The pandemic outbreak in 2020 forced businesses to rethink their entire marketing strategy. Those heavily relied on their brick-and-mortar presence had to find new ways to survive.
This led modern trends, such as eCommerce and social commerce supercharged overnight. – says Carl Hutchinson in one of Retail Week’s recent articles. (C., Hutchinson, 2021) Those who were able to shift to online sales survived, while those who were struggling with adapting new technology found themselves beaten by competitors.
What is Social Commerce
To simply put, social commerce is when brands use social media to either sell their products directly from a social media platform or use social media platforms to promote their goods that is linked to their eCommerce.
Some Important Stats to See How Social Commerce Has Changed Shopping Habits
Image Source: Pexels
In 2020 there was a sizable increase in using social media platforms. Here are some stats that clearly showcase how social commerce has changed shopping habits.
Shopify’s latest survey about post-pandemic shopping behaviour reveals that 25% of surveyed consumers’ primary shopping mode will be online shopping. It means, the number has doubled compared to pre-pandemic shopping behaviour (before Covid 12% vs. after pandemic is over 25%). (K., MacGillivray, 2021)
Online sales seen a 47% increase compared to 2019. 8% of all product searches globally was taken place on Facebook alone. (C., Hutchinson, 2021)
50% of all online searches was taken place on Amazon in the UK. (C., Hutchinson, 2021)
According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2021 Benchmark Report, 30% of online shoppers say, they would likely to make purchases on social media. (W., Geyser, 2021)
43.8% of Internet users said that social networks are primarily source when looking for information about a brand. (W., Geyser, 2021)
26.9% of social media users claimed they take note of relevant ads seen on social media. (W., Geyser, 2021)
The same survey from Influencer Marketing Hub revealed that the average time per person spent on Facebook daily is 58 minutes, on Instagram 53 minutes, on YouTube 40 minutes, on WhatsApp 28 minutes and on Twitter 1 minute. (W., Geyser, 2021)
Global Trade says that over 87% of surveyed consumers reported that social media help them to make purchase decisions. (K., Tsang, 2021)
During the Covid_19 the global social commerce market is estimated to growth with 3.4% and is predicted to continue to grow in 2021. (Research and Markets, 2021)
Seeing these stats, it is clear that it is more important than ever to keep an eye on the social media trends as a business, whether it is small or big.
Social Media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and Pinterest have constantly been expanding their eCommerce offerings.
At the start of pandemic for example, Facebook launched their Shop feature on their app to allow businesses to create their own shopfront on Facebook and Instagram. These social media shopfronts allow consumers to shop directly from social media without ever leaving the platform.
Evolving Customer Expectations
Image Source: Unsplash
Sprout Social released their latest “Social Index” report showcasing how social media usage behaviour has changed over the pandemic and reveals key social media marketing trends brands should follow to maximise awareness and keep connected with their customers. (Sprout Social, 2021)
Here are the most important stats from the survey.
What makes a brand best in class on social?
- They offer strong customer service (47%)
- They engage with their audience (46%)
- They are transparent (44%)
- They create memorable content (39%)
- They have a distinct personality (33%)
- They tell a compelling story (28%)
- They are the first to join a new social network (23%)
- They set trends (18%)
- They leverage pop culture (17%)
As we can see above, efficient customer service is one of the crucial services customers expect from a brand on social media. Thus, it is not a surprise that good customer service takes the very first place when customers choose to buy from a brand over their competitor.
47% of surveyed consumers responded that responding to a query in a timely manner on social media is very important to them.
43% said it is important for a brand to demonstrate understanding of customer needs on social media.
Creating more culturally relevant content is important to 39% of surveyed consumers.
Creating educational content about products and services is important to 31%.
27% of surveyed consumers expect brands to engage with them on social media.
As we can see above, the two key elements of effective usage of social media as a brand is customer service and engagement.
Social platforms brands use vs. consumers want brands to use more
Sprout Social survey also revealed that 9 out of 10 customers will buy from brands they follow on social media.
