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GUEST COMMENT Why a social commerce strategy is top of your 2022 wishlist

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The attraction of virtual storefronts and vibrant content is encouraging more and more shoppers to use social media to discover and purchase new products. However, social commerce is not just the latest internet fad, it has been gaining traction for the past decade. Spurred on by the outbreak of Covid-19 and the impact of lockdowns on our typical shopping behaviour, the popularity of social commerce has reached new heights. Lockdowns throughout the UK alone have seen a95 percent increase in social commerce over the past two years. Brands that have already adopted a social commerce strategy are using it to support their existing omnichannel strategies, and have reaped the benefits. However, many retailers are still unsure of how to best implement a strategy, or simply don’t understand what social commerce is. 

So, what exactly is social commerce? Social commerce can be found at the crossroads of ecommerce and social media. It allows businesses to turn social media users into prospective buyers and potential lifelong customers. It works by harnessing a brand’s social platforms, whether that be Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok and creates a seamless in-app purchasing experience. It is not necessary to have millions of followers to be successful and both profitable in a social commerce strategy; both small and large businesses alike can benefit if the strategy is right. As businesses begin to plan for 2022, it is paramount that a strategy that works to connect brands with consumers in a personable, accessible way is considered at the top of their priority list. 

Brands should be mindful that a social commerce strategy is not intended to replace ecommerce, but is instead a valuable addition to it. A social commerce strategy will perform best when incorporated with existing sales channels. This includes both its online and in-store presence. Brands should be aware that a consumer may make the decision to purchase a product based on a brand’s social media but will opt to buy the product in-store or from a trusted retail partner. Readily available ‘Buy now’ or ‘Where to Buy’ buttons on a brand’s social platforms (and other digital touchpoints) will simplify the buying journey for consumers and they may be more likely to complete the purchase entirely. 

A staggering97 percent of Gen-Z consumers cite social media as their most important source of shopping inspiration, while62 percent of consumers aged 13 to 39 have expressed interest in buying directly from social media feeds. While these numbers are significant, brands also need to pay attention to where it is these shoppers are eager to buy from. According to a shopper survey conducted by Google,two-thirds of respondents said that mobile-friendly shopping is essential in choosing which brand or retailer to purchase from. Brands should therefore pay attention to creating digital storefronts that work best on mobile, or run the risk of losing customers before they reach the checkout. Social commerce can counteract these risks, however, by ensuring a seamless approach to purchase from browsing to buying, whether customers are scrolling through Instagram or on looking at a Facebook page.

As 2021 draws to a close, businesses of all scales and sizes should reflect on how a social commerce strategy could bolster their revenue as they prepare for the new year. A quality that should not be overlooked by retailers is the power that social platforms give their brands to interact and build relationships with target consumers.72 percent of millennials have said that brands that engage with them through social network channels are likely to attract them as new customers. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has had far-reaching consequences on consumer spending habits, but it has particularly impacted how consumers conduct their holiday shopping. Now, more than ever, consumers are encouraged to support local businesses and to put money back into their local economy. With this in mind, and understanding that62 percent of consumers say they trust small and local businesses more than major retailers and consideringGen-Z trust in big business is low but social media usage is high, social commerce offers the ideal place for boosting consumer engagement with the demographic. For bigger brands, it will allow them to promote and support local retail partners. It should also be said that, through social commerce, social media platforms are working to level the playing field for both big and small businesses alike, all the more reason why a strong social commerce strategy should not be overlooked heading into the new year. 

Social commerce is not a waning fad, its acceleration will continue for as long as social media is as intrinsic as it currently is in our everyday lives. In fact, the global social commerce market is set to reachUS$2.9 trillion by the year 2026. This should come as no surprise when we consider the influence of younger consumers who play a significant role in shaping not only social media trends but shopping trends also. The continued rise of social media influencers does not look likely to end anytime soon either. The influence that they have on their followers is not something to be sniffed at, with35% of surveyed individuals stating that they trust what their favourite influencers have to say or recommend, and Gen-Z is particularly likely to make their purchase on social media for this reason. This trend is not restricted to just younger generations however, both Gen X andBaby Boomersare avid digital shoppers, particularly on Facebook, which, followed by Instagram, is theleadingplatform for social commerce. And yes, it is important to note that purchases and buying behaviour will be different across these generations, but what ties them together is their use of social media. 

For brands that wish to continue to innovate and grow, it is important that they understand the role social commerce will play in allowing them to do this. Businesses ahead of the new year need to evaluate how their existing channels work together and assess how they can work more cohesively, as opposed to in competition. Brands that not only invest in social commerce but work to understand it now – will reap the benefits well into the future, attracting consumers across all generations.

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