While selling has never been ‘easy’, the marketing process that led up to convincing a customer to choose your product was certainly less complex not so long ago. If you were big enough, advertising on television was the mecca and got a product in front of a huge swathe of a target market without too much thought involved. Newspapers, radio and outdoors advertising in the shape of billboards were the other main channels and that was pretty much it.
However, the internet came along and another big channel was added to the mix. Banners, the equivalent of online billboards were an easy choice, followed by pay-per-click marketing through Google, or one of the other search engines that people vaguely remember using back in the day. However, there are certainly few marketers that 15, 10 or even 5 years ago who can genuinely claim that they fully appreciated how much marketing and commerce would have moved online by 2017.
It’s not simply the percentage of overall commerce that is now ecommerce or the percentage of a company’s marketing budget that is now spent online which is the real revolution. The multi-faceted nature of driving business online has become truly unique in its complexity. And it is moving quickly. The techniques and trends that successful practitioners of online commerce employed 2 years ago are significantly different today.
Social commerce has come from nowhere to become, over the past couple of years, a huge focus for brands and retailers. It’s only a couple of years since marketers were debating the ROI on social media advertising, mainly focused on Facebook. Now it’s considered an absolute must and its spread across social platforms, from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Instagram. Social media platforms are quickly developing both in terms of which are popular and also the functionalities and options available to users and social commerce marketers. So, what are the main social commerce trends that count as ‘must knows’ in 2017/18?
Content is King – As Long as It’s Video…and shoppable
Video seems to be everywhere these days. As online attention spans drop and the small window in which attention can be captured ever narrows, video content is being used more and more to capture New live streaming functionalities have recently been added to a host of social platforms, including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. All 3 also provide platforms for the creation of video ads.
The most significant trend in video content in social commerce is the rise of shoppable video. This can be either live, such as recent pilots on Instagram where fashion shows were broadcast live with information on items embedded into the stream and clickable links allowing viewers to make purchases, or pre-recorded. Instagram’s tie-up with BigCommerce, an ecommerce tech company means purchases can be made within the social media itself, without the need to for users to be redirected to the website of brands.
Budget allocated for Facebook live streaming and Instagram Stories strategies as well as shoppable ads can be expected to be a growing social commerce trend into 2018.
Capture Impulse Buying
One issue that ecommerce has always faced is that it hasn’t been able to really take advantage of the ‘impulse buy’ market. As most of us probably know, sometimes to our cost, a significant percentage of the purchases of non-necessity items we make are made on impulse. Something simply catches our eye and the magpie instinct kicks in. However, the online space is one in which we have tended to have a much more considered approach to shopping. It’s where prices are compared and reviews consulted.
Social commerce is an opportunity for brands to also take advantage of impulse buying behaviour online. Pinterest’s addition of the ‘Buy Now’ button is a clear move in this direction. Market research indicates that 93% of Pinterest users plan to buy things they have viewed on the platform. Until relatively recently, that meant simply finding out who produced the favoured pin and taking it from there. Now one click can turn the interest into a sale. Expect to see similar ‘buy now’ buttons with native purchasing within the social platform become a common feature over social platforms in 2018.
Chat App Commerce
The four biggest chat apps in terms of worldwide users are Facebook’s Messenger, WhatsApp, QQ Mobile and WeChat. A little known fact is that the combined regular user base of those 4 apps is in fact larger than that of the 4 largest social media platforms. It’s probably then no surprise that social commerce is expected to start to quickly develop into chat apps over the course of 2018.
Facebook already has a function that allows advertisers to add a call to action in ads published on the platform to initiate a chat with the company page through Messenger. Chat bots can be expected to be more widely used. For example, instead of, or in addition to, retargeting visitors to an ecommerce site through banners, a chat bot could ask them in WhatsApp if they are still interested in viewed products.
The use of private chat channels has been demonstrated to create a stronger sense of intimacy between potential consumers and brands.
Pro-Active Approach to Ratings
Ratings, and user reviews, may not seem like a ‘new’ trend when it comes to ecommerce. In fact, they have long been a cornerstone. However, they haven’t been used much directly in social commerce. Indirectly, interaction between social platform users and brands, such as comments on a brand’s page or around content published by the brand demonstrates sentiment. However, we can expect to see social platforms and brands take a more pro-active approach to ratings and reviews over the coming year.
This will dovetail with the trend towards native in-platform shopping on social networks, with product listings becoming a norm. These listings will start to come with ratings and reviews and we can expect brands to take a more pro-active approach, potentially involving chatbots, to prompt ratings and reviews on social platforms. With notifications on comments made on comments coming straight to users in a format they are familiar with, ratings and reviews on social commerce platforms would also expect to take more of a discourse format than on traditional review sites.
User Driven Sales
Finally, social platform users being harnessed as a de-centralised social commerce sales team is set to become a growing trend. The boom in photo and video apps has seen more and more social media users creating their own content, often featuring brands and products. Platforms that allow this user created content to feature shoppable content to be included and affiliate schemes rewarding user-created content for any subsequent sales generated will become common and 2018 can be expected to see a rise in the significance of ‘micro-influencers’ in social commerce.
A recent Dorito’s campaign even invited social media users to create their own ads with the chance to win a $1 million prize.