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on December 30, 2020 (last modified on October 28, 2022) • 18 minute read
With recent unprecedented changes to the way we buy and sell products, e-commerce is no longer a side player for small businesses and unknown companies.
E-commerce marketplaces have burst onto the scene as major players in selling goods and services, overtaking brick and mortar businesses as we’ve come to know. With this in mind, you might have shifted to either a partial or fully e-commerce business strategy over the past year. But maybe you aren’t seeing the same amount of success you were hoping for.
That’s where implementing a social commerce marketing strategy comes into play. We asked 12 experts how they use some of the most popular social commerce platforms to make sales, as well as their top tips for implementing a social commerce strategy for your e-commerce business in 2021.
Interested in learning more about specific components of social commerce? We’ll cover the following aspects of social commerce to make you an expert in no time at all:
Social commerce is the process of selling products on social media channels. This means that products are displayed, promoted, and sold directly on social platforms to consumers. Social commerce can come in multiple formats, including user-generated content (UGC), social proof, giveaways and contests, testimonials and user reviews, and more.
But there’s a lot of social-something terminologies out there. Social commerce, social selling, e-commerce – you name it. Let’s explore the difference between these three sort of similar terms to clear up any confusion you might have.
While there is overlap in these terms, all three differ in meaning.
The overlap comes in that they are interrelated to the overall concept of conducting purchases via the web. Now that we understand how to differentiate the above, let’s explore the core benefits of social commerce for your e-commerce business.
With the shift to a digital-first mindset, many businesses needed to figure out how to adapt to a social media-centered approach to selling goods and services. The benefits are endless, but we’re going to pinpoint a few key advantages of social commerce for optimum clarity.
Since the buying process takes place through social media, social commerce limits the possibility of errors and misguidance. Transactions are most likely happening on one uniform page, which means people are staying on your platform – not clicking around and possibly feeling encouraged to leave or transfer to a competitor’s page instead. This removes hurdles and takes some pressure off of the buying experience for your customers.
Elie Serouss of LaFlore Paris agrees: “Make sure you’re utilizing a social media platform’s built-in shopping features when applicable. Allowing customers to purchase within the app helps convert followers into customers seamlessly.”
Other than immediate gratification, if there’s anything customers want most, it’s an easy shopping experience. The more friction they experience with your brand, the less likely they will be to shop with you in the future. Just remember: if it’s too difficult to do in a few short clicks, your customers will be lured into competitors’ arms more easily.
Whether your brand pops up in an ad on social media or you and the (potential) customer have engaged with one another via a Tweet, DM, or Instagram comment, engaging with buyers gives an air of personalization to the shopping experience.
Using a buyer’s name, saving their contact info for easier future outreach, and using data to create targeted ad content for them are simple ways to personalize your interactions via social commerce.
Being active on social media ties in with the two benefits above. The more active your social media team is on every relevant platform, the more eyes your product will get in front of.
Some brands take to Twitter to tweet memes, videos, and share polls with their customers, and instead of just putting content out into the world, they respond to customers who engage with their platform. Actually interacting with customers shows that you see and hear them, encouraging them to feel acknowledged and more likely to want to purchase from you in the future.
Related: Ecommerce Analytics: 19 Tips for Measuring Your Store’s Performance
You’re likely already familiar with the top social commerce platforms simply because you use social media for entertainment purposes. E-commerce businesses are familiar with them, too – making great use of some over others. Forty percent of e-commerce businesses have found success on Instagram, which recently made some valuable changes for sellers online.
But other sellers have found success on other major platforms as well. So let’s go through a few of the most well-known social commerce platforms that businesses are taking advantage of today to learn exactly how people are selling successfully online.
To monitor the impact of your social media marketing efforts, you may have to log into multiple tools to check how your accounts on different social networks are performing and spend hours compiling a comprehensive report. But, with Databox, social media reporting doesn’t have to be a time-consuming chore anymore.
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Using Instagram as a social commerce platform is a no-brainer. With their recent shift to a marketplace-centered approach, Instagram redesigned their home screen so that a Reels tab and Shop tab were added to the bottom navigational menu, replacing the camera and feed activity shortcuts.
While this makes it more cumbersome to use Instagram as a for-fun platform for regular users, this change benefits businesses and independent sellers from a social commerce perspective. In essence, Instagram is spearheading social commerce as a business strategy by keeping sellers top of mind.
Daisy Jing of Banish says Instagram is the ideal platform for social commerce. Why? Because it’s a photo-sharing app, which makes visual engagement with users a breeze.
