Social media made an appearance in the late 1990s and since then, it has seen an exponential rise. According to recent statistics, there are 4.2 billion active users on social media today. Retailers soon noticed the untapped digital consumer base, and that is how social commerce came into being. Facebook was one of the first platforms to launch social commerce-related features, entering the field as early as 2007. However, even though it has been around for more than a decade now, social commerce has seen a new growth spurt in recent years. Of course, the 2020 Covid-19 scenario contributed massively to the new wave of online social retail.
What exactly is social commerce?
Simply put, social commerce refers to the sale of products and services to consumers directly using social media platforms. But contrary to popular notion, it is not the same as e-commerce. In social commerce, the user is not redirected to any standalone e-commerce store/site, but rather offers the option of shopping and checking out without leaving the current platform. Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, and Pinterest are the dominant players for social commerce today.
How companies are leveraging social commerce to drive online business
89% of consumers say that they will buy from a brand that they follow on social media, which means that a robust social commerce strategy has become vital today for every business. Sellers, both big and small, have already been using social commerce to drive sales in recent times.
Elevating the customers’ entire shopping experience to a seamless one is the goal for every brand, and social commerce is just the tool to do that. This is particularly relevant for non-transacting e-commerce consumers since it offers companies the flexibility to communicate directly with their consumers via apps. According to a recent Bain & Company report, a lack of trust is the biggest factor deterring customers from making purchases online. Using social commerce, brands have successfully merged the best of both worlds – the comfort of using social media and the proven model of e-commerce while offering a higher level of engagement at every step of the process. This also leads to customer loyalty to a brand.
Social listening by businesses is another key factor here, as sellers use it to gather crucial data about their services and products posted directly by consumers on social media. This allows brands to tailor products, services, and even advertising content according to what the customers want – ultimately driving up sales. Moreover, companies have dived into the somewhat dormant consumer base in smaller Indian towns by making use of the vernacular option available for content on social media sites. This has helped sellers increase revenue by reaching out to a more diverse range of users.
Key trends predicted for 2021
Here are a few trends to watch out for in social commerce this year:
- A crucial part of an omnichannel retail strategy – Brands are increasingly using omnichannel retail to meet the needs of shoppers, and social commerce is all set to be the natural next big step in the field. In addition to generating traffic on websites through ads on social media, retailers will use social commerce to offer a quicker sales cycle within the platform and thus generate revenues.
- Increased use of video and streaming – 2020 saw a rise in the use of the video format across social media sites, and the trend will continue this year too. Features like interactive videos on TikTok, Instagram Reels, and live streaming will help brands reach a broader audience to promote products and services in an engaging format. For example, live streaming for a product on Facebook can have an in-app purchase option like a Facebook Marketplace ad being shown on the feeds of the viewers.
- Conversational chatbots will play an important role – The major focus of social media is interaction among users, and real-time conversation over messaging apps are an excellent way for brands to make sales. In fact, 40% of sales during the lockdown period in India were made over WhatsApp. However, with bigger sales volumes chatbots powered by AI capabilities become the key to effective management. More retailers will make use of chatbots in 2021 to provide a ‘natural’ way of interaction and customer support.
- Influencers will be key – There is no denying that social media influencers do, well, influence followers and have the power to generate revenues for brands. Social commerce will experience a deeper integration of influencers in the marketing strategy of companies as these individuals provide content and promotion on their social channels to resonate with the millennial and Gen Z audience.
- More user-generated content (UGC) – Word-of-mouth publicity to establish brand trust applies to social commerce too, and social media users can be leveraged by brands to drive sales and build a loyal customer base. UGC such as product reviews, shopping experiences, etc. on social media will continue to prove beneficial for companies this year as well.
The pandemic and lockdown-induced boom in e-commerce as a whole has made social commerce the big thing for all retailers to tap into. According to estimates, the global social commerce market will reach $604.5 billion by 2027 from the current $89.4 billion. It can safely be said that 2021 would be a significant year for social commerce and it might even completely redefine the way of looking at e-commerce in the time to come.
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