It is a fact that social commerce is pompously entering the world of social networks. The winning combination lies in the fact that social networks and shopping are becoming increasingly important to brands and retailers in online sales.
What is social commerce in its essence? It is a term often described as online sales that include social networks. Specifically, social commerce represents social networks as a point of sale for various products. Basically, it is an easy way for people to buy a product. Social shopping provides a break from the usual complex shopping on online sales sites that often involve redirecting from one platform to another.
It all emerged from the habit of people who started to use social networks for various purposes – to read the news, follow trends, and even to shop. Also, it seems that it is in the nature of social networks for their users to share experiences, recommend them, and basically shorten the so-called customer journey when shopping. Given all that, the possibility of buying products directly from the platform of social networks appeared as a completely logical step.
At the beginning of this year, it became crystal clear – social shopping combines the best that social networks offer: their sharing of niche products and consumer influence with the functionality of online stores. Social networks are working to eliminate the gap between finding a product on social networks and buying that product on them.
We are aware that it is difficult to predict the future, but if you just check some facts, you will come to one obvious conclusion – social shopping changes the way we observe and use social networks. In the time that is about to come, social commerce will have a more and more significant impact on online shopping. Below you will find out what the future of social commerce will look like and what you can do to improve your brand and your business.
How’s Social Commerce Accelerating the Future of the Buying Process
Whether you have just discovered something more about social commerce or are already successfully running an online sales business, it is important to know that creating a shopping experience is not possible without social networks. Of course, we assume that you previously completed building a website or landing page for your product, i.e. created an online store to sell your products or services which will serve as some sort of a showcase to attract the audience, whose activities will be directed via social media.
Why is creating a shopping experience not possible without social networks? Well, 60% of people discover products on Instagram. Or, for example, 78% of Americans use Facebook to find new products. Also, 30% of consumers are willing to shop through social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. People allow social media to guide them in their purchasing decisions, while for brands, it is an ideal place where they can boost sales and raise brand awareness.
Because of these facts, social networks and online sales should not be separated. Even luxury brands cannot ignore this fact, nor can they expect to successfully realize their online sales without a well-prepared social commerce strategy. Likewise, social networks can only become even more connected to online sales and brands need to be aware of changes, trends, and take advantage of all the opportunities that social commerce offers to the buying process.
Just think of Instagram, which in mid-2018 launched a shoppable post feature that gives companies the ability to tag products in organic posts and the ability to purchase products online directly on Instagram. Or Facebook, where many brands have built chatbots to improve customer service, answer their questions, and improve the overall shopping experience.
These are all ways in which social commerce already exists and on the basis of which it will speed up the buying process even more in the future. Social networks, combined with online sales, undoubtedly affect consumers and the business world is very optimistic about the progress of social networks and online sales. So, it is likely that in the time to come, social networks and online sales will become one and most likely on separate and for this purpose developed locations.
With more and more people getting attached to their smartphones and social networking platforms, brands should make an effort to merge online sales and social networking almost immediately. So, now is the right time to ask the next question – what awaits us in social commerce in the near future?
So What Does the Future of Social Shopping Look Like?
To talk about the future of social shopping, we need to look to the East. Unlike western countries, where social commerce has just become something new, in China, social commerce is already a big deal. The main difference is that in China, consumers do not use social networks and applications just to make a purchase. They use social networking platforms to engage brands at every step of the purchase, and this is something that companies from Western countries have yet to apply in their business.
Analyzing various improvements on social networks and in social commerce, it is clear that there is a trend of copying what is already working successfully in China. Most of the options on Facebook and Facebook Messenger are enabled first in China, on the WeChat platform. This means that they are developing their online businesses and platforms much faster than is the case in the West.
But, as we have already mentioned, shopping in China is a real ecosystem, made up of online sales platforms and social networks. Their way of selling and buying online is no longer defined as online selling. The Chinese, innovative way of social commerce lies in the reality that they perceive social commerce as a combination of social networks, communication platforms, and shopping. Especially since in China, social commerce means connecting people who share the same interests, before buying a product.
Social commerce is a way of social engagement, not just a shopping platform. The future of social commerce lies in this reliable fact – social commerce will become a form of social engagement, not just a process. Social commerce will become a place that will bring people together in online communities, not a place where people will have to do shopping on social networks.
