Download a printable version
Want to save this for later? Download a PDF version to print, read offline or share with co-workers.
Each step someone takes in your buying process increases the risk of them abandoning their purchase.
Every click. Every page load. Every mouse scroll. They all provide opportunities for shoppers to simply bail on us.
But social commerce is providing a solution. Making it even easier for customers to interact with your brand and make a purchase.
And the data backs it up too:
- 60% of people say they discover new products on Instagram.
- The top 500 retailers earned $6.5 billion from social shopping in 2017, up 24% on the year before.
- 30% of online shoppers say they would be likely to make a purchase on a social media network.
A piece of this pie could be yours.
But success isn’t as simple as spitting out a few automated Instagram posts each day. Nor will it come from using last year’s tactics and ideas.
Social commerce requires dedicating time and resources into consistently showing up on social networks with the most up-to-date strategies. Resulting in quality content and frictionless, in-app buying.
So in this post, we go deep on exactly how social commerce can be a serious growth channel for your retail brand in 2019.
Table of Contents
- 1. What is social commerce?
- 2. Social commerce channels for 2019
- 3. Making social commerce work
- 4. Final thoughts
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the dovetailing together of social media and ecommerce. It’s an opportunity for retailers to meet customers where they hang out by selling directly on social networks – effectively creating new social marketplaces.
“Many ecommerce purchase journeys have unnecessary steps in their conversion funnel, and each step in the journey increases the likelihood that your customer will abandon their purchase. Today, we are seeing a rise in social selling because of its simple, yet effective customer experience that leads to conversions.
“Your customers are already on these social platforms and want to purchase directly through these networks. Thanks to simplified methods of checkout, buying directly through these social media networks takes nothing more than a few clicks.”
~ Bob Clary
Director of Marketing, Developer Academy
It’s more than just growing an audience. Or creating a killer Facebook Ad.
It’s taking this to the next level by making sales directly in these social places without ever requiring people to visit your website.
And the potential is enormous. Especially when you consider that:
- Instagram hit 1 billion monthly active users in June 2018, with half of those logging in daily and over 200 million visiting at least one business profile a day.
- Despite growth slowing in recent times, Facebook still sees 2.23 billion people log in each month (almost a third of the global population) – with 66% of these visiting daily.
- Even the slightly less prolific platforms achieve huge usage numbers. Pinterest sees 250 million monthly active users, and Snapchat 186 million each day.
Social commerce channels for 2019
There are obviously a bunch of social networks out there. Most of which allow businesses to grow a following that can then translate into web store traffic.
But not all provide the opportunity to engage in direct, in-app selling.
So there are a few platforms we believe are worth paying particular attention to for success with social commerce in 2019.
- A Facebook Shop.
- Shoppable Instagram.
- Pinterest Buyable Pins.
- Facebook Messenger.
Let’s take a look at each one of these (and how you can utilise them) in further detail.
1) Facebook Shop
A Facebook Shop is basically a way to push your product catalogue up to Facebook and display items within the ‘Shop’ tab on your Facebook Page:
If you don’t see this tab on your Facebook Page then you’ll need to change the Page template to the one called ‘Shopping’.
Setting up your Shop is then pretty simple. You can either:
- Set it up manually inside your Page – Facebook have a detailed guide on how to do this here.
- Integrate your BigCommerce, Shopify or Magento ecommerce store directly to automatically push products to Facebook.
Some people may browse your Page and click on this ‘Shop’ tab to reveal all the products you’ve added. They can then browse and buy as with any other online store:
But the greatest advantage of a Facebook Shop?
The way you’re able to share products within the platform itself.
Posts and Ads are no longer just images and embedded links to your site. They’re a way to showcase a range of products to a specific audience.
So you can take an awesome photograph, then tag all your products appearing in it – just as you would with friends in a personal photo:
And also build carousels featuring a range of products in one post.
Look at how NBAStore.com show off their Boston Celtics gear with an Ad targeted specifically at fans of this team:
US Facebook users (with rest of world highly likely to follow very soon) can also checkout right there in Facebook, without needing to ever actually visit your site:
Meaning the number of steps are significantly reduced between someone:
- Seeing a Facebook post or Ad; and
- Converting into a sale.
All making Facebook a radically superior social commerce entity to what it once was.
“The key to being successful with direct selling via Facebook and Instagram Ads is to learn how to effectively split test your creative to the right audience with the right offer.
So my recommendation is:
1. Set up custom audiences by uploading your past customer details and mailing lists to Facebook.
2. Create lookalike audiences of both.
3. Target engaging content at each audience daily.
4. Create an engaged audience.
5. Target sales ads while mixing with engaging content creative.
6. Split test creative on your sales ads throughout.”
~ Alistair Dodds
Marketing Director, Smoking Chili Media
2) Shoppable Instagram
We all know about the explosion of Instagram users in recent years.
But they’ve coupled this with huge improvements in the way business users can sell within the platform. Making Instagram arguably the hottest social commerce prospect for 2019, and the foreseeable future.
