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What’s the Difference Between Social Commerce and eCommerce?
Social commerce is about selling products directly within a social media platform – such as TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook.
The entire shopping experience happens without leaving the social platform. This ensures a seamless experience with no flicking between browser tabs or windows. This is because social commerce platforms have native transactional features. As an example, a fashion retailer can give consumers the option to buy a sweater via Instagram Checkout. Buying products is a piece of cake.
On the other hand, eCommerce takes place within a dedicated website or app. Typically, eCommerce platforms support a wider range of products and include a search and filtering functionality. In contrast, social commerce platforms host a limited selection of products. They also rely more on visual content and personal recommendations, creating a totally different type of consumer engagement.
eCommerce platforms mirror a traditional sales funnel. This includes stages of awareness, interest, desire, and action – eCommerce marketing 101!
But social commerce has turned this process upside down by emphasising building relationships with customers via bespoke communities and user-generated content. We’ll get to this later.
Yes, they’re two sides of the same coin. However, the fundamental differences are key.
But what about social media marketing?
The impact of social media on eCommerce is clear as day. But, let’s distinguish social media marketing from social commerce.
Social media marketing involves advertising a product on a platform and redirecting consumers to an online store.
For instance, this might be using copy in an Instagram post to encourage a shopper to click a link to an eCommerce store in a company’s ‘About Me’ section.
If this works for your online brand, then great. But, because social commerce offers in-built easy-to-use sales tools, it’s time to rethink your strategy.
If you’re not convinced, let’s have a look at the benefits of social commerce.
Social Commerce Increases Sales and Builds Brands
- Build an online community. Social commerce is a great way to build an online brand community to communicate with customers. You should engage with them by answering questions and actively seeking customer feedback. Each platform has unique interaction tools, too. For instance, on Instagram you’re able to ‘go live’ and interact in real time, and on Facebook you can create polls. Successful brands incorporate this into a customer loyalty marketing strategy.
- Increase brand awareness and customer reach. You should leverage the large user base and high engagement rates of social commerce platforms to promote products to audiences you wouldn’t traditionally interact with. This will lead to increased sales and customer acquisition. It’s a win-win!
- Create a frictionless customer journey. Social commerce makes it easier for consumers to buy a product. This is because consumers are able to purchase products from within their favourite social media platform. So, there are no extra steps – or chaotic redirects – taking off them off their chosen social media platform. Instead, the transaction happens within the app itself, so there’ll be less chance of them dropping-out of the transaction. Remember, with fewer clicks you remove opportunities for customers to change their minds!
- Provide targeted product offerings. Social media platforms provide detailed analytical reports, giving you valuable insights into consumer behaviour. You’ll be able to use the customer behavioural data gathered by the social commerce platform to promote your highest-value items and drive sales!
What Are The Main Social Commerce Platforms?
Everyone has Facebook. Your grandma, your auntie, your brother, your sister, and even your neighbour’s chihuahua! So, there’s no better place to advertise your products.
Facebook Shops, introduced in May 2020, allows businesses to create online storefronts with product catalogs featuring links to purchase an item within Facebook. This has excellent benefits for users, including the ability to browse streamlined product categories of relevant items, make purchases, and get live updates about deliveries.
Facebook Messenger has been around since 2011 and offers a direct route to your audience. Utilize Facebook Messenger and answer customer questions in real time. You’ll also be able to deliver relevant product content by creating a one-click subscription model.
In-app Facebook checkout and automatic Messenger conversations create a seamless buyer journey. That’s another sale in the bag!
Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms. It’s also a powerful discovery engine for brands, too. And according to Instagram’s Business survey, a huge 44% use Instagram on a weekly basis to shop for products.
Use Instagram Shopping to highlight your highest-value products through tagging images and Instagram stories. Let consumers get additional information on products with close-ups, view multiple products in carousel posts, and virtually try a product before buying.
Launched in March 2020, Instagram Checkout gives shoppers the ability to purchase directly through the platform. A user clicks the ‘Checkout on Instagram’ button after viewing a product post. Then, they’re able to make a payment and will receive notifications about shipment and delivery within Instagram.
Remember: Double-check the eligibility of your territory before you get started!
Today’s buyers are on TikTok.The number of US-based TikTok buyers grew to 23.7 million in 2022. That’s tons of new customers.
But first, let’s talk about Gen Z. 60% of TikTok users are Gen Zers. By 2024, 74 million people in the US will be part of Gen Z. So, now is the time to set up a digital storefront via TikTok Shop.
Remember, TikTok is a video-based platform. Nonetheless, it provides brands and creators with tools to sell directly to consumers. So, you’ll be able to sell via in-feed videos, TikTok LIVE, or product showcase tabs.
TikTok is home to ready-made social commerce trends. This includes #TikTokMadeMeBuy, where users post their purchases based on the app’s recommendations. The trend has been engaged with over 7 billion times!
