First, we had mail-order catalogues, then came teleshopping, finally, we achieved full-scale online shops and the evolution of commerce seemed complete – we had achieved peak retail convenience.
With the entry of social commerce into popular consciousness, retailers were able to bring their products to the places shoppers were spending most of their time: social media. From there, the channel has seen an extraordinary ascent, driven especially by its popularity in the lucrative Chinese market. Already valued at $560 billion in 2020, by 2028 experts expect the global value of social commerce to reach $2,900 billion.
But it isn’t just convenience that’s behind this explosive growth. Much like the price wars of yesteryear, a convenient shopping experience is now something a consumer takes for granted. Instead, brands have had to look for other ways to make their social shopping experience stand out.
Here we are now, entertain us
Social commerce represents a huge opportunity for brands. With consumers across all age brackets spending more and more time on social media (145 minutes a day, on average), bringing buying capability to these platforms has made purchasing decisions much more seamless and the room for personalisation much greater. But brand loyalty is a thing of the past, consumer trust is at an all-time low, and traditional differentiators have become a race to the bottom. So how can brands capitalise on this lucrative new channel?
After free delivery and returns, ease of checkout, and interestingly a brand’s conduct during the pandemic, the entertainment value is the fourth most important element of a shopping experience to dictate propensity to purchase. Let’s take a look at three ways brands are injecting a bit of fun into social commerce.
Wildly popular in Asia, this combination of live streaming and commerce has brought teleshopping bang up to date. Using presenters to demonstrate products live via video stream, offering tips and advice for how to use it, and, crucially, their tacit endorsement of the product on offer, this approach has created huge uplifts for brands like Aliaba and Shiseido.
Now, the same tactic is set to take America by storm as Estée Lauder and e.l.f recruit celebrity faces like Karlie Kloss and influencers such as Kathleen Belsten – otherwise known as “Loserfruit” or “Lufu” – to be the digital face of their products in these live streams.
Covering a broad spectrum of opportunities – from in-app concerts like Travis Scott’s foray into Fortnite, to running simple social media competitions – gamifying social commerce taps directly into the brain’s reward pathways.
Incentivising social interactions such as likes and shares might not be anything new, but savvier brands are incorporating consumer preference for peer-to-peer communications into their use of gamification to maximise their results. By encouraging social media users to enter competitions with their own content through a common hashtag, for example, the brand’s reach expands exponentially and they benefit from a wealth of organic content to boot.
While social commerce is something most brands should be taking advantage of (and quickly), it won’t save them from the perennial challenge of wilting consumer trust. While live streams and gamification will certainly introduce some novelty to your target audience’s social experience, their efficacy may still be compromised by the simple fact that brand-to-peer communications are not regarded as highly as peer-to-peer. And that’s where influencers come in.
Social media is the influencer’s domain so leaving them out of your social commerce strategy would be a massive missed opportunity. Even in China, where social commerce is a national sensation, it is not your typical celebrities driving the change, but influencers. Offering the impartial seal of approval brands so desperately need, in the channel in which they already have willing audiences, influencers can be immensely powerful when it comes to driving in-platform engagement and ultimately sales.
Whether they’re hosting live streams, participating in your competitions, or even simply recommending and product tagging items from your product range in their content, influencers have the advantage not just of being trusted by their followers, but of being regarded as entertaining. Therefore, by immersing your offering into an influencer’s content, you can immediately share in that spotlight.
Let’s wrap this up
The rapid rise of social commerce speaks not just to the importance of a convenient shopping experience or the increasing time humans spend on social media platforms, but more importantly to the consumer’s fairly limitless appetite for diversion. This is something brands and platforms alike have long tried to capitalise on, whether that’s in the infinite scroll on TikTok or the integration of meme culture into corporate communications. But with social commerce, brands have a direct path to monetising their content.
Now that might sound cynical and if you’re not careful then it could even appear that way to your audience. So tread carefully, ensure the experience you’re offering consumers is genuinely entertaining, and if you really want to maximise the results you see from the channel, make sure you’re not the only one saying so.