Social Commerce: Is Your Brand Ready?

It has only been a few years since companies saw a legitimate benefit to maintaining a social presence. While platforms have evolved and new channels and features have emerged, one factor has remained relatively consistent: Social media’s primary benefit is its ability to inform an audience and redirect them to a richer, more opportunistic experience.

A recent study by Salesforce found that 70% of companies are expecting to spend more in social advertising in 2015, so social channels must find a way to connect shoppers with purchasing opportunities.

Currently, social sites account for 28% of all time spent online. That’s approximately 1.72 hours per day per user spent away from POP, per GlobalWebIndex. And if there’s one thing that we know about brands, it’s that they like people near POP.

Social is primed for activating brand loyalists. Between rich content, product information and the natural peer pressure and enthusiasm that comes with social brand audiences, companies have created the best possible experience for shoppers. If channels are smart, they’ll find ways to capitalize on this untapped opportunity.

In fact, companies still around in five years may be directly tied to which is able to best incorporate commerce into their platform. Some channels are starting to dip their toes into the waters of commerce. Here is what the current landscape looks like -- and what brands need to do to optimize their investments.

Facebook’s Integration of Commerce
The platform is first earning the trust of users by allowing peer-to-peer money transfers, which is a lower barrier of entry compared to a more public sharing of funds. They’re also starting to test e-commerce pages that include “Buy” buttons and let fans purchase products without leaving the page.

Advice for Brands

Your first inclination is to get the ecomm team cranking on a full-scale social commerce experience that resembles your existing online store, but before you waste money, consider: one of the best features of social brand pages is the vast amount of information you’re able to gather from your audience. Likes, dislikes. Tendencies and preferences. Use this information to create a highly-curated selection of products. Don’t turn this opportunity into the next Facebook tab graveyard where your last like-gated contests still linger. Prove the value of this experience by comparing conversion rates and sales figures with your other channels. The fewer variables you have, the better your insights will be. Only then should you look to create more robust social shopping experiences.

Pinterest’s “Buy it” Button

Pinterest’s “Buy it” button allows consumers to make purchases by clicking the top of the promoted pins, offering brands enormous revenue potential. Brands like Nordstrom and Kate Spade were some of the early adopters.

Advice for Brands

While your Pinterest presence is most likely a fraction of your larger fan bases, don’t be so quick to dismiss its commerce potential. Yes, the traffic is much less than Facebook, but given how easy it is for users to make purchases, you may find ROI is much closer than you think. The channel is currently best suited for inspiration, so you may have to include purchase points further into your experience in order to inspire more affinity and action.

Twitter’s “Buy Now” Button

It’s been almost a year since they first launched the “Buy Now” button and Twitter is still looking for more meaningful ways of connecting fans to points of purchase. Just recently, it announced the testing of new Product Pages as a more familiar shopping experience.

Advice for Brands

This really depends on what your other commerce sites look like. Although it can’t hurt to run a few small tests using this new platform, too many clicks are lost in the process of converting your audience. If you already have a strong commerce site, stick with basic ads that drive higher traffic numbers. While you’ll probably see higher conversion rates using Twitter’s platform, they might not be enough to account for the loss in volume.

Instagram’s “Shop Now” Capability

Catching up quickly is Instagram, which just added “Shop Now” buttons to their advertising suite. In March, they began their commerce journey with Carousel Ads, which allow users to cycle through a number of product-related images and then link to a company site for purchase.

Advice for Brands

The cost of participation makes this a novelty compared to other channel opportunities. However, the fact this channel is the highest engaging across all major platforms means the potential for direct in-app revenue is there. But until Instagram further integrates payment methods into the channel, use this time as a learning opportunity by watching how other brands test the new commerce features.

Snapchat’s Snapcash Feature

In a recent partnership with Square, Snapchat is making it possible to send money to friends with Snapcash. Snapchat is only in its advertising infancy with services such as recently announced native video ads and the ever-evolving Discover Stories, but with the introduction of Snapcash, it could become another key player in social commerce.

Advice for Brands

Snapchat for brands is new, much less commerce within the platform. Brands should first determine how they want to use the channel to drive affinity and relationships before attempting to sell stuff. Much like Instagram, the platform has a high cost of entry for brands, so it’s a good time to develop a solid channel POV before getting too far down the road.



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