Brands can now access a trifecta of Shoppable Instagram features:
- Shoppable Posts.
- Shoppable Stories.
- A ‘Shopping’ channel in the app’s Explore section.
Shoppable Posts have been around for a short while. Allowing businesses to tag organic Instagram posts with any products that appear in the image:
Shoppable Stories are very similar – allowing product tagging within Instagram’s Stories component:
Both of these situations allows users to click on the tagged products for further information in order to follow through with a purchase.
On top of this, Instagram has also rolled out a dedicated Shopping channel in its Explore section:
Users can go here and effectively see a personalised marketplace. A feed of Shoppable Posts from a range of retailers – all personal to each user based on what they’ve previously looked at:
The best part?
Users don’t even need to be following you to be included in this feed. If Instagram thinks your product is relevant, they’ll show it.
And what’s more:
Similarly to Facebook, Instagram are rolling out native payments. Soon allowing worldwide users to store card details within the app and checkout using a security pin or fingerprint.
3) Pinterest Buyable Pins
Pinterest has come a long way in the last few years – morphing beyond its traditional feel of being a ‘females only’ platform.
While the vast majority of pins are still done by women, men now actually account for over 50% of new sign ups. Starting to make it an attractive possibility for a greater range of ecommerce brands – especially when you see that:
- 40% of Pinterest’s 250 million monthly active users have a household income of over $100k.
- 83% of weekly Pinners have made a purchase based on Pins they saw from brands.
This means people can browse Pinterest for the latest ideas and trends in a whole range of niches. Come across a Pin of one of your amazing products, and then purchase it right there in the app.
This video from Pinterest shows the process perfectly:
Pinterest have also taken this even further recently with the development of Shop the Look.
This allows users to tap on different parts of a Pin in order to get inspired with further products from that retailer. Again with everything shoppable inside the app:
4) Facebook Messenger
Facebook Messenger is one of the leaders when it comes to conversational commerce. With the platform being great for offering:
- A live chat customer service option on both your Facebook Store and website.
- An automated chatbot option to solve common issues and provide order updates 24/7.
- An automated chatbot that guides customers through your product catalogue to help them find what they want.
And with in-app purchasing now available, it’s definitely worth paying attention to as part of your 2019 social commerce strategy.
It’s the paid advertising potential that’s so exciting. Retailers can run both Facebook and Instagram Ads that have a specific CTA of opening up Messenger:
You can even retarget people with an Ad directly inside the Messenger platform:
And then get them to checkout right there in Messenger with payment details previously saved in the app:
It’s highly advised to utilise a chatbot to automate the majority of the conversations being started. LEGO do this brilliantly with Ralph, their Gift Bot:
Ralph takes users through a series of questions covering things like:
- Age range of the person receiving the gift.
- Price range of what you’re looking to spend.
- Interests of gift receiver relating to Lego products ranges (Star Wars, superheroes, architecture).
And then churns out product recommendations based on your answers:
There are some complicated bits to setting something like this up.
But it’s not quite as tricky as you might think. And given how effective a Messenger chatbot can be (especially if you have a large product catalogue), it could be well worth it.
Social Media Examiner have a great post going into detail on setting up your Messenger bot here.
Snapchat is a bit of a wildcard mention as somewhere to place your social commerce focus in 2019.
Yes, they’ve had a bad time of it over the last year or so. Mainly from:
- Annoying a chunk of their users with some unpopular interface changes.
- Instagram taking a lot of Snap’s user base by launching a Stories feature.
- Your target market is firmly set towards Gen Z and young people.
- You have the resources to put into growing a Snapchat following.
Then Snapchat could still be a very effective social commerce touchpoint in 2019.
And this statement becomes doubly true when you look at the recent improvements to their Ads. With Snapchat now allowing retailers to import their product feeds to create ads based around items they sell.
You can then create Collection Ads that showcase specific products users can simply ‘swipe up’ on in order to make a purchase:
What’s even better is the improvements Snap have made to their tracking pixel capabilities. Making it possible to track specific actions consumers take on your website – and allowing for much more customised audiences to use in campaigns.
“Google Ads are great at getting your product in front of consumers when they are searching for relevant keywords, but they are expensive and extremely limited in the amount of branding real estate. Social can be much more cost-effective and pointed in its ability to target specific audiences.
“Furthermore, having the ability to hyper-personalise content allows sellers to really connect with customers on an individual level. This personal touch will prompt potential customers to want to learn more and existing customers to engage with your content.”
~ Andrew Maffettone
Director of Marketing & Operations, Sellers Choice
The Snap Store is also an intriguing feature.
All this makes Snapchat very much one to watch in 2019 if you’re focusing on that younger audience.
Making social commerce work
With all this in mind, it must be said:
Success with social commerce isn’t as simple as creating an account and lining up a few promotional posts. Nor is it about blowing the marketing budget on a bunch of ads.
1) Micro-influencers hold the power
Influencer marketing can be an incredibly useful tool for businesses to gain traction and attention in their social commerce strategy.
