Social media is a powerful tool for ecommerce websites. The ability to not only direct shoppers toward a new product or an attractive deal, but to engage with them and create a sense of community, is incredibly useful. A complete social media presence also includes direct sales through some networks, as well as having the back-end tools in place to let customers share products and recent purchases with friends and followers through just a single click.
While it’s sometimes hard to measure concrete returns on the indirect aspects of using social networks, such as asking questions and engaging in conversation with followers, these components help to build brand loyalty and a sense of community. When it comes to dealing with consumer care issues, these social media interactions are important in retaining customers and demonstrating a commitment to resolving problems.
Why social media is crucial for eCommerce brands
The idea used to be that using social media in eCommerce was a bit wishy washy; no tangible return to the business and “while it could work for some brands, it wouldn’t work for us”—this was a very common belief.
eCommerce businesses can’t afford that perception today. The fact is that every type of business can improve sales or grow the business using social media—with an extremely tangible return. The main reason is that for virtually all businesses:
Your customers are on social media;
It is extremely cost-effective to market to them;
It helps create a solid image.
It’s where your customers are
Today three-quarters of shoppers use social media when making a purchasing decision.
Most of them use social media to actively engage with and discover brands and products to do with their interests. If you sell motorbikes, you can build a following of motorbike enthusiasts on social media—and gradually and thoughtfully sell to them.
Some brands never sell directly on social media (we cover how to do this later) but simply use the platform to build an engaged audience with awesome content…which inevitably leads to improved sales anyway. The benefits of social media in eCommerce can be massive across the buyer’s journey: from stoking awareness of the product or solution (like we’ve just described) to actively aquiring customers and then retaining them over the long term.
It’s extremely cost effective
At its most basic, social media is free. Companies can set up their pages, post content, respond to messages, and build a following without spending a dime on the platform. There are still internal costs (mostly staff costs for planning, creating content, and handling messages) but it’s still possible for businesses to enjoy massive growth using free social media.
Paid social ads are more divisive: they can be exceptionally cost-effective (which is easy to measure since there is direct attribution) when done right. The problem for many brands is that they launch head-first into paid ads without a plan—and in those cases, the costs can get out of hand fast.
Which is why the rest of this article is devoted to building and executing your eCommerce social media strategy, what to expect, and in-the-trenches advice for making it work.
It helps create a solid image
Social media allows eCommerce companies to cultivate, build and share their own image. That’s why elements such as logos and cover photos are so important: over time, audiences learn to recognize your brand even when they’re not actively looking for your products.
Your brand image helps you stand out and cut through the noise of social media, which is an essential weapon because that noise can be loud!
Last week, social media platform TikTok boosted its aim of becoming a shopping destination by testing ecommerce features in Europe with a select group of streetwear brands, according to news source Bloomberg.
A spokeswoman for the platform said: “TikTok has been testing and learning with ecommerce offerings and partnerships. We’re excited to experiment with new commerce opportunities that enable people to discover and engage with what they love.”
However, ecommerce is not new to social media and already has a significant presence across different platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
In a changing retail landscape, with ecommerce becoming a mainstream way of shopping, could social media be the next big channel for ecommerce, even eventually replacing websites such as Amazon and eBay?
Retail Insight Network spoke with experts across the retail industry to hear their answer to the question: “Could social media become the biggest ecommerce platform?”
“The future of ecommerce lies in being more intuitive than the competition”
Software ecommerce company Productsup chief marketing officer Marcel Hollerbach said: “Consumers expect a seamless online shopping experience, with fast and often free delivery.
“They also crave brand experiences and, while the return of physical stores gives consumers back a nice retail experience, we shouldn’t forget they are still using more online channels than ever before.
“Brands and retailers need to start combining e-commerce with physical activations to offer a meaningful customer experience.
“Most social platforms have jumped on the social commerce bandwagon, with many launching nascent ecommerce functions that are unsurprisingly set to flourish. The future of ecommerce lies in being more intuitive than the competition, grabbing consumers with content that resonates with them.
“Customers expect social media content, advertisements included, to be targeted to their interests – as well as to the aesthetic of the platform on which they exist. On TikTok, we see short, relatable clips, while on Instagram, content tends to be more aesthetic.”
“Social platforms make it easier for customers to make a quick purchase.”
AR and 3D marketing and ecommerce platform Poplar Studio co-founder David Ripert said: “As social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are looking for alternative revenue models, they’re competing with larger ecommerce sites and need to provide increasingly engaging experiences for customers.
“With research from Deloitte indicating that 71% of customers say the availability of augmented reality (AR) experiences would encourage them to shop more frequently, social media platforms have been tapping into AR technology to help boost engagement and combine with their ecommerce features to boost sales.
“Since October 2019, Instagram users have been able to try cosmetics and eyewear before buying with AR try-on features on product pages. Through AR technology such as virtual try-ons and product visualisation on social platforms, they can replace and improve the experience of sampling products in-store.
“When used in collaboration with features like Instagram Checkout, AR can influence customers to make spontaneous purchasing decisions, as the items which are harder to visualise suddenly become more accessible, and the social platforms are making it easier for customers to make that quick purchase.”