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Shopping Made Social

With platforms continuing to optimise for shopping, Born Social Strategist, Emily Williams, shares her insights and advice for brands looking to get ahead in social commerce.

Social Commerce

Emily Williams

14 May 2021

Social Commerce has been on the horizon for a while, but 2020 really kicked it into overdrive. Lockdown hit and our lives went online; socialising, working, and - importantly - shopping.

Social platforms spotted the opportunity. Instagram redesigned its homepage to put shopping front and centre. Facebook’s whole ecosystem is optimising for Social Commerce. And with the thawing of the social ice age, we’re seeing new players like TikTok emerge.

Social Commerce - a shopping experience completed entirely on social platforms, from discovery right through to purchase - is now a reality. And it means brands can weave together brand and performance marketing, going truly full funnel.

This isn’t a fleeting trend either, with the social commerce market predicted to grow at a rate of over 30% up until 2027. So how can brands really take advantage of this?

Build social commerce content with your community

Community is now closer than ever to commerce; just look to China where social commerce is already responsible for over 30% of ecommerce business (in the US it’s just 3%). This is driven by platforms such as WeChat and Douyin which offer seamless integration between social media and ecommerce - with community at the heart of that.

Live streaming, led by Key Opinion Leaders, is playing a huge role. They build huge communities around their personalities and product recommendations. They interact directly with their audience and it’s this community around shopping that’s especially powerful; we know that social media has made audience voices as loud as brands. And this naturally evolves how people will choose to buy in the future. China is ahead of the curve here, but it’s significant; this trend even helped Chinese farmers survive during the pandemic.

Closer to home, we’re starting to see the green shoots of this trend. ASOS ran their a-Squad stream via Twitch as part of their Christmas campaign, using three streamers, shopping segments, and a tongue-in-cheek approach that nodded back to the days of QVC. We’ve also seen squad shopping; aiming to recreate offline shopping by letting you browse and shop with friends online. But it’s early days.

Nike is one of the first brands to embrace this more, building its very own social commerce community app aimed at its female Gen Z audience. Blending sport, style and self care, the Nothing But Gold platform is aiming to create the future of shopping for girls.

What does this mean for brands in 2021?

Look to expand shopping on social to be more… social. Tap into platforms which encourage interaction; and think how live streaming can factor in. Social commerce isn’t just about shoppable ads, but how you’re talking to and with your audience - whether that’s as a brand or through influencers or creators.

Don’t think of social commerce as a separate activity; think how it blends with your community, and build with them.

Drive cult products on the right platforms

Social Commerce has the power to put a product in your feed that you’ve never heard of, are not searching for, and didn’t know you wanted - and getting you to buy it, there and then.

TikTok is worth a dedicated shout out here. Combine the ‘discovery’ nature of the platform with its sometimes-rogue algorithm, and you’ve got a powerful recipe for impulse purchases. Just look at the TikTok leggings or the lint remover as recent examples.

It’s important to note it’s often products, not necessarily brands, who get the hype; Maybelline’s viral mascara is a great example of this. Starting with partnerships, which branched out into community content, and ending with 240 million hashtag views and coverage in mainstream press; all for a £10 mascara that you’d probably overlook in Boots.

Connecting this power with shopability is the future. 83% of TikTokers have made purchases inspired by trending products; and TikTok users are impulse buyers. With TikTok’s Shopify partnership and incoming new ad formats, there’s soon going to be more opportunity than ever for brands.

What does this mean for brands in 2021?

Understand your platforms to make the most of shopping habits; cult products on TikTok are a more natural fit than Facebook or Instagram, given the audience, the algorithm, and behaviours.

Think product first, rather than brand first - and get it into the hands of creators. TikTok has the power to drive impactful sales from a 15 second, rough-around-the-edges review video. Integrating this with creators and shoppable formats is going to be key in the future.

Don’t ignore Augmented Reality

Snapchat is betting big on AR as the future of social commerce. Snap has featured products in its lenses before, but it’s finally bridging the gap between entertainment and shopping.

Gucci launched a shoppable try-on campaign featuring augmented lenses with four pairs of trainers to try on - with a Buy Now option directly in the Lens itself. The Beauty sector isn’t far behind, using Snapchat AR to overcome how the pandemic has resigned the shopfloor tester to the history books - with Google also exploring this too, and brands such as L’Oreal, Revlon, and Urban Decay getting involved.

And apparently it works; with Snapchat campaigns that include shoppable AR Lenses seeing a 2.4-times higher action intent lift, compared to the Q3 average.

What does this mean for brands in 2021?

Don’t just see AR as a flashy distraction. If your product has that desirability, particularly in the fashion and beauty sectors, and try-on is an essential driver, Lenses could be a strong option.

AR can blend brand-building innovation with measurable commerce effects. It’s one to watch.

So what’s the conclusion?

Getting ahead in social commerce doesn’t just mean setting up your Facebook Shop, adding shoppable tags to content, and sitting back. With the landscape changing and evolving - and platforms responding - brands can start to think much bigger.

Social Commerce can inform and enhance fame-building ideas, creating a full funnel approach that not only drives sales but builds brands too. We know that brands need both approaches to succeed. And social commerce is one way to bring them together.