough to leave a review.

The result is a very low conversion rate from users to reviews.

This is what social commerce does extremely well.

It generates user-generated content and reviews simply through general engagement.

Take a look at the below image from the above linked to Marvel case study.

social commerce marvel

This one post had 38,000 views and 541 likes.

Those likes tell other users this thing is worth their attention. It’s something they need to be paying attention to.

It’s not user-generated content in the traditional sense. However, each and every view, comment, and like is an additional positive mention of your brand.

Similar to word-of-mouth marketing, each mention from consumers who have nothing to gain by spreading the word is 100X more powerful than any promotion from your brand.

Why?

Because 91% of users trust other users and their opinions.

Social commerce puts both your promotion and user-generated content in the form of comments, likes, and shares into one place which will continue to grow the effectiveness of your campaigns as time goes by.

Examples of Successful Social Commerce Campaigns

Trends and tactics are one thing, but if you really want to get a feeling for how to leverage social sommerce you’ve got to see it in action.

Here are some of the best social media campaigns out there.

1. Marvel sells tickets with Social Commerce.

Being one of the biggest movie studios in the world isn’t enough for Marvel.

They also wanted to leverage this emerging channel to see how it could help them increase sales.

Working with jumper.ai, Marvel created a simple automated checkout bot.

The user could trigger the checkout bot from Marvel’s organic and paid social media promotions.

The user simply comments on the post with the hashtag mentioned in the update and the checkout bot takes over in their DMs.

Here’s how it looked to the consumer.

In running this for both Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp the lowest conversion rate from hashtag engagement to tickets purchased was a staggering 50%.

You can check a little more out about it here.

Key Actions to Note:

  • The checkout and funnel was kept simple and focused on a low threat offer (a cinema ticket).
  • They made smart use of retargeting to re-engage past engagers and those who failed to convert.
  • They let the Marvel personality show through their use of gifs and images.

2. Jordans sell out on Snapchat.

As far as shoes go, there are few brands who can match the Jordan brand.

A partnership between Snap and Nike to promote the new Air Jordan III “Tinker” after the NBA All-Star game had the shoes sell out in a record 23 minutes.

Those who attended the afterparty were able to scan exclusive Snap codes which opened Snapchat and allowed them to complete their purchase.

social commerce snapchat jourdan

Key Actions to Note

  • This campaign very smartly capitalized on a real-life event. Not only bridging the gap between social media and your day to day life, but it guaranteed an interested audience.
  • They followed through with the need for instant gratification with same day delivery
  • They stuck to one channel and mastered it rather than diluting their actions across multiple networks

3. PinDuoDuo raises $1.6 billion.

I know I’m hitting the China angle hard in this piece, but it’s because they are so far ahead when it comes to social commerce.

PinDuoDuo is one of the newer apps in the Chinese marketplace, and they’re doing some incredibly interesting things.

Basically, PinDuoDuo is an app which allows group buying of products.

The more of your friends you can get to go in on a purchase with you, the cheaper the price you all pay.

It integrates with WeChat and other big Chinese social media networks to make the sharing and interaction between friends much easier.

The way in which the creators have established and organized the app is incredibly smart.

The more I read, the more impressed I am about the way they’ve done things.

They’re not focused on high-value products but on the lower value, non-brand named items and using the vitality of the process to help them grow to selling nearly $15 billion US worth of products per year within 2 years and raining 1.6 billion in funding.

social commerce pinduoduo

Key Actions to Note:

  • PinDuoDuo is capitalizing on the social aspect of social media to help them massively increase reach and sales.
  • They’re focusing on lower cost items which is key to grabbing those impulse purchases.
  • By gamifying the hell out of the process it fits with the average social media user’s goal – to have fun and enjoy themselves.

Social Commerce is Moving from Strength to Strength – Now is the Time to Start Your Social Selling Campaign

Mobile use is on the rise.

Consumer attention spans are forever reducing.

More people are turning to social media in more areas of their life.

Your audience is spending more time on their phone, expecting quick and easy solutions to every problem, and sharing everything they do on social media.

The only logical action is for you to take advantage of these behaviors and start selling through the channels they’re most engaged in with the kind of checkout they’re looking for.

Even a few short years ago this was something small brands couldn’t dream of.

The cost and effort required for a social commerce campaign was solely within reach of the large, multi-national brands.

However, thanks to tools like ManyChat and jumper.ai it’s easier than ever for your brand, regardless of size to take advantage of the social commerce trend.

And I’d say that there’s no better time than now to get started.

This thing is going to blow up beyond anyone’s expectations.

If you wait to see how things pan out, you’ll be putting yourself on the back foot and give yourself a lot of ground to make up.

Don’t put yourself at a disadvantage.

Get your social commerce campaign started today.

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