Jing notes, “Our account is very visual; we show our before and after photos with no filter, and we tell genuine stories and share videos of people’s vulnerability. We don’t post just to sell – we post to empower and motivate. Selling part is just a secondary reward.”
Using Instagram as a place for storytelling through photos is another benefit to sellers. Tell stories and sell solutions. That’s how to win new customers over.
Facebook has classically been a great option for e-commerce retailers to sell their goods and services. With the addition of Facebook Marketplace, sellers from verified e-commerce businesses to those who conduct business face-to-face have benefitted from this seller’s paradise of opportunity.
Facebook also has a wealth of other sub-areas for which e-commerce brands can sell their products. One such place is Facebook Groups. Alex Keyan of goPure Brands notes, “We have a Facebook group that is all about how our products help people achieve the best skin of their lives. Our Facebook group members help each other out with advice and tutorials, and it has really grown into a beautiful community of like-minded individuals. We have links on our Facebook Group that people can directly purchase our products.”
Loyal, dedicated customers of yours will already want to join a Facebook Group if it exists. It’s also a good way to reel new customers in as well. Using social proof and word-of-mouth marketing, Facebook Groups are a hidden gem in the larger realm of what Facebook offers its e-commerce consumers.
On top of that, Facebook Ads can be an extremely useful, untapped resource for e-commerce sellers. Take it from Alicja Olko of sixads. Olko tells us that Facebook Ads are another way to get eyes on your products: “Use Facebook Ads properly. Design them well, apply call-to-action buttons, and most importantly, don’t forget about the social proof. Interactions and comments will help you reach a wider audience, and influencer endorsements will help build authority for your brand.”
It’s pretty straightforward. If you want to reach more people, using ads to target specific groups is going to help boost your visibility immensely. Olko adds that you can “analyze the performance of your previous ads and use the ones with the most social proof as inspiration” for creating future ad campaigns. Sounds like a no-brainer to us. Editor’s note: Are you looking for a centralized social media reporting tool? In Databox you can measure organic and paid campaigns – all in one or several, looped dashboards. True time saver, right?
While TikTok is still relatively new to the social commerce game and doesn’t have quite as many features as other social commerce platforms do, it can still be valuable for specific niches.
Jason Wong of DoeLashes notes their platform’s success selling via TikTok. “We have been very successful selling on TikTok. This platform allows us to put viral marketing campaigns and be highly engaged with our audience. Since most people are now on TikTok, these campaigns have increased our sales and increased brand awareness.”
TikTok is great for sharing short video clips of your products or having micro-influencers post their own videos, linking back to your e-commerce platform. It’s not as widely used, but in the coming years, it might become as big of a player as Instagram and Facebook.
William Schumacher of Uprising Food notes that his company, a keto bread business, likes to use Pinterest for social selling. He states, “Most of our keto-friendly audience is on Pinterest looking for new and delicious recipes to cook, so it’s natural to interact with our audience there. We have links that directly go to our homepage so that people can go straight to our product page.”
What’s great about Pinterest as a social commerce platform is the fact that businesses can use Rich Pins – a free offering to all users – to automatically sync information from a website to a user’s pins.
Pinterest offers three types of Rich Pins:
The Rich Pin types that make the most sense for social commerce purposes are Product Rich Pins, though depending on the type of business (Uprising Food as our example here), Recipe Rich Pins can be used for social commerce purposes as well.
By now, you’re probably convinced of the effectiveness of social commerce for your business. But if you still need that extra push in the right direction, we rounded up some experts in the field to shed light on the best tips for implementing a social commerce strategy for your e-commerce business.
Social media platforms are two core things: filled with writing and filled with visuals. So to capture your audience’s attention, your social commerce strategy needs to implement strong copywriting and captivating visuals to reel customers in.
Lily Ugbaja of Finding Balance mentions that “e-commerce brands can successfully sell their products via social media by using highly converting copywriting ads, images, and videos.”
Ugbaja goes on to say that having clever on-page copy that you transfer into digital media formats (i.e. repurposing existing content) will benefit your brand if “your image or videos are attention-grabbing enough for a lead to click, almost ensuring a sale will take place.” In other words, upping your content repurposing skills can be a game-changer for your sales numbers.
Related: 6 Examples of Highly Converting Social Media Copy + 10 Tactical Writing Tips
Brack Nelson of Incrementors Web Solutions mentions that building a network and actually engaging with your audience is key to relationship-building that can lead to an increase in customers and sales.