- 91% visit the brand’s website or app
- 90% buy from that brand
- 89% will recommend that brand to family and friends
- 86% will choose that brand over the competitor
- 86% visit the brand’s physical retail store
- 85% will buy from that brand more often
Those brands that engage with their customers, share memorable content, and provide superb customer service on social media will likely to be able to increase their conversion rate and increase sales.
Over the past 12 months with physical stores shut down, people were seeking new ways to connect with brands. This accelerated the demand of quality customer service on social channels. Sharing opinions about a product, service, or a brand on social media platforms has also become habitual.
These behaviours are likely to stay with us after the pandemic is over. – predicts Sprout Social.
Social Commerce is Booming in China – WeChat and Little Red Book
Image Source: Unsplash
China is in the frontline of social commerce. According to Insider, the most popular social media platform in China, WeChat will stand as a model for U.S. brands when building their eCommerce strategy in the near future. (A., Phaneuf, 2021)
China’s most popular messaging app, WeChat has over 1 billion monthly users and is heavily investing in their eCommerce ambitions by allowing their users to host live online shopping events, offering brands to create more creative, immersive, and sharable campaigns, and attracting global brands such as Nike or Gucci by introducing WeChat Mini Programs. (F., Chu, 2021)
WeChat Mini Programs are ‘sub-applications’ within the app offering advanced features for its users, such as coupons, task manager, eCommerce and much more. (W., Geyser, 2021) In 2019 the total transactional value generated by WeChat Mini Programs was more than $115 billion. (W., Geyser 2021)
The pandemic outbreak followed by lockdown increased the number of people who integrated social commerce into their daily lives as a new habit.
WeChat Mini Programs allow customers to purchase in groups. Social media is about people connecting to each other, right? Following this idea, group buying means that companies offer discounted price for customers who can encourage enough people for shopping by sharing the product with their social network. If there are enough people ready to buy that specific product, everyone will get the product in discounted price. (M., Grant, 2019)
“Group-buying and WeChat based social commerce exceed 90% of the total market share for social commerce.” – says Digital Commerce 360 in their article. (F., Chu, 2021)
Little Red Book
Little Red Book is one of the largest and fastest growing social commerce apps specifically targeting Gen Z and Millennial women, living in top-tier cities. The app helps its users to explore and purchase products, share feedbacks and recommendations. (F., Chu, 2021)
The app also helps connecting with influencers (they call them ‘key opinion leaders’ or KOLs) while allowing influencers to publish lengthy blog posts and articles, mainly about beauty and skin care products.
Littler Red Book launched its livestream feature last March. The function allows brands that have official store on the app to host livestreams to promote their products. During the livestream session cards pop up for the viewers with a specific product on it. To instantly purchase the product, all the viewers need to do is to click on the ‘Go to buy’ button that reveals the product description and even an exclusive coupon. In this way, customers can buy products without leaving the social media platform or the livestream itself. (F., Chu, 2021)
Lewis Vuitton was the first luxury brand that used Little Red Book’s livestream. The purpose of their livestream campaign on this platform was an experiment to see a new type of shopping experience. The result: 152,000 viewers and thousands of comments.
The success of WeChat and Little Red Book can show brands a practical example on how they can incorporate social commerce into their digital strategy successfully.
The Hottest Social Commerce Trends for 2021
Image Source: Unsplash
Chat Bots & Messaging Apps
Modern chatbots cannot just answer questions, but also able to carry on natural conversations real time. AI powered chatbots use machine-learning and behavioural data to understand the intent behind a customer query and respond their question in a human way by analysing the customer’s entire conversation history. (C., Chi, 2021)
HubSpot collected the best 12 chatbots for 2021 in this article.