These are people who’ve built up a sizeable and highly-engaged following on one or more social channels. Usually garnering thousands (or even millions) of engagements on every single post.
So getting your product(s) endorsed by influencers in front of their followings can have a massive and almost instant impact on sales.
Getting Jillian Michaels to post about your fitness supplements or Kim Kardashian to endorse your fashion brand is crazy expensive – and just plain out of reach for most businesses.
This is where micro-influencers come into play.
These guys lack the reach of something like Kim Kardashian’s 126 million follower Instagram account. But the engagement, authenticity and trust is much stronger.
In fact, research has shown influencers with less than 35,000 followers actually have the highest engagement rates at 5.3%. Compared to a measly 1.6% for those with over 750,000 followers.
Something influencer marketing expert Shane Barker expounds upon nicely in this blog post:
“Micro-influencers are an effective and affordable way of promoting your brand. Having a group of dedicated and relevant followers and good user engagement rate is what makes them stand out from other types of influencers. Due to their affordability, even small businesses can use the benefits of growing their brand via influencer marketing campaigns.”
~ Shane Barker
Digital Marketing Consultant, ShaneBarker.com
So an influencer marketing campaign that utilises:
- Smaller, more affordable influencers.
- And in a consistent, strategic way.
2) Utilise video
Using video in your social media is a must in 2019. Here’s why:
- Sponsored video content views on Facebook jumped 258% between 2016 and 2017, with YouTube up 99%.
- Tweets with video attract 10x more engagements than those without video.
- Facebook was already up to 8 billion daily video views back in 2015.
- Even mentioning the word ‘video’ in the subject of an email can increase open rate by 19%.
Proving both that networks are giving preference to video content, while users are more likely to engage with it.
But this doesn’t mean creating a huge data bank of educational or entertaining videos with Hollywood production values. You can increase sales with video content in a much simpler way.
Creating simple, to-the-point and eye-catching videos showcasing your products can be really powerful.
This video from Plackers showing off their kids’ flossers is just 33 seconds long:
3) Conversation over broadcast
A huge mistake brands have tended to make for a long while is basically using social media as a kind of announcement board to broadcast their news and ideas.
But social commerce success in 2019 depends heavily on one thing in particular: engagement.
Simply filling your social channels with announcements, links and “Buy Now” buttons is going to get a big thumbs down from users. You need to get in there and converse with your audience.
- Being active and aware of things happening in your social media community.
- Responding to comments and reviews – even if it’s just a simple thank you.
- Embracing Messenger as a sales channel – and utilising chatbots to automate as much as possible.
- Even going out there and making the first move engaging with your influencers and ideal customers.
“To be more effective with social selling:
1) You need to be engaging – this means creating content that’s authentic and resonates with your target audience.
2) For platforms that allow it (like Facebook), consider making use of chatbots which can help you provide better customer service while initiating sales and upselling/cross-selling products.
3) When working with influencers, make sure to partner with the right ones. Which means their following should align with your target audience. Their values, voice, and style should align with your brand. And they should actually be influencers (which means digging deeper into their stats).
4) Take advantage of all the data that you get from these networks’ analytics to better improve marketing and sales efforts.”
~ Anthony Capetola
Marketing Manager, Sales & Orders
Play the game according to the rules and desires of these social networks.
4) Don’t forget your sales funnel
It’s worth reiterating at this point that the fundamentals of online marketing still apply here.
Social commerce is not a magic bullet. And you shouldn’t expect to run ads to a fancy Messenger chatbot that then sells your $3,000 dining room table to someone who’s never heard of your business before.
So you still need to be thinking about:
- Capturing user data (like email addresses) whenever possible.
- Retargeting people who’ve already shown interest.
- Following up with targeted email campaigns and in-app messages.
All being used to keep your brand at the forefront of people’s attention and gradually shift them along a funnel towards buying (and then encouraging them to buy again).
Note that this becomes even more relevant the higher your typical product price and average order value is.
Take a look at how Pura Vida Bracelets use Messenger retargeting to recover abandoned carts. The cart itself has a countdown timer:
But as the countdown approaches zero, they send out a Messenger reminder to anyone who’s signed up via their Facebook account:
With a cheeky 20% discount combined to entice you even more:
There’s even a Chrome browser notification too:
Social commerce is developing into a full on Goliath opportunity for retailers in 2019 and beyond. Mainly down to two things:
- The high quality retargeting capabilities of most ad platforms.
- The emergence of direct, in-app checkouts effectively creating social marketplaces filled with billions of people.
But taking advantage requires proper strategy and dedication. Not just a toe dipped tamely in the social commerce waters.
Use the ideas and strategies contained in this post to make it work for you. And watch your brand make a real move on social this year.
How is your brand performing on social at the moment? Are there any channels you’ve found to be a success that aren’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Mike Glover
Latest posts by Mike Glover see all
- 3 Examples of Retail Brands with Amazing Omnichannel Experiences - 20th February 2019