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The layman’s guide to social commerce

Social commerce is a rapidly growing trend in the online shopping space, and it’s going to drastically alter the shopping experience. Many online merchants, particularly small business owners and start-ups, are mistaken in believing social media is merely an awareness tool. It’s actually a hugely important sales-driver. When used correctly, it can transform marketing strategies and have a measurable impact on sales.

Australians now spend one out of three minutes online on social media, according to We Are Social. Brands that aren’t leveraging social media as an additional sales channel are effectively missing out on one-third of a potential customer’s daily screen time. 

Brands that take the potential of social commerce seriously will find, in exchange for a relatively small time investment, they open up massive new audiences to build trust, engagement, and desirability for your products.

Debunking social selling myths

One of the first steps to embracing social commerce is to clear up a few falsehoods. The first is that Facebook and Instagram are the reigning supreme platforms. But social commerce — the practice of selling directly to consumers via social media, or directing traffic to ecommerce websites via social media — has made massive inroads into other platforms, such as TikTok and Pinterest. With over 689 million and 450 million monthly active users respectively, these two platforms represent a huge opportunity for merchants.

It needn’t be a huge time suck either — when underpinned by the right ecommerce platform, tapping into social commerce can actually be a time-effective way to reach new customers. It makes the path to purchase more seamless for the customer, and for a brand, makes attribution and measurement much easier.

Here are the top tips when developing a social commerce strategy for your business

  1. Choose your platforms wisely

There’s no need to take a scattergun approach to social commerce, particularly since some platforms require more leg work than others. Instead, vet your options based on the type of content you already have at your disposal, to decrease the time commitment. 

For example, if you have a large library of product photos, Instagram is a great place to start. Businesses with additional content, such as blog posts or infographics, might find Pinterest a more versatile platform. It’s also important not to just copy and paste posts across different platforms — a text-based post that works on Facebook will not work on Instagram.

Don’t be afraid to venture into newer platforms such as TikTok either. TikTok’s appeal for brands lies in its very structure — it’s user interface is designed to keep users inside the app for as long as possible. With TikTok, you can also make use of the link-in-bio feature, ripening your chances for selling.
The targeted nature of TikTok is appealing for influencer collaboration too. A recent study by HypeAuditor found 48 per cent of Australian TikTok influencers who have collaborated with brands have only between 1000 and 5000 followers, showing their niche approach to audience engagement.

  1. No matter the platform, be authentic above all

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that once you’ve mastered one social media platform, that you’ve conquered them all. Many brands start out with Facebook or Instagram as a first port of call and elect to leave it there. But there’s alternatives you mightn’t have considered.

Pinterest is designed to inspire and store ideas, and thrives on a notion of dreams and desirability. It’s users, known as ‘Pinners,’ are engaging with more than a social media platform when they use it — they’re curating the ideal version of their homes, their lifestyles, their holidays. Users are highly motivated to share their ideas with others. 

This untapped resource pool is best utilised once you have a deep understanding of the customers you’re trying to reach, and staying consistent with your content. Are you aiming to reach a high-end, luxury audience? DIY enthusiasts? Someone that always wants to be one step ahead of the trend?

Even more so than a platform like Pinterest, authenticity is embedded at the heart of TikTok. Its users come to be informed and entertained, not sold to. Before embarking on a TikTok sales journey, spend time in the app yourself to see how relevant and authentic the content is that’s served to you based on its complex algorithm.

To be authentic on TikTok, brands may want to steer clear of videos that are too ‘sales-y’ or cinematic. Instead (and this is also beneficial as a time and cost-saving measure for the brand), look to shoot and edit video content on smartphones instead. 

  1. Make sure your underlying ecommerce platform works collaboratively with your social commerce strategy

The ability to ingest product catalogues, map and measure paths to purchase from social media platforms, or access multi-feed support, is crucial for maintaining a birds-eye view of your social commerce strategy. Often, the proof is in the pudding, so having access to a clear attribution map and automatic uploading can be lifesavers for those needing a clear return on their time investment. This is especially true for the many businesses out there operating with just one or a few people. 

But some ecommerce platforms don’t offer the same integration features with different social media platforms as others, so evaluate what’s on offer before diving in head first to uploading social content.

Social commerce is ready and waiting for brands to take advantage. In exchange for a small upfront time investment, you’ll quickly open numerous new sales channels.

* Robin Marchant is head of marketing, APAC at Shopify.

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