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Get social, or get left behind

It’s undeniable that mobile and e-commerce are changing the online retail landscape. Alongside the proliferation of one-touch payment systems such as Apple Pay, soon to be a mainstream rather than a niche payment option — 2017’s defining trend may well be the rise (and rule) of social commerce.

The reign of social in all facets of life shows no sign of slowing down, and social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WeChat are now advancing their capabilities to become the new online one-stop shop.

With users already accustomed to following their favourite brands and influencers’ social pages, social networks are grounds for acquiring customers and sales conversions. Research shows that 56 per cent of consumers follow brands on social media to keep up-to-date and view the latest products. Dubbed ‘social shoppers’, these consumers are already visiting social networks as part of their everyday shopping behaviour, using images they see on social media in the same way one might have used a store catalogue 15 years ago.

When worlds collide

All of the main social players have already dipped their toes into the e-commerce world, or in some cases, jumped in headfirst. Most notably, late last year Facebook announced further developments to the site’s dedicated shopping section, with shoppers now able to buy direct on the platform rather than be redirected to the individual retailer’s site.

Instagram has also made changes in the same direction, opening up the site to all advertisers and incorporating direct response ad formats that include various calls to action, ‘shop now’ buttons, ‘install’ or ‘learn more’. Following closely behind, Snapchat confirmed it will be rolling out its own e-commerce platform and Twitter has previously tested a ‘buy’ button.

It’s not just one-way traffic. Boundaries are being blurred, or pulled down, from both sides.

E-commerce site has recently made its first decisive move into the world of social media by launching its social feature ‘Spark’, which allows members to showcase and purchase products on its platforms.

Spark users can tag products on their posts that are available on Amazon and anyone browsing the feeds can instantly find and purchase them by tapping on a shopping bag icon. Users can also respond to posts with smiles, and many are likening the service to a cross between Instagram and Pinterest, with a pinch of e-commerce.

Conversion is king

Recent research out of Shopify analysed 39 million social media visits, which converted into 529,000 e-commerce orders. As expected, Facebook dominates—nearly two thirds of all social media visits to Shopify stores come from the social media giant, and 85 per cent of all e-commerce orders originate from Facebook.

Interestingly, community-style social commerce site Polyvore actually generates the highest average order value (outstripping Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter), and Instagram also pulls in higher average order values—which is noteworthy considering Instagram’s only clickable link (during the period the data was collected) was in the profile bio.

Other interesting points? The study dug down into the best platform for conversions by industry/category — while Facebook garnered the highest conversion rate for most categories (photography, sports and recreation, and pet supplies all sit above 90 per cent conversion from the site), there are also a number of secondary platforms that performed well for certain categories.

Pinterest was a high performer for antiques and collectibles at 74 per cent conversions, and books and magazines at 23 per cent conversions. Twitter ruled the roost for home and office furnishings, and gifts and specialty (18 and 13 per cent, respectively).

The takeaway? If your industry is one that benefits from a secondary social platform driving sales your way, consider adding it in conjunction with your brand’s Facebook page to capture the additional conversions.

Shaping the future

Naturally, it’s the younger demographic really shaping the social shopping trend. The expectation is instant gratification at the click of a button—or swipe of a thumb.

Statistics show one-third (33 per cent) of 18- to 24-year-olds reported that they would like to buy directly from Facebook, 27 per cent prefer Instagram, and 20 per cent Twitter, followed by Pinterest (17 per cent) and Snapchat (15 per cent).

The demand is there, and brands need to keep up with this evolving marketplace if they want to service, and retain, future generations of shoppers.

It’s important for merchants to adopt e-commerce capabilities across all the social networks, along with other services that streamline the online shopping experience, such as one-touch payment options or partnering with shipping services to speed up the gratification timeline for the consumer.

Technology is driving the reinvention of retail, from a bricks-and-mortar experience to a wide-open online landscape where social and commercial activities integrate seamlessly. The only real limitation for today’s brands is their own vision; if they can join the groundswell of innovation in this space then the only way for e-commerce is up.

Matt Hoggett is the co-founder and COO of Prezzee Pty Ltd, a marketplace for digital gift cards. Prezzee was designed to solve the problem of losing or leaving plastic gift cards at home when you needed them the most.

2 Comments | Click to view comments

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August 8, 2017 at 4:15 pm

So the post bottom line – invest more in social media marketing based on questionable numbers. A story we here for the last 5-7 years.

But what if we turn the stat provided (saving the meaning) we’ll get:

Statistics show two-thirds (67 per cent) of 18- to 24-year-olds reported that they would NOT like to buy directly from Facebook, 73 per cent from Instagram, and 80 per cent Twitter, followed by Pinterest (83 per cent) and Snapchat (85 per cent).

And we are talking here about 18-24 yo, so called “digital native”.

So keep your head calm and compare all options, don’t assume that social will be a silver bullet just because someone writes it.


    August 11, 2017 at 11:13 am

    indeed Alex. These platforms are not the products people want to buy. As a retailer, creating and maintain as many DIRECT relationships with your customers or potential customers has to be the priority.