In addition, TikTok is opening fulfilment centres across the USA, further blurring social commerce Vs eCommerce.
For a deeper dive into TikTok, we’ve got you covered.
With 478 million people using Pinterest every month, it’s a great marketing channel for your business.
Pinterest pioneered the growth of social commerce. Way back in 2015, the platform introduced the buyable pin feature. All brands have to do is tag products to the pins with a CTA. Bingo, shoppers can purchase products directly.
Pinterest is ramping up its social commerce strategy, too. For instance, in 2022, Pinterest announced four-new additions for merchants:
- Pinterest API for Shopping
- Product Tagging on Pins
- Video in Catalog
- Shop Tab on Business Profile
Remember – Product Data is Key
No matter the platform, it’s important to have high-quality, enriched product information, and digital assets. This includes product images, videos, and product descriptions. Discover how PIM will supercharge your eCommerce product information.
Social Commerce Tips & Tricks
Create an Effective Product Targeting Strategy
- Define your target audience. Social commerce research is essential. The fact you’re reading this means you’re a step ahead. Identify the behaviour of the people who are likely to purchase your products. Who is your target demographic (age, gender, location)? What motivates them to make a purchase? What are their attitudes to your services? The good news is what sets social commerce apart is platforms feature in-built targeting options and tools. Facebook features demographic and behavioural targeting, getting your products to the right users.
- Research competitors. Everyone does it! Have a look at social media accounts of competitors in your niche. Are they using paid advertising? Do their products look good? Are their CTAs convincing? Think you can do better? See what they’re up to, and the type of content they’re posting.
- Select the right platform. Sure, TikTok is the home of Gen Z. But do Gen Z care about your product? Where will your potential community members be hanging out? Be honest with yourself. Choose the social media platform where your target audience are generally found.
- Create content. And now, the fun part. Create content appealing to your audience and encourage customers to engage with you. Create videos, polls, and memes, or hold competitions. This will encourage your audience to interact with your brand and your product.
- Measure success. Use social media metrics, such as engagement rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, customer lifetime value, and return on ad spend. This will determine how customers are interacting with your posts. Remember – your strategy will change over time. You need to learn about your audience and what works best for your business. Experimentation is key.
How to Encourage User-Generated Content
With an online community at the heart of a great social media experience, User-Generated Content (UGC) motivates consumers to interact with you and shape your brand story. UGC also drives sales, too. For instance, 79% of consumers stated that UGC influences their purchasing decisions To add to this, Salesforce discovered that UGC increases conversions by up to 10%. Get ahead of the competitive edge with UGC. But, where do you start?
You should create a specific hashtag for Facebook and ask people to use it. Or, post pictures through Instagram Stories submitted by existing customers, showcasing your products in action!
Why Social Proof Is Important
Happy customers share opinions with each other, tag friends, and make product recommendations. This is a form of social proof which helps consumers make a buying decision. You should use it to showcase the value of your products.
Customer reviews are a powerful motivator for people who are browsing your products via social media. 97% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions, while customers are willing to spend 31% more on brands with excellent reviews. Facebook is a great platform for incorporating reviews, as they can be used in a Facebook ad to pique a consumer’s interest.
Don’t forget the crucial value of influencer marketing. Influencers are pivotal in helping shoppers make purchasing decisions. 49% of consumers said they regularly follow an Instagram influencer’s recommendation to buy a product.
TikTok and Instagram are where influences rub shoulders with big brands. By building relationships with influencers, you’ll increase the discoverability of your products and create solid social proof.
Is Social Commerce the End of eCommerce?
No – absolutely not!
In fact, there are a few things to consider before you press the big shiny social commerce button:
- Social algorithms change over time. The algorithms driving product discoverability change, making it difficult for brands to keep up. As a result, this drives some marketers to paid social advertising, which is more consistent. This is expensive in the long term.
- Security concerns. Customers want control over the personal information they provide. Make sure they’re only providing relevant information in their purchase, or you’ll put them off. Authenticity in your messaging will build trust with your audience, too. Fears of being scammed and security risks are the main reasons why people avoid social commerce.
- Meta is making cuts. Social commerce data suggests growth is healthy. But, there are some warning signs. For instance, Meta is closing live shopping on Facebook and removing Instagram’s Shop tab in a new UI update. The social impact of eCommerce is too great for it to be replaced. However, social commerce offers key platforms to create for building a community and increasing customer engagement
Time to start selling! The future of social commerce is bright. We can’t wait to see where it takes you.
Here are some key takeaways.
- Social commerce’s huge, ready-made audience means it’s undoubtedly a key channel for getting products in front of customers.
- It’s a great way to build an eCommerce brand community to encourage valuable User-Generated Content.
- Frictionless customer experiences are second-to-none. After all, we know fewer clicks/taps = more sales and repeat customers!
- Above all, it’s key to understand your audience and the platforms they prefer. Your target demographic will likely prefer one platform to another. So, it’s essential to select a suitable platform for your product.