AR & VR Technology
AR filter on Instagram: Photos Source: @therollingstones
According to Facebook, 78% of people find AR a fun way to interact with brands. AR and VR related searches in English language on Facebook grew twice as fast in emerging markets. (Facebook, 2021)
In 2020 Facebook launched Facebook Horizon, a virtual reality world where users can play games, socialise, and get inspired. Currently Facebook Horizon is an invite-only service and users need to purchase VR headsets to be able to use the service. (Oculus, n/a)
AR technology is easier to use as it does not require special equipment to enjoy. AR is for example face filters when you can try different make ups to help your purchase decisions or modify screen the look of your surroundings, for example when you can try new furniture if it fits to your room before actually purchasing it. Or extended reality for example Pokémon Go, when you use your smart phone camera to search and collect items and earn rewards. (W., Geyser, 2021)
Voice technology is more frequently used, especially by Millennials and Gen Z. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, those who prefer to use voice search are likely to buy items using the same technology. (W., Geyser, 2021)
Voice technology is already integrated to both Android and Apple devices. Stand-alone devices such as Google or Amazon Alexa are becoming more and more popular.
As a result, businesses should keep up with the trend and should integrate voice technology into their business. (W., Geyser, 2021)
As we saw above, livestreaming has been more popular than ever on social media channels, and live shopping events have seen stellar growth over the year of the pandemic.
You can target different audience groups, promote a specific product, or answer frequently asked questions to help your customers with their buying decisions.
You can even target different audience being at different stage of the sales funnel.
Here are some creative ideas on how to host a successful live stream event based on a recent article on HubSpot (L., Green, 2021):
- Organise a behind a scenes tour in your shop/office/warehouse etc.
People love going behind the scenes and see how it is like to work for a company, how your staff work in the kitchen, or how you put together and pack their orders etc.
- Teach something your audience can benefit from.
For example, show creative and alternative ways on how to use of your products, or give practical advice for women solo travellers etc.
- Host a contest.
People love games. Ask them to answer quiz questions, ask their opinion, or make them guess how many balls there are in a jug. Ask your audience to take creative/fun photos while using one of your products and tag friends etc. There are endless creative ways to make your audience feel being involved.
- Have fun.
Your live stream does not always have to be about sales or education.
Create videos about colleagues having fun. For example, “what people think we do” and “what we actually do”
- Make announcements or breaking news.
Are you on the verge of launching your next amazing product range? Are you opening your new shop very soon? Are going to collaborate with another brand or celebrity? Drumroll, and make a big live announcement! Give exclusive discount to your customers who are watching your live or make them feel special by offering other privileges.
- Raise money for good.
Collab with a charity and raise money for something good by either encouraging your audience to donate or by announcing that you will donate 10% (or whatever) your profit from a particular item(s)’ sales to that charity.
- Host live shopping event.
Showcase your inventory or a specific product range that is visually compelling. Allow your audience to comment if they want to buy something they like or share their experiences if they already own that product.
Social Commerce and eCommerce Platforms to Integrate More
As many eCommerce platforms have recognised the popularity of social commerce, we will definitely see more collaborations and social integrations in the future.
For example, Shopify enables links to Facebook and Instagram to help making sales on both channels. On Pinterest, Shopify helps brands generating sales by Shoppable Pins. (Shopify, n/a)
User Generated Content (UGC)
Stackla’s surveys revealed that content created by consumers had impact on 60% (and 70% of Millennials) of surveyed consumers’ purchase decisions. (P., Cassidy, 2017)
The same survey revealed that to 90% of Millennials authenticity is important when choosing brands to support.
Learn more about the power of UGC here.
UGC is more trustworthy to customers as they perceive it as an honest review of a product or a service. As consumers are more sensitive to social media ads, the most successful brands do not create ad that look like an ad anymore. Instead, they create ads that look like posts and fit perfectly into the social media newsfeed. (W., Geyser, 2021)
As Tik Tok says in their Tik Tok for Business guide: “Don’t make ads. Make Tik Toks.” (Tik Tok for Business, 2021)
Take UGC to the next level by partnering with influencers. Create an ongoing partnership with them in order to maximise success. Nano and micro influencers are on the rise because businesses realised the potential in their stable and loyal follower base. In addition, nano and micro influencers show 7% engagement rate. This is the highest among all of the other influencer types. (A., Hutchinson, 2021)
Find more about influencer marketing in this article.
