The biggest movement in retail is social commerce…the use of social networking sites as a vehicle to sell your product and/or services. Considering over half of all shoppers follow brands on social media to view new products, there is no denying the potential for social feeds to drive sales. It is critical for your business.

. Social referrals to retail eCommerce site have grown 110% in two (2) years.

. U.S. retailers adopting social commerce nearly doubled from 2017 to 2018.

. Fifty-eight (58%) percent of people say social media influences their purchasing decisions.

Because of this, great retailers and manufacturers who sell B2C use automated chatbots. They provide audience-focused information. Seven-two (72%) percent of shoppers are open to making a purchase through a chatbot. They offer product recommendations. Seventy-four (74%) percent of shoppers are open to making a purchase through a chatbot. And you sell directly through the bot. For instance, Marvel uses an automated chatbot checkout to sell tickets directly from social media posts. 

The key is to focus on mobile users. One needs to see a strong presence as forty-five (45%) percent of in-store consumers turn to mobile social platforms to influence their buying decisions. And, a great retailer/manufacturer needs to optimize for mobile devices. Abandonment rates are three times higher on mobile devices, likely due to lack of optimization.

In addition, as a keen focus on mobile users understand, one can offer deals exclusively to a mobile platform. For instance, according to SocialMediaToday, Jordans sold out in 23 minutes when Nike leveraged Snapchat codes at an NBA all-star afterparty.

Pro-active social commerce includes monitoring reviews and offering support to targets you capture. Companies have to build a collection of positive reviews. Customer reviews are trusted twelve (12x) times more than marketing descriptions. People like to know about others who have used and trusted this experience. You have to reach out to those who comment. After seeing a brand response to a review, seventy-one (71%) percent of consumers change their perception of the brand. Successful users of social commerce create a support account. Many of them create a Facebook business page just for responding to customer issues. They promote this page to encourage open dialog. Transparency is a real thing. Other companies, such a Nike, created a separate Twitter account called @NikeSuppoert just for responding to customer issues. Today’s shoppers certainly are not afraid to spend. Brands should do everything they can to build trust with their followers. Social proof is an incredibly valuable marketing tool for any brand. In an eCommerce space crowded with competition, using the positive feedback of others represents an absolute way to both signal trust and set yourself apart form the pack.

Companies who want to succeed in social commerce need to connect directly with customers. You need to keep up your response rate. Ninety (90%) percent of consumers expect an immediate response to customer service questions. To do this you should leverage Facebook Messenger. This under-appreciated tool is the most-downloaded app, yet only thirty-one (31%) of businesses use it. And you can upset with recommendations. For instance, LEGO replies to Facebook Messenger using their gift bot to offer gift recommendations.

You have to utilize influencer campaigns. Find the right influencers. Twenty-three (23%) percent of shoppers are influenced by recommendations they have read on social media. Hire micro-influencers. As a note of interest, influencers with less than 35,000 followers get the highest engagement rate at 5.3% (wikibuy). And it is not a bad idea to get philanthropic. For instance, Old Navy partnered with Alex Rodriguez on Twitter to raise $1 million for the Boys & Girls Club of America. Facebook has presented many new commerce features for users. From Instagram Checkout to Marketplace, social commerce on Facebook has made online purchases easier than ever.

Instagram Checkout can significantly help retailers online to sell their products more efficiently and effectively. When a user is able to buy something with just a push of a button, with no need to enter shipping and billing information, that increases the probability of sales. 

And there is a reason for all of this.

.    Instagram has the highest average order value of the ‘big four’ social commerce sites (vs Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest).

.    Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are the only major social platforms with a conversion rate over one (1%) percent. Facebook’s is 1.85% average conversion rate.

.    Two-thirds (2/3rds) of all social media visits to Shopify stores originate from Facebook.

Facebook represents a potential cash cow for eCommerce brands. It is no secret that Facebook and social commerce go hand in hand.

In order to stand out in the busy Facebook feeds of modern users, brands need to boast bold, eye-popping imagery that forces their followers to stop and look. Since Facebook posts with images receive more than twice as much engagement than posts without them, an emphasis on imagery is an absolute must with selling via social media. 

Brands are using more and more user generated photos on Facebook to drive traffic to their stores. The industries of beauty and fashion have relatively high conversion rates via Facebook, which explains why so many brands are already on board. Brands running Facebook ads should therefore consider a more subtle approach to their marketing messages which emphasizes UGC versus straight-up sales-based marketing.

Now for the promotional side. Understand that forty-two (42%) percent of people on social media look for coupons and discounts. While obviously there are dangers in running deals too often, throwing out a steep discount occasionally with your promotions is a great strategy to catch your followers’ attention. Deal seekers deserve your attention.

Effective social commerce is a combination of smart strategies versus a single, blanket approach. The key takeaways for leveraging social media for sales are:

.    Emphasizing imagery and user-generated content that catches the eyes of your followers.

.    Giving your followers and shoppers some sort of stake in the buyer’s journey as in an opportunity to share and contribute content, leave feedback.

.    Create a personalized shopping experience versus taking a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing your product.

Look…today’s shoppers have no qualms with engaging with sales-based social content, if it is relevant, personalized and one-of-a-kind. Anything you can do to boost your brand reputation across product pages and social media is essential to effective social commerce.

The former concept of social media as a black hole of marketing ROI is no longer valid. As eCommerce sales grow twenty-three (23%) percent year-over-year, brands who understand the principles of social commerce will inevitably drive more sales than those who sleep on their social presence.

Social commerce is the NOW major retail shift. We are now in a retail transformation. 

Get on top of it. 

#cnasophis                                  Photo by bruce mars from Pexels