The WeChat app has created a communication-based ecosystem, where salespeople meet consumers creating a trusted connection that is much different from the classic online sales business. This is the basic difference between Facebook and WeChat. With WeChat, brands can present anything from content, payment methods, and social interactions to live streaming, a personalized online sales experience, and customer service. In this way, WeChat can customize and personalize the experience of potential consumers.
What Lies Behind the Future of Social Shopping
With all of the above, it is obvious what lies behind the future of social shopping. In the future, there will be a merging of social applications and applications for online sales. This does not mean that brands will only add online sales options to already developed social networks, as Instagram did with its shopping options, but there will be a complete turnaround.
The strength of social commerce will be online brand communities that will be based on trust and respect for mutual values nurtured by the brand and consumers. The future of social shopping lies in the connection between social networks, social commerce, and the brand’s online communities.
But what is a brand community? It is a group of consumers who invest in a brand outside the product – they enable companies to have a strong connection with consumers and involve them in creating a brand. And while all of this seems like a new idea to you, a number of the world’s best brands, like Nike, have been working to create their communities for years.
In the years when the personalization of marketing is growing, online communities will be a place where people of different interests will gather – from parents to dog owners, from Labrador owners to collectors of famous Lego bricks. This will be the driving force behind the bright future of social commerce.
Some brands already benefit from their brand communities. We can mention the many successes of online community stories, such as Nike and the story of NikePlus membership, based on which you get advice, support, the ability to use online chat, as well as exclusive products only for members.
But one very inspiring example of a brand online community is certainly Sephora’s Beauty Talk. It is designed to answer thousands of online reviews and consumer questions on the Sephora site. They created the platform using their already existing audience and customers to develop an online community for beauty lovers.
Their online community is now a very active forum where consumers share tips and reviews about Sephora products. In addition, Beauty Talk also offers a different way to engage products and the community – users can upload their photos using Sephora products. The photos are then linked to all the products used on them. It is real social commerce in action. Another benefit in all of this is that the brand can use the forum to find out which products consumers are interested in, as well as to answer customer questions about the services.
With this example of Sephora, we can see that when consumers gather around a particular brand then it is only necessary to introduce them to the sales opportunities and direct their attention to a particular product that meets the desires, interests, and needs of the community members. It is the only real sales and engagement generator for any brand.
Creating an engaged active community requires a lot of work, but once a well-designed online community, as you could see from the example, offers a gold mine of opportunities for your brand and marketing strategy. But how can you build an impressive and long-lasting online community?
How to Design a Brand Community?
Social commerce must become a system that people do not just use to shop or follow people on social media. The focus should shift to online brand communities that bring together specific people and focus on specific products that suit their desires, interests, and needs. But how do you design your loyal brand community?
- Nurture the Management of Your Community
Assuming you already own your social media channels, you need to pay a little more attention to managing your community. Your posts, your language, and your social media persona should represent the values of your brand. Moreover, you should be interested in the community on social media by allowing them to contribute and participate in discussions.
The important thing is that the conversations are based on relevant topics and that the members do not insult each other. Allow consumers to report rude behavior and feel when you should join the conversation. That way, your online community will feel that there is a ’human being’ behind the brand.
- Invest in Good Content Marketing
If you want to extract business value from your online community, you should have great content marketing that will engage your consumers. Engaged members create a loyal consumer base and are a good source of data based on insights. For your content to be interesting and worth reading and sharing, it needs to be related to the needs, desires, and issues that are relevant to your community.
A great example of this is Procter & Gamble’s online community that focuses on women’s lifestyles, relationships, and culture. In this way, they give their content values that are appreciated by their target audience.
Not Everything Is the Same for All Brands
A great way to achieve engagement is to involve members of your social network(s) in creating content by allowing them to suggest topics for your content. This will encourage them to communicate with each other. If you adopt the aforementioned two suggestions, your brand will slowly but surely create its loyal online community that will increase sales and engagement.
As more and more brands enjoy the benefits of online communication, we are sure we will witness a change in online sales that will develop online communities into places where people will discuss their interests but also buy products. However, as with all marketing strategies, the rule is that not everything is the same for all brands. Some industries are ideal for platforms that are based on the use of forums, while for others it is necessary to devise creative ways to inspire consumers to engage.
By creating your online brand community, you can create a platform for your ideal and current consumers that will trigger a significant connection with your business. Building your community will be your long-term marketing strategy. But without a strategic approach, a carefully constructed community, and adequate community-friendly content, there will be no sales.