Nelson notes, “Constantly check your social media streams for any mention of your business and relevant keywords and make sure to engage with those posts, particularly if they are questions. If someone asks about a possible service you’re providing without direct tagging you, they’ll still come up in your search results, and you can give them the answers yourself.”
Nelson goes on to say that the more often you interact with customers (or potential customers), you’ll “help make your audience feel like they are important members of your network and your customer base. And an excellent social media service experience with you will make it more likely that your customers will recommend you to others.” Sounds like a win-win to us!
It’s one thing to build your network and engage with people on social platforms, but it means nothing if you aren’t using the rich data these platforms provide you (for free!) no less.
To get the most out of social commerce as a strategy, Matt Rostosky of Good Neighbor Solutions tells e-commerce businesses to play the long game – especially with how so many things regarding e-commerce have changed in the past year.
Rostosky says: “Be more focused on social media and market research. Data mining through social media profiles and engagement activities will be more critical this year. Gathering as much information as you can through open-source intelligence is imperative in any competitive analysis process. In this way, businesses will be in a better position to maximize their brand presence considering how their competitors are relating to their customers and meeting their needs.”
Using data to make more informed selling decisions based on what your customers really need and are looking for is a winning plan when playing the long-term social commerce game.
Sometimes, the best way to boost sales is with the help of experts within your business’ niche.
Pir Fahad Momin of Slyecom explains how you can easily generate buzz about your e-commerce store by “networking with major players in your industry. Reach out to blogs to see if they’d be happy to review your products or website in a post.”
This is a fantastic way to generate conversation about your store’s offerings, drumming up interest with others who trust an expert’s opinion. Giving an industry expert a product to test, review, and write about is an easy, relatively cheap way to garner more social proof for your business.
Momin also notes that “having your website featured in a post on a popular site can drive targeted visitors to your e-commerce site.” The more people read about you, the more likely they are to want to visit your site and hopefully commit to making a purchase. At the very least, getting your brand mentioned on a blog written by an industry expert is always a good thing and can be part of a longer play down the road.
Related: The Most Effective Ways to Promote Your Online Store According to 25 Ecommerce Pros
If your brand is on the smaller side, that means you’re likely not working with the same amount of money major enterprise brands are to use influencer marketing as a social commerce strategy. But instead of thinking that help from influencers is beyond your reach, Alex Willen of Cooper’s Treats says to use micro-influencers instead.
Willen says, “The most successful thing we’ve done on social media is run giveaways with micro-influencers on Instagram. We look for dog accounts with three to 10 thousand followers, and we send them a free box of our treat mix to take photos with. Then, they run a giveaway to their followers, and we send a free box directly to the winner [of their giveaway]. For those who didn’t win, they advertise a discount code. It’s very low cost for us and almost always generates positive returns immediately.”
While Cooper’s Treats might shell out a few hundred on free treat boxes sent to these micro-influencers, Willen says that they “have also had a number of the winners come back and purchase more products when they finish their first box!” As the old saying goes, you have to spend money to make money, and the small amount Willen’s team spends on micro-influencers as a social commerce strategy add-on is a low price to pay for larger financial gains.
Related: 18 Expert Tips for Running Your First Influencer Marketing Campaign
None of the other tips can help a struggling e-commerce business if they don’t focus on one thing first: social media optimization. Optimizing your platforms for your audience is key to actually reaching the right people who may actually commit to making a purchase or becoming a customer with your brand.
Lianne Sanders of Total Shape reiterates this fact: “The best way e-commerce brands can sell successfully via social media is through proper optimization. No matter how effective your product is or how competitive you are, you won’t generate sales if you are targeting the wrong market.”
Sanders goes on to remind us that “while e-commerce is a great way to utilize technology and the digital landscape, without the proper optimization, it’s a waste of time.”
As our experts shared above, social commerce is a must-use e-commerce strategy that can no longer be overlooked. And it’s not just them saying so – the numbers don’t lie. Tons of brands see success with selling over social platforms.
More than 20% of brands get at least 10% of their sales from social media alone, while nearly 20% get more than half of their sales from social media.
All together, that’s over 40% of brands seeing successful sales from social channels. Imagine what the world of e-commerce would look like without social media. There would be a lot fewer players finding success in the long game of social commerce.
Don’t let the idea of a social commerce strategy scare you. Your brand is already using social media, why not maximize its potential? Your next steps should be to optimize your platforms, run some new campaigns, and implement the tips above. Once you do, you’ll be sure to find greater success and land more customers in no time.
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