Social media is a major part of the customer journey. A growing number of consumers are using social media to search for, discover, purchase and recommend products. This offers retailers a great opportunity to build a relationship with their customers and connect with them throughout their purchase cycle. But from our experience, few retailers are making the most of this opportunity.
There is an almost dizzying array of ways that brands can sell direct to consumers through social platforms. For some time now, Facebook have been including a “Shop Now” call to action in adverts, which encourages users to click through directly to the brand’s website, and this feature has now been made available on Instagram as well. Facebook also offers the opportunity to embed a “Facebook Store” within your brand’s Facebook Page, to allow users to browse, like, share and initiate purchase within the platform:
For the time being, these stores are integrated with your current ecommerce platform and transactions are processed through your existing website. However, Facebook is currently testing functionality that would allow users to pay and complete their purchase entirely within Facebook through a third party payment solution.
Facebook has also launched a suite of ad tools aimed at driving and measuring footfall to physical stores, as well as click-to-call ads to drive direct sales and enquiries. A number of brands have jumped on Facebook’s chatbot functionality to provide 24/7 customer service and process sales:
Combined with improvements to the Facebook pixel, allowing you to track website behaviour that is influenced by your Facebook ads, and new audience targeting options for dynamic product ads, Facebook is very much leading the way in social commerce opportunities.
However, Pinterest is still one of the most powerful forces in social commerce. 93% of Pinners are using the platform to plan purchases, and on average they spend 70% more than other online shoppers. While not yet available in the UK, Buyable Pins, which will let users purchase a product directly from a Pin that inspires them, are something that all online retailers should be watching closely.
Even Snapchat is getting in on the act, having recently launched Shoppable Snaps – ads that allow users to swipe down for purchase options. Snapchat has struggled to attract the hordes of advertisers that Facebook has bagged, given its expensive pricing structure, basic targeting options and limited analytics, but they are hoping that a partnership with Nielsen and renewed trust in the platform will turn that around. Another channel that has struggled to effectively monetise its platform, Twitter is testing its own “Buy Now” button for ads.
The purchase cycle
It’s not just the moment of purchase itself that is influenced by social media. Consumers involve social media at every point in their purchase cycle:
According to research, 43% of UK consumers currently use social media to research products before making a purchase, and this number is growing. Many consumers now search on social media platforms without consulting a search engine at all. Making sure that your social channels are optimised for discovery and engagement will only continue to become more important.
Once a customer finds your brand on social media, the experience they encounter could have a major impact on their desire to purchase from you. Social media users expect brands to be extremely responsive on these platforms: 42% expect a response within an hour, and 32% expect a response within 30 minutes. Not providing distinctive, interactive content and communicating often with your followers could lead to customers feeling negative towards your brand – and 95% of customers say they are inclined to share negative brand experiences on social channels, which could impact your reputation amongst other potential customers.
When consumers are making their final decision about which brand to purchase from, 80% are influenced by reviews on social media platforms. Enabling and encouraging customers to leave reviews, and sharing customer feedback, can be incredibly valuable to your business – especially as research suggests even negative reviews have a more positive impact on customers than no reviews at all.
Once a customer has made a purchase, allowing them to connect their social accounts for a more personalised experience and communicating with them on social platforms not only gives them a better customer experience and therefore makes it more likely they will shop with you again, but also encourages them to share their experience for new researchers to see.
The halo effect
Social commerce doesn’t only drive social sales. When we launched a Facebook shop for one of our clients, we were pleased to see a 74% increase in revenue. However, we also saw a 160% increase in direct conversions and 133% increase in organic search conversions. We know that customers mostly use social media on their mobiles, but prefer to complete purchases, especially high-end purchases, on desktop. Customers discover the brand through the Facebook Shop or adverts on mobile, then return directly to the website or through organic search later on desktop. Social media advertising also creates “warm leads” – those who have seen an ad for a brand on a social platform are twice as likely to click on a PPC ad. True enough, PPC conversions for our client increased by 56% following our Facebook activity.
Customers are likely to come into contact with your brand on a multitude of channels before they make a purchase decision – the more seamless and integrated you can make their experience, the more likely they will purchase, continue to purchase, and influence their networks to do the same. Your social media channels aren’t just a place for you to advertise, they are an extension of your physical and online stores – a place where customers will browse, ask questions, make complaints, ask other customers’ opinions, and purchase. Rather than simply using social channels to promote your business, think about how you can use those channels to offer the best possible service to your customers. Then you know they’ll be back.
To find out how Leapfrogg can help you develop a social commerce and customer service strategy, please do get in touch.