GUEST COMMENT How retailers can embrace social commerce in 2022

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

The phrase ‘social commerce’ is all too often used interchangeably with ecommerce, yet they are in fact distinct forms of digital retail. Social commerce is related to — but separate from — standard online shopping and deserves to be defined and addressed uniquely. So let’s start by defining what social commerce actually is: it is when the entire shopping experience — the journey from discovering a product to clicking ‘buy’ — takes place entirely on a social media platform.

This definition is particularly important for retailers when it comes to taking view of the role that brand engagement plays in delivering personalised customer experiences. The ways in which consumers shop using social media is distinct from more general online shopping. Therefore, this means that retailers must focus their marketing efforts more specifically to grow their social commerce revenue stream.

Nurturing social channels is important because social commerce has proven its power within the consumer journey and its uniquely powerful potential to drive ROI for brands. A report from leading consulting firm Accenture indicates that social commerce is now a $492bn global industry and is expected to grow three times as fast as traditional ecommerce, reaching $1.2tn by 2025.

Devising a social commerce strategy is an important component of brand marketing, and it must be differentiated from the brand’s overall ecommerce strategy. Given its great market potential, there’s no better time than now for modern retailers to revamp and prepare their commerce strategies, incorporating best practices around social commerce along with sophisticated analytics to ensure that each campaign yields success.

Social commerce: an overview

Social commerce has been steadily on the rise throughout the past decade, but in the last two years, it has all but become the de facto way of shopping for millions of consumers. The Covid-19 pandemic moved consumers out of physical shops and towards online shopping in a significant way. But that’s not all — mobile data traffic increased by up to 50% as a result of the pandemic, meaning that consumer shopping now takes place increasingly via mobile devices. With that, digital channels have become more influential during the purchase journey.

Where consumers may have once responded to television adverts, billboards, or magazine articles, today’s consumer attention is centred around the smartphone screen. Accordingly, this is where a large number of purchase decisions are made today. With a booming influencer landscape, digital content drives the majority of today’s online sales. Tailor-made content is used to educate consumers about a brand, showcase products, and drive loyalty.

As social media has become more ingrained into our daily lives, it dovetails with the ecommerce industry, making social media scrolling a shoppable experience. This benefits both consumers for its ease of use and brands for its ability to reach consumers right on their smartphone screen.

Social commerce and the role of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is central to social ecommerce. One of the primary reasons people shop through social media channels is due to the discovery aspect of visual social media apps like Instagram and TikTok. Products can be showcased to consumers directly through social media apps, using engaging content delivered by social influencers.

Influencer content works efficiently to enable social commerce because it is — even when paid for and clearly hashtagged as such — perceived as more authentic than traditional advertising content. Influencers are viewed by the average consumer as a trusted source for authentic and genuine content. Consumers are more likely to purchase a product when it’s been recommended and showcased by their favourite TikTok influencer than by a brand’s celebrity spokesperson.

This has led to a broad redistribution of the advertising budget, away from television and print, and towards digital advertising, including influencer marketing. A recent report has found that the Instagram influencer market will be worth $22.2 billion by 2025 (up from $13.8bn 2021).

That’s why today’s top brands put their budgets towards influencer campaigns that enable social commerce, as opposed to the more traditional forms of marketing spend. According to Robin Marchant, Director of Marketing (APAC) at Shopify: “As customer acquisition costs skyrocket, brands are looking to collaborate with creators to deepen relationships and build awareness, trust and loyalty among their audience.” And it’s paying off, as recent industry research reveals that influencer marketing campaigns earn $5.78 for every dollar spent.

Influencer content, authenticity and measurement

For brands seeking to authentically connect with consumers (which, let’s face it, should be every brand these days), working with social media influencers as part of the overall marketing strategy should be a key consideration. If implemented strategically and managed correctly, aligning a brand with the right influencers can make a difference in terms of visibility, brand perception and, importantly, a company’s bottom line.

One of the key ways that influencer marketing can be measured is by using engagement as a metric. It is well understood that when consumers authentically engage with content beyond just giving it a like — that is, writing a comment or sharing a post — it creates a bond with the brand that has been shown to lead to sales.

But just as important as selecting the right influencers for a brand is having the right tools to measure the effectiveness of those influencers in real-time and being able to make adjustments when necessary. After all, trends change and the online world moves quickly so marketers need the tools necessary to make swift changes to their campaigns as required.

It’s all in the numbers: making it make sense

However, it can often be difficult for brands to track what’s working and where sales are actually coming from — and in an era where social commerce dominates, being able to do so is crucially important to be able to shift budget resources accordingly.

Brands need to be able to see the number of clicks, sales revenue and ROI that their social influencer campaigns are generating. Matching sales data with campaign data inside of an influencer marketing tool can be cumbersome, oftentime requiring exported data to be matched manually in Excel. This can be time consuming and costly and more modern, streamlined solutions are needed.

Fortunately, today’s marketing managers have a new set of skills in their marketing toolbox — the power to analyse sales data and cross reference it against campaign data from influencer marketing platforms using automation technology. An influencer marketing campaign can be set up in mere minutes, and the analytics portion of the resulting sales funnel should be as well.

Automation is the name of the game here, enabling a clear analysis of each influencer campaign. Every retailer or DTC brand can now access tools that leverage automation to provide actionable data and insights to hand. Influencer marketing isn’t just a fad; it’s becoming even more central to some industries. The retail brands that take the time to implement and measure it correctly have a leg up in social commerce, and by extension, the ability to drive loyalty amongst modern consumer demographics.

Author:

Alexander Frolov, chief executive officer and co-founder at HypeAuditor

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