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Is 2018 the Year Social Commerce Finally Takes Off?

Posted by Nadine Miller on December 27, 2017

With more people engaging with brands through social channels than ever, businesses have some tough decisions to make. Buy buttons are now a part of the social landscape, but they haven't become a major revenue stream for most companies. As social becomes more integrated with commerce options, should businesses follow with bigger investments into social commerce platforms? Maybe. It all depends on the definition of social commerce.

What Is Social Commerce?

When only looking at direct sales generated through social channels, the numbers are not exciting

  • 71.8 percent of businesses report 0 income from social buy buttons.
  • More than one-third of social media users have never used embedded buy buttons.
  • An L2 survey showed 60 percent of brands already offer social buy buttons.

What may be even more disappointing is the fact that the number of social buyers has remained fairly static. If buy buttons are the only measure of social commerce success, it might not make sense to invest. However, social commerce can, and should, include a lot more than just direct sales. Sales that start from native content, paid ads, chatbots, influencer pages or GeoTargeting through mobile apps all fall under the broad heading of social commerce. With these included, the landscape becomes much more exciting.social-commerce-purchase-chart.jpg

Social Commerce Trends to Watch

While buy buttons are not returning profits directly, social media is still a great way to connect with customers. For most marketers, some of the top goals for social include building customer engagement and building a better omnichannel experience. After all, while 14 percent of consumers have never purchased a product they first saw via social media, the vast majority either later purchase in-store or via the brand's website. That makes social media a major stop along the road to the buyer's journey.

Choosing the Right Social Platform for Commerce

Purchasing inspired by social ads is on the rise. Pinterest has shown particular gains, jumping up to 18 percent while Instagram is the clear leader at 22 percent. For social commerce, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are the primary channels that generate conversions. Video and image-based content drive conversions at a much higher rate than other styles, and all of these social platforms encourage multimedia posting.

The Rise of Chatbots

Often considered solely a customer service tool, chatbots generate a surprising amount of sales. Sephora reported an 11 percent lift in makeover reservations when it unveiled an easy option to book through chat. Customers engage with chatbots to find out more about products, complete the ordering process and get new product updates. Every conversation is not about returns or helping dissatisfied customers.

Social Commerce Is Already Here

Affiliate sales programs that leverage social media to generate sales, native content, paid ads, influencer promotions and more all form part of the social commerce picture. Brands that utilize these options well see immediate results. As buyers become more comfortable with direct purchasing options through social platforms, it is likely that even the underutilized buy button will get more clicks. 

After all, convenience is a key part of finalizing any sale, and what could be more convenient than seeing a picture and clicking buy? That seamless experience is on the way. Social media already plays a major role in customer decision making from collecting opinions to interacting with brands. Direct sales may take a little longer to take off, but businesses need to anticipate change, not react to it.

Topics: Ecommerce, Marketing, social media, trends

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