What is social commerce and how can brands take advantage?
By Paul Archer, CEO and co-founder, Duel
Social commerce is not just limited to (as a quick Google search may lead you to believe), the ability to make a purchase through a social platform or the act of buying and selling products and services through social media.
Social commerce actually refers to any purchase which is influenced by social, whereby the selling is done through people, not owned brand channels. Or as Sadie Hawkins, GM of North America Solutions at Tiktok explains: “It’s word of mouth on steroids.”
Why it’s a game changer
Social commerce represents a real shift in power from retailers and brands to consumers and it is changing the way brands acquire and retain customers.
That’s because regardless of age, consumers want to see what other people are saying about a brand, not what a brand is saying about themselves before buying from them. We are increasingly looking for real content, created by real people who we can relate to and trust in order to make better and more informed buying decisions. That could be from family, friends, communities we are part of or authentic influencers we follow on social media.
Social commerce is a game changer because it serves these very needs, providing an enhanced shopping experience that is based on authenticity and trust, not on brand promotion.
The market opportunity
There are over 4 billion people active on social media (that’s 57% of the global population, according to Statista) and we spend on average over two hours a day browsing the various platforms. It’s even more for gen z.
And while previously we may have used social media to consume news and connect with friends, we are now using it to shop. In fact, social platforms are becoming so widely used in this regard, they’re starting to threaten the dominance of e-commerce and search giants.
So for brands that understand what social commerce is and how consumer buying behaviour has changed, the opportunity is absolutely massive. So massive in fact that, according to Accenture, social commerce sales are forecast to increase from $958 billion in 2022 to $3.37 trillion by 2028 and is set to grow three times faster than traditional ecommerce.
For those that get it right, social commerce has the potential to become a brand’s biggest revenue generator in the year ahead. So how can brands prepare for this?
Know their audience
Social commerce is changing the purchase journey, creating an experience that circumvents brand-owned channels and one that firmly puts customers in the driving seat. This means brands first need to really understand their target customers, their purchasing behaviours and which platforms they are most active on. This differs significantly by generation.
We know that, according to Latana’s Social Commerce Report 2022, over 50 percent of gen z and millennials are already using social media to discover new products, 79 percent of millennials say they would consider buying through Facebook, while 47% of baby boomers would buy through Facebook, with only 2 percent through Tiktok
This shows just how varied platform preferences are by generation and brands need to understand this first and foremost if they are to succeed in the social commerce space.
Build a community (of creators)
The fundamental reason social commerce is exploding so massively is because it is driven entirely by earned content from real people, not from content owned by a brand.
With trust in traditional influencers (the ones that are paid by brands to pretend to like their product) at an all-time low (according to data from YouGov, 96 percent of UK adults do not trust these influencers), consumers are increasingly looking for real content, created by real customers who they can relate to and trust to make better, more informed buying decisions.
In fact, according to a recent survey from Sprout Social, people cited recommendations from friends as the top reason they make purchases through social media, while research from Stackla shows that user generated content (UGC) is 2.4 times more trusted than brand created content.
And so UGC serves as the social proof consumers are looking for and is the key to unlocking the potential of social commerce for brands today. And the best way for brands to invest in UGC is to first focus on building a community of loyal brand fans (we call them advocates) and then incentivising them to create and share content with their own followers.
Building a community of advocates and then incentivising them to create and share content on a brand’s behalf is not easy, especially at scale. However, it is going to be fundamental to a brand’s ability to compete in the social commerce space in the year ahead.
How can brands engage, celebrate, reward and activate their advocates to share content on their behalf? Here are some ideas:
- Obsess over the customer experience. The more a brand cares about its customers, the more those customers will care for the brand and tell everyone they know.
- Power advocacy and loyalty clubs to reward top customers and drive them to further promote and support a brand.
- Enable passionate communities of professionals and experts such as hair stylists or sports instructors, customers and store teams to promote a brand and recommend products to their online and social networks.
- Reward customers with exclusive perks, benefits and exclusive sales for completing activities to support the brands such as content creation, referrals, challenges, surveys, polls and social posting.
The time for brands to act on social commerce is now, but it is not as simple as just investing more in social media activity or adding the latest shopping widget to their social channels.
Brands that fail to understand how the customers’ buying behaviour has changed or acknowledge the reduced relevance of traditional brand-owned channels leave themselves open to being outsmarted by the competition looking to take their market share in the year ahead.
Brands need to invest in a community-first strategy, that looks to identify and incentivise their own core brand advocates to share content on their behalf. Only then will they be able to truly compete in the social commerce space.
About Paul Archer
Paul is founder and CEO of Duel and a world record-breaking adventurer, brand ambassador, and leading voice on the topic of Brand Advocacy. He’s advised over 450 of the world’s biggest brands on their word-of-mouth and advocacy strategies, using a background in viral gaming and psychology to show what it takes to build great brands in the long term.
Duel is a Brand Advocacy platform used by brands including Pandora, TRESemmé, Charlotte Tilbury, Monica Vinader, NEOM, Elemis, Rab/Lowe Alpine and over 60 other brands to coordinate and scale their advocates to drive advocacy and therefore social commerce.