If you think social networks are mainly a place for recreation, socialization and sharing’s sake, then know that you are wrong … not for long, though.
The commercial dynamics arising from these channels are growing faster and faster: traffic generated by social networks towards e-commerce is the one with the highest percentage of growth between 2014 and 2015 compared with that from all other channels (source: BusinessInsider).
Of course, overall it is still a small number of the total, but it is a clear sign that the dynamics of virtual commerce are evolving.
First and second commercial revolution
The birth of e-commerce has been a milestone for many companies. It is the first real revolution in the encounter between demand and supply: on these digital storefronts, businesses can offer their products to an unlimited audience that is the whole world. When social networks began offering this opportunity to use their spaces and features to promote and sell products, it started a second revolution, which change these dynamics even more: the purchasing mechanism is now globalized and has also become more interactive. People can comment, show their appreciation towards a product, communicate directly with the seller and share their opinions with friends and acquaintances. This is the most innovative aspect of Social Commerce.
Social Commerce is the e-commerce site that rediscovers the market
Social Commerce is like a market, where we chat, observe and compare, talk to other customers and the seller. The moment of purchase is no longer just an economic transaction, as is done on e-commerce, but it is once again a social relationship.
The transformation of online commerce to a social one took place for a simple reason: people spend more and more time on social networks, dedicating nearly 20% of their time online just on Facebook, with an average of 20 minutes a day (source: Business Insider) and also the growing access from mobile devices. According to research reported by Theverge.com, 30% of people access Facebook exclusively from their smartphones.
Facebook likes commerce
People do everything on social networks: they socialize, play, discover, inform… so why don’t we offer them the possibility to shop as well? Facebook was the first one to seize this opportunity by offering commercial spaces to brands through the creation of Internet pages and the ability to sponsor paid contents which would direct people to your website. It has recently introduced the possibility of selling a product directly from its platform: the potential buyers can click on the “Buy” button on a sponsored ad and they will be directed to a page dedicated to it, with a shopping cart to complete the purchase without logging out of Facebook.
Data show that Facebook was right about it: 47% of people confirm that this company is the one that has the most influence on their purchasing decisions (source: ConvinceandConvert) and 64% of online sales are generated here (source: BusinessInsider).
Creative ads to increase conversions
Facebook is always working on building and introducing new features to help brands promote their products in a creative and effective way. The latest idea for paid listings is the Carousel, which allows you to create an ad with multiple images (or video) in a single scrollable ad unit. Each image has a destination URL and a call to action button. This format has a lower cost per conversion and cost per clicks, because it increases the chances of attracting users’ attention and also the visual space to exhibit your own products.
Twitter and Pinterest are not just standing still
Other social networks have also ridden the wave of social networks, adapting well-suited methods to their own characteristics and targets. Twitter introduced a “Buy now” button that allows you to purchase directly from a tweet. However, this is an option that has not gained audience consensus so far.
Similarly, Pinterest has added a “Buy it” button for their pinners and this has been a success: although the number of users is six times lower than those on Twitter, Pinterest has quickly reached 16% of the total sales via Social Network (source: BusinessInsider). This is also thanks to the strong visual component of this company, which makes the products even more appealing.
How to make the most of the social evolution of online commerce?
There are many opportunities offered by Social Commerce to those who have an online e-commerce or those who think of building one. However, you have to pay attention to these four aspects:
#1 Work on the content
These new Facebook features that improve the form and the impact of your ads are undoubtedly useful to increase your sales, but watch out for your content: as mentioned in the beginning, 30% of people access Facebook only from mobile devices. If the pages that are linked to the ads are not optimized, users are more likely to abandon them, thus reducing the number of purchase conversions and wasting the commitment and budget spent on this social campaign. Having an optimized e-commerce is no longer a choice but a necessity, whether users come from either social sites or from search engines: according to research by ComScore, 60% of access to e-commerce is from mobile devices, but only 15% leads to purchase.
This is often due to poor accessibility of the pages viewed on a smartphone, which makes the user abandon the procedure and repeat it later on a PC. So does this mean that those who do not have a mobile e-shop are cut off from the opportunities offered by social commerce? Absolutely not, they just have to act immediately: there are innovative platforms on the web that allow you to easily build a mobile e-commerce, even with a limited budget and without any special technical knowledge. You will be able to grab these social opportunities in less than a day.
#2 From social to e-commerce
If it is true that social commerce can increase the business of an online shop, then it is important to measure this growth and know which other channels work better. The statistics related to the sources of access are crucial to analyze how many people get to e-commerce from social networks, and those who come from mobile devices and how these numbers change as a result of specific activities, such as paid campaigns. Facebook also gives its advertisers the possibility to activate a tracking pixel for conversions, which is added to the HTML of your site: you can count the number of people coming from social networks who actually buy your product by simply adding the code on the purchase confirmation page.
#3 From e-commerce to social
Social networks allow you to bring new people to the site, but the opposite direction should be made easier as well. In addition to positioning the icons of all active social networks on your home page in a visible way, you should not forget to add share buttons on various social networks next to each product on your e-commerce. In this way, clients who are interested in an article may publish it on their own page, making it visible to their friends, thus creating a new and a potential audience for the brand.
#4 Synchronizing virtual stores
Multichannel marketing is an inevitable consequence of Social Commerce. From a single window offered by e-commerce, now you will a lot more, one for every social network where you decide to promote your products. Creating dynamic brand pages, which are always up to date and able to engage people, is the key to ensure that they are indeed working and are not simply a miniature copy of the e-commerce: your goal is not to create a catalogue of your products on social networks, but to make people talk about the most interesting ones. You must also pay attention to the coordination of campaigns and promotions: when you make a promotion on your page on social networks, this must be done on your e-commerce as well and vice versa, unless it is a specific promotion reserved for one channel.
And here’s a short quote to conclude
As the Cluetrain Manifesto says, “Markets are conversations” and Social Commerce has added new meanings to this phrase. You do not need to continuously yell to be a good seller: you have to have solid arguments (such as those discussed in step #1) and find the right ones to convey. You have to be noticed by the most concerned customers in the right place and at the right time.
Silvio Porcellana is the CEO and Founder of mob.is.it, the online tool over 1,000 agencies and professionals use to build mobile websites and native apps for customers worldwide. From his retreat in the Monferrato Hills in North West Italy, he bootstraps companies, writes about web and mobile marketing, and helps customers succeed online. Find out more about him at mob.is.it/about.