By Nicola Kinsella, Fluent Commerce
A large portion of today’s shoppers don’t remember a world without Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Even those who do recall a pre-social media reality have come to fully embrace the platforms, opening immense opportunities for brands and influencers to capture, engage and sell to new customers.
Virtually all brands have some sort of social media advertising strategy — and many have started selling products directly through these platforms already. Given the important role of social networks in the retail business, it’s imperative to have a social commerce program that is fully integrated with the larger organization. In other words, social networks need to be part of a balanced channel strategy because they will become increasingly influential in promoting products to a wider range of customers. Getting the fundamentals right is key to success in this arena.
Make Buying Effortless
From shoppable posts to swipe-up links, purchasing a product is as easy as a tap on the screen (literally). Making this connection for customers takes a social commerce program beyond traditional advertising or marketing. In the past, shoppers would be required to make product selections, pay, and provide shipping information on the retailer’s eCommerce site. But now, with the introduction of Instagram Checkout, shoppers can buy products from brands without leaving the app. The entire transaction, including payment and shipping information, takes place on Instagram. It is proving to be very effective with large increases in orders, revenue, and conversion rates for participating retailers. The demand for effortless shopping on social media will only increase down the line, so offering in-app purchasing options can’t be overlooked if a brand wants to stay competitive.
People are being primed for instant gratification with the success of Amazon Prime’s one-day delivery and the emphasis by social platforms on instant real-time news and information. To meet demand as quickly as possible, retailers need to fulfill sales in a very short time frame. This means inventory accuracy is more important than ever. If someone clicks on an image of a beautiful handbag, they don’t want to be told it’s not available.
To meet the expectations of instant gratification, retailers also need to complete orders as quickly as possible. This might involve moving inventory close to customers to reduce shipping time by using their store network, extra distribution centers, or drop-ship vendors.
Focus on Customer Experience
Social networks started as a way for people to connect with their classmates, friends, and family. That fact is still in its DNA today regardless of how it evolved. For this reason, engagement must remain the top priority for brands looking to capture new customers. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are not just vehicles for selling products.
Each channel has its way of engaging with users. Some platforms are more visually driven while some are text and link driven. Each platform reaches a slightly different demographic, which means the way a brand articulates certain promotions, exclusive offers, or competitive differences should change based on the age and interests of each platform. For example, instead of saying “Buy our shirts,” something like, “Here’s someone wearing our shirts and looking great,” would be better received.
Social Can’t Sell Everything
Social commerce has dramatically expanded the sales and engagement landscape, but it’s important not to get carried away with what it can do. Instagram users might enjoy seeing luxury products, but that doesn’t mean they will buy a $5,000 watch. Affordable items — clothing in particular — have seen unprecedented growth on Instagram because low-cost, high-margin products sell best.
Smart brands understand it is better to select specific products to be sold via social channels rather than promote their entire catalog. This requires an Order Management System (OMS) that can let retailers arrange available inventory by channel, market, or even region.
Retailers must begin to wrap their minds around the fact that most shoppers, especially Gen Z, don’t make a distinction between buying via Instagram, a website, or a physical store. However, they will remember poor customer service, a sub-par experience, or shipping and delivery woes. Social commerce is already fundamental to so many retailers, but it needs to be an integral part of a business strategy rather than a side note.
About The Author
Nicola Kinsella is SVP of global marketing at Fluent Commerce.