Facebook Shop. Image Source: @inkmeetspaper
Facebook launched Facebook Shop, a mobile platform where brands can create their online shopfront for free, to help medium sized and small businesses to sell their products directly from Facebook. (A., Phaneuf, 2021)
Facebook has just announced new shopping and discovery tools on WhatsApp, Marketplace, and Shop listing. – announced Social Media Today in their newest article. (A., Hutchinson, 2021). Here are the announced improvements:
- Facebook Shops will appear on WhatsApp.
This will enable businesses to present their entire shops within the app. And the best thing is, they will have to set up their shop only once, and once they have done that, their shop will appear across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
- Bring shop listing to Marketplace.
It means that businesses’ Shop products will be expanded to Marketplace. This will provide more space for businesses to appear with their products and connect customers who are interested in their products.
- Personalised Shop ads.
Personalised Shop ads will display items based on consumers’ previous shopping behaviours and interest. In this way, ads will be sent to those who are most likely to make a purchase based on their previous behaviour.
- Visual search.
Facebook visual search will be similar to Pinterest Lens and Google Lens. Users will be able to upload a photo or video or even scan a real item to find similar products based on the image. Facebook believe visual search will quickly transform consumers’ shopping behaviour. Visual search is currently being tested on Instagram.
- Facebook ads with product tags will be available globally.
- Facebook is currently testing AR Dynamic Ads while expanding their AR try-on partnerships.
Instagram Shop. Image Source: Instagram
In 2019 Instagram launched ‘Instagram Checkout’ that streamline brands allow purchases directly from Instagram.
In 2020 Instagram stepped further by placing a shopping icon on the bottom of the homepage. By clicking that button, consumers can instantly see products advertised by brands, influencers, or celebrities. (A., Phaneuf, 2021)
Customers can choose from a range of options, such as shops, shops you follow, editor’s picks, collections, videos, and guides.
Pinterest is about creating inspiration for what to buy. Pinterest is all about visuals, so this channel is mainly revolving around fashion, design, fitness, and health.
Users can create product groups that they can promote, or they can promote single pins as well. Product pins can earn labels, such as ‘Best Seller’ or ‘Popular’ to help increasing sales. (Pinterest, n/a)
Tik Tok ad. Image Source: @PeugeotUK
Tik Tok have launched Tik Tok for Business and Tik Tok Ads Manager this year to help businesses promoting themselves. Now brands can set up campaigns in line with a specific goals and objectives, whether it is reach, traffic, app install, video view, or conversion.
They published a step-by-step downloadable guide to help business owners setting up their campaigns. You can download the guide after registering here.
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A., Hutchinson (2021) Social Media Today “Nano Influencers: Who Are They and How to Work With Them [Infographic]” [Online] Available at: https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/nano-influencers-who-are-they-and-how-to-work-with-them-infographic/595048/?fbclid=IwAR2fA7xYB0bmWw9X4gSCaZ0GLUi2RYlQCKJ-eHgnM9NKVd3Hd4reKGQSM7g [Accessed 22 June 2021]
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C., Chi (2021) HubSpot “12 of the Best AI Chatbots for 2021” [Online] Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/best-ai-chatbot [Accessed 22 June 2021]
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F., Chu (2021) Digital Commerce 360 “Social commerce is leading the future of eCommerce” [Online} Available at: https://www.digitalcommerce360.com/2021/02/10/social-commerce-is-leading-the-future-of-ecommerce/ [Accessed 17 June 2021]
Facebook (2021) “AR/VR: New dimensions of connection” [Online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/business/news/insights/future-ar-vr [Accessed 21 June 2021]
K., MacGillivray (2021) Shopify “New Shopping Behaviours in Post-Pandemic UK” [Online] Available at: https://www.shopify.co.uk/retail/uk-shopping-data [Accessed 21 June 2021]
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