We’ve all done this at some point or the other – Going to the mall with friends tagging along because you want their opinions on what you buy. There’s social commerce in the analog world for you.
A lot has changed in the last decade. We don’t shop at the mall as much as we do online. Again, we don’t meet up with friends face to face as often as we interact with them on social media. When you factor in these two changes to the ‘going to the mall with friends’ concept – you get social commerce in 2014.
How Would You Define Social Commerce?
This is one of those things that is still nebulous, still taking form and no one can really agree upon any one comprehensive definition.
However, we can attempt to piece together inferences from how social media affects e-commerce to arrive at an acceptable meaning for social commerce today.
- Facebook brand stores that were launched in the late 2000’s have almost disappeared entirely. This failure indicates that simply copy-pasting the existing e-commerce model onto social media does not make users want to buy things on social networks. Users go to social media to bond with friends, keep up with their social connections, not to browse through pages and pages of products for sale.
- Research from Salesforce shows that 78% of sales professionals who use social media to reach out to their target audience sell more than those who don’t. Time to brush up those social skills and engage with your target audience, don’t you think?
- Social media is not just useful from the seller’s perspective. Consumers use social media as a tool that aids purchase decisions.
It’s not always sellers who reach out to potential buyers. Often buyers reach out to sellers – for various reasons, not just for sales. These reasons include service issues, pre-sales research, expressing thanks over a great experience and more. According to the Salesforce research quoted earlier, nearly three-quarters (73%) of all users claim to have engaged with a vendor on social media.
From all of this data, we can safely say that buying a product or a service online as a direct result of interactions on social media can be called social commerce.
It could be a result of clicking through from an organic post on social media, a recommendation by a friend, a paid ad or even a solution to a customer query posted on social media.
How Would You Maximize Social Commerce Revenues?
Getting your penny’s worth from social media has a lot to do with how you integrate social media into your website and your marketing communications.
1. Social Sharing Beyond The ‘Share’ button
The first step to making your online store social friendly is by letting users befriend your brand on social media. Tell your visitors loud and clear where to find you on social media and offer click through icons that let them follow you on individual networks.
Getting fans and followers used to be how social media marketing started among e-commerce players, but soon the realization sunk in that mere fans who don’t interact are not worth too much to the brand.
Allow users to share interesting things that they find on your site with their friends and family on social networks with strategically placed sharing buttons. If you have gorgeous product images, offer sharing to Instagram, Pinterest and of course Facebook. If quotable quotes are what your site is famous for, offer ‘click to tweet’ options.
However, just having social sharing buttons on product pages is mere tokenism in the name of social integration. ModCloth actually ‘gets’ this whole social sharing and community thing really well. Take a look at their search results page and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Each item shows the number of users who have ‘liked’ it previously – a sort of endorsement for the item. It gets better. The page filter offers ‘Most Loved’ as an option to filter your results by – something that you don’t see every day on an e-commerce site!
2. Encourage ‘purchase sharing’ on social media by offering buyers incentives to share online
A great way to ensure virality of your content on social media is to encourage your fans to like or share your posts on social media. This would mean that this ‘story’ would show up on the timelines of a large number of their friends.
An even better way to piggyback on your fans’ networks and get awesome visibility for your brand is by asking them to share their recent purchase experiences on social media. You can incentivize them to share their purchase online via your order confirmation email or your ‘Thank You’ page by offering a discount on their next purchase.
Take social sharing a step further by letting users share their own user generated content with your items on the product pages of your own website like ModCloth does here:
What better endorsement can a product get than having satisfied customers posting pictures of them actually using said product?
3. Social Proof to Encourage Conversions
The Global Trust in Advertising report by Nielsen shows that 70% of consumers trust opinions posted by real consumers online for making purchase decisions. This is second only to direct word of mouth recommendations from friends and family that topped the trust charts at 92%. Unsurprisingly, paid advertising managed to convince less than 50% of consumers with TV ads being most convincing and text ads on mobile phones bringing up the rear.
Leverage this innate trust that consumers have in the opinions of other users by offering them social proof across your website.
