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Getting the fundamentals of social commerce right

By Rob Shaw, VP EMEA, Fluent Commerce

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Social networks play a crucial role for all brands, whether they sell through those platforms or not. In the past, brands spent huge amounts on advertising products to potential customers. Today, social networks such as Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest provide a more creative platform to advertise and showcase products through lifestyle pictures people can browse at their leisure.

Simplify purchasing

Connecting those platforms with the ability to purchase products takes them a step beyond traditional advertising or marketing. While social networks give the illusion of a seamless transaction, the product selection, payments and shipping information occur on the retailer’s e-commerce site.

This has been taken a step further with the introduction of the beta version of Instagram Checkout which lets users buy products from brands without leaving the app. The entire transaction, including payment and shipping information, takes place on Instagram. It is proving to be very effective with large increases in orders, revenue and conversion rates for participating retailers.

Speed up fulfilment

People are being primed for instant gratification with the success of Amazon Prime’s one-day delivery and the emphasis by social platforms on instant real-time news and information. The clue is in the name, “Insta”-gram.

To meet the demand as quickly as possible, retailers need to fulfil sales in a very short timeframe. Inventory management has to be in great shape. If someone clicks on an image of a beautiful handbag, they don’t want to be told it’s not available.

To meet the expectations of instant gratification, retailers need to fulfil orders as rapidly as possible. This means they need to get inventory close to customers to reduce shipping time, either by using their store network, extra distribution centres or drop-ship vendors.

Focus on customer experience

Social networks play a growing role in customer engagement from inspiration and discovery to purchase and fulfilment. They are more than just another vehicle for selling products. But each has its own way of engaging with users and you need to be mindful of how they work to ensure your posts are successful.

With Instagram, for example, the experience has to be visual. Most of the audience are Millennials and GenZ, so product images focus on customer benefit. Your message shouldn’t be “Buy our shirts” but “Here’s someone wearing our shirts and looking great.” Even if there isn’t a sale, you can measure customer engagement by how many shares an image gets.

Low-cost, high margin products sell

Social commerce has dramatically expanded the sales and engagement landscape, but it’s important not to get carried away with what it can do. Instagram users might enjoy seeing luxury products, but that doesn’t mean they will buy a £3,000 watch.

Affordable items, clothing in particular, have seen unprecedented growth on Instagram because low-cost, high margin products sell.

Smart brands understand it is better to select what they sell through social rather than promote their entire catalogue. This requires an Order Management System that can let you arrange available inventory by touchpoint.

Social commerce influence will grow

For retailers seeking to maintain and enhance their engagement with customers in today’s world, it’s important to understand millennials and GenZers don’t remember a world without social commerce. They don’t make a distinction between buying via Instagram, your website or physical store.

Given the importance of social networks, it’s imperative retailers don’t isolate their social commerce programme within the organisation. Social networks need to be part of a balanced channel strategy because they will become increasingly influential in promoting products to a new range of customers. Social commerce will be fundamental to many retailers and it needs to be an integral part of their future strategy.

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