Selling on Social: The Next eCommerce Golden Goose

I have an obsession with finding and buying things online, as attested to by the pile of Amazon Prime boxes under my desk. Like most shoppers — 74%, according to Sprout Social ­— I rely on social media to research products I want to buy, so it makes sense that I would buy directly within a social platform like Instagram or Pinterest once I’ve made up my mind. This desire for convenience has led to the start of social commerce, and it’s the next golden goose of eCommerce.

The concept behind social commerce is simple — consumers are immediately able to buy products or services directly within their social feeds, without having to leave the platform to visit another website. Marketers will finally be able to clearly quantify the ROI of social media, a long misunderstood and often qualitative return for most brands. Consumers will finally be able to research and make their purchases in the comfort of their favorite social platform.

Currently, marketers are testing tactics to work around the limited commerce frameworks available from these social platforms. Nordstrom and Michael Kors both use third-party solutions similar to Like2Buy. When users like a photo, these third-party solutions create copies of their Instagram feeds, and customers can find more information on their favorite photos or receive an email with the product information.

The need for workarounds should soon be obsolete as the main social platforms work with marketers to improve their offerings. Facebook recently improved its product ads to enable marketers to advertise multiple products per post. Instagram recently announced long-awaited clickable links for marketers, along with opening its advertising platform to smaller brands and businesses. Pinterest has also announced buyable pins.

As social media platforms continue to evolve their eCommerce capabilities, here are four tips to keep in mind when selling on social:

Master Content

When trying to sell on social media, the most important thing to remember is: don’t sell (at least not blatantly) on social media. Social media is where you slap the board shorts you’re selling on a hot body, give the model a Corona to hold, and caption it: “These shorts were made for summer!” When you mention price at the first touchpoint, you’ve already lost conversions. Sell the lifestyle of your brand, sell the feelings your product will elicit. Don’t actually sell the damn shorts — at least not until they ask, “how much?”

Master Customer Service

JD Power and Associates say two-thirds of consumers have used a company’s social media site for customer service. If a company doesn’t provide adequate service on social media, they can expect up to a 15% additional churn rate for existing customers, according to Gartner. Customers are three times more likely to recommend a brand that provides a useful and positive experience via social media, according to Harvard Business Review. Some brands have further quantified the benefits of great customer service. KLM recently published a report finding that their customer service agents drive $25M in additional revenue each year. Empower your customer service agents to help customers exclusively on social media and you will see the rewards in social commerce. Just make sure agents respond quickly, because always-on customers want to see an immediate reply.

Master the Data

The proof of your marketing is in the data. The golden age has finally come where sales and social can be linked concretely. So once you roll out social commerce, give it time and track everything. Track the most successful copy, the best ad targeting or retargeting campaigns, the most effective creative, and measure it against other channels to determine your results. But keep in mind that sales are just one of the many returns on your investment in social media and commerce.

Master Insight

You can learn a lot about your customers and what they want just by listening to them on social media. Many companies have entire marketing teams devoted to just this task. These insights help drive everything from creative to major business decisions to growth planning. Customer demographics, location, similar interests, and so many other insights are at your fingertips now through free native analytics reporting. Not using these data and insights to drive engagement is a massive missed opportunity when selling on social media.

For major players like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, finding a successful solution and experience for marketers and consumers means taking on eCommerce incumbents like Amazon and Google Shopping for their advertising and conversion dollars. But since the barrier to purchase products is lowered by native eCommerce experiences on social media, you can almost guarantee consumers will adapt and embrace the ability to purchase products without having to leave their feed.

Social commerce will continue to evolve and as it does, marketers need to focus on the strengths of social media platforms to master the art of selling directly within them. Mastering content, customer service, data, and insights within each platform will prove difficult but extremely rewarding for the few who execute well.

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