Don’t get thrown by the term ‘social proof’. Any content on your site that contains opinions or experiences or data regarding real users constitutes social proof. This includes:
- Number of ‘satisfied customers’
- Customer testimonials for your brand as a whole
- Celebrity testimonials (remember Jennifer Hudson and Weightwatchers?)
- Awards and recognition for your brand from prestigious entities
- Ratings and reviews for individual products
- Number of social ‘likes’ for a product
In fact, product reviews and testimonials are given huge importance in conversion optimization of e-commerce sites. CRO guru Neil Patel has penned an article that handles the topic in minute detail.
To summarize what Neil says about testimonials and social proof, here are quick to-dos:
- Don’t stick to just text based testimonials. Create testimonials in video form with your users speaking about their experience with your product. A video combined with a compelling story is a convincer.
- Make sure your testimonials are not vague, one-size fits all type affairs. Request users to spell out what they liked specifically about your brand, how it helped them in their own lives etc.
- Use images and names of users to give the testimonial a tad more authenticity
4. The Right Mix of Product Posts and ‘Value-adding’ Posts on Social Media
If there’s one constant thing that one hears all around is that whatever you do, do not be ‘salesy’ on social media. The minute you start pushing products down users’ timelines like a used-car salesman is the minute you’ll have them running in the other direction for dear life.
Instead, we’re told offer ‘real value’ to users through your social media posts.
Now, I am not here to contradict these tried and tested pieces of social media wisdom. But I have my own take on how both types of posts hold real value for your users and must be used based on what works best. Test out your posts with A/B testing tools like VWO or Optimizely and see the response to them. Based on this you will arrive at a ratio of product posts to value-added posts for your individual brand – this is a critical step, as this ratio can vary widely for different brands based on their existing brand equity, industry type and target audience.
In the case of product posts, make sure you offer a click through link to your website where users can directly buy the product without having to comb through the entire website for the item. Image driven social networks like Pinterest can be optimized with Rich Pins that help users experience your product as well as click through to buy it right away.
Amazon has taken the lead in direct sales through Twitter by setting up the AmazonCart option. Nothing stops your brand from taking inspiration from the largest e-commerce site in the world and adapting the idea to your own online store.
5. Break Down Barriers with Social Login
You might have just put up your best social media post to date, yet you see few users crossing over to your site to make a purchase.
Jay Baer explains this reluctance to leave social media “Given the extreme stickiness of social networks (especially Facebook and Pinterest), it is indeed possible that part of the issue with social commerce is one of session interruption, whereby consumers don’t want to leave the visceral comforts of their social network by clicking a link and going shopping online, but would rather store the awareness of the deal in their noggin and visit the website later, when they are less ensconced in social media bliss.”
Now turn the situation around. Imagine a user who comes to your site, picks out a product she likes and boom! She is asked to create a brand new user name, password and account on your site to be able to buy the item she picked out so carefully. How many users would have the patience to create the umpteenth user account on an e-commerce site? Statistically, just about a third of them.
What you really need in a scenario like this is the ability to let users move seamlessly between social media – a world that they are generally logged into already – and your website. Social login tools like Janrain make it possible for users to log into websites using their social media IDs. No more remembering yet another password-username combination.
Social logins come with some direct benefits for online stores as well. E-commerce stores get access to social information about their users – their likes, dislikes, location, preferred activities and more – using the integration of users’ social media accounts with their accounts on the e-commerce site. This rich data can be used to personally tailor communication for each user, thus raising conversion possibilities manifold.
Social login users post details about their purchase to their social networks directly from within your site, making the purchase visible on their friends’ timelines instantaneously.
Over to You
Social commerce will soon step into its next epoch with the ‘Buy’ button soon to become a reality on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest – your three major social networks that are all set to help multiply your conversions from social media.
However, even with the ‘buy’ buttons or Amazon’s #AmazonCart concept, social commerce will not just be an e-commerce venture dressed in social skins. To make sure your e-commerce store truly benefits from social media in terms of actual bottom line numbers, you need to first get your basics right. Simply action the stuff that we discussed in this post right here, and you should be all set!