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GUEST COMMENT How retail brands can use social commerce to get ahead in 2022

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The days of simple shop floor selling are long behind us. Even prior to the pandemic, in- person shopping was on the decline, and with UK online spending set to reach £75 billion by 2024, retailers have little choice but to embrace the web.
The internet has given retailers numerous new sales channels – from online ‘department stores’ such as Amazon and Zalando to consumer-to-consumer sites like eBay and Etsy – since its inception. However, as Facebook’s recent move to focus on the metaverse demonstrates, social media platforms are continuing to transform into something more than just a place to connect with friends, and in recent years these platforms have presented the opportunity for direct sales  for brands through specific commerce solutions. For example, TikTok recently partnered with Shopify to allow brands to have direct access to its rapidly growing fanbase, while Instagram has added Drops to its ‘Shop’ section, helping retailers to create buzz for forthcoming products. And most recently Youtube announced it will be launching Youtube Shopping; with 89% of viewers agreeing that YouTube creators give recommendations they can trust, this opens a huge opportunity for social commerce sales on the platform.
Like all online shopping trends, social commerce has been accelerated by the pandemic, and it doesn’t look set to slow down. So, what do retail brands need to know about this growing trend? And how can they start using social commerce effectively to ensure sales success in 2022? 
Getting to grips with social commerce
Putting in place a unique social commerce plan can pay off in many ways. On a wider level, it can help increase your brand awareness. Public social feeds already account for 52% of new brand discoveries, while 30% of consumers say that they would buy a product from a social media platform. It can also help to inspire customer confidence, with 84% of shoppers looking for insights on at least one social media platform before making an online purchase.
Creating cohesive customer journeys is important, and social commerce gives you the flexibility to do so through a wide range of customisable shop fronts. Social commerce can also provide insight into customer behaviours that normal ecommerce solutions may not capture. With constant privacy changes – such as the impending loss of the third-party cookie – being able to access this social data can help brands better understand their customers. From a customer perspective, it means items can be purchased without having to set up a new account – something that makes 35% of shoppers abandon their cart – or even leave the platform to visit the brand’s site, providing a seamless shopping experience.
There are numerous other positives: More authentic engagement and traffic, higher SEO ranking, increase in traffic and growth, reaching a global audience and more. With all this for the taking, brands now need to implement unique social commerce campaigns to stay ahead of the competition, and insights from A/B testing methods will be the first step to achieving this.
Test and learn for long-term success

Ultimately, social commerce is a rapidly moving environment and marketers need to be able to respond quickly to engage their target audiences with the right deal at the right time. A/B testing is an important tool for enabling more accurate decision making for social commerce campaigns, as it identifies the changes required to enhance campaigns.  A/B testing essentially runs as an experiment. A brand could, for example, have two different versions of an online advert or social media post running simultaneously. Customers’ engagement and behaviour towards each will then be analysed in real-time, allowing marketers to assess and compare the different customer reactions to each set of
creative to determine which characteristics are most successful such as video format, copy and images. 
The insights offered by these A/B trials can be particularly beneficial; for brand and conversion lift. For brand lift, it offers practical insights into audience interest that can be utilised to enhance creative copy to gain a better response from customers.  For conversion lift, A/B testing can help retailers to dig deeper into the specific variables that stimulate purchasing decisions. By testing different versions of one campaign via various social channels, for example, brands can objectively determine which criteria are integral to increasing conversion rates specifically to each platform as successful techniques will likely be different.
Importantly, however, A/B testing must be run separately across all platforms – strategies that work well for one may not work well for another.
Retail was able to survive – and even take advantage of – the periods of national lockdown by being rapid and flexible. Though consumers are returning to stores, shopping habits have been permanently changed.
Facebook’s focus on creating the metaverse is only going to make social commerce more important, with its blending of virtual reality and augmented reality opening the door to endless possibilities for retailers. Before this next generation is created, retail marketers must focus now on creating an agile  and unique social commerce strategy – particularly one that is underpinned by the data-driven insights that result from A/B testing – to stay ahead of the competition in the New Year and beyond.


Antonio Negro, retail and ecommerce director at Making Science. 

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