When Social Media and Retail Got Together: The Rising Trend of Social Commerce

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When Social Media and Retail Got Together: The Rising Trend of Social Commerce

In the ten years since 2008 when Facebook first blew up in the mainstream, how many times have your purchasing decisions were affected by something you see in social media? I was never big on social media because I like my privacy too much but recently, I made a bit of a u-turn and begin using Instagram for fun. Thanks to Instagram, I have now caught the watch bug and there was one particular weekend when I have nothing to do that I eventually spent by lovingly gazing at pictures of watches.

I’ve always had a thing for watches, I could spend days waxing poetic on my Timex Fairfield sub-second, but Instagram helped foster my fascination with sub-second watches to a degree I’ve never expected and as of this moment, I list getting my hands on a classic Nomos Tangente as my number one immediate goal. This practice of social commerce, mixing retail with the reach of a social media platform is a pretty big deal these days and I have to admit that it works quite brilliantly.

Social media and customer’s purchase habits

It’s not just with watches, when few months ago I was looking for a new pair of shoes and a bag for work, Instagram ended up being the platform I use to look for recommendations. I don’t have enough disposable income to buy everything I found to be interesting over on Instagram but because of how Instagram ads are served, I now have a mental list of brands I need to keep an eye out for my next paycheck. This self-perpetuating cycle of me browsing for things on Instagram and then being shown ads about those particular things is a bit unhealthy but it’s also one of the primary benefits of social commerce.

Out of all social media platforms available right now, Instagram is practically designed for showing off, which makes Instagram to be the ideal option for businesses with tangible products. It’s one of the reasons why fashion items and cosmetics can be such a huge draw over on Instagram because they work much better with proper visual aids. Still, even for professional services, social media, not just Instagram, are capable of providing businesses with tools and opportunities that aren’t available two decades ago.

Despite being in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in the past few years, Facebook still boasts more than 2 billion active users while the quick-growing Instagram is now at 1 billion active users. That is a very large group of people that you risk missing out on because you don’t have a social media presence and that’s just for two platforms out of dozens. Social commerce has been one of the fastest growing trends in retail and tapping into this potential should be a priority for businesses.

If you’ve got it, flaunt it

Instagram and social media in general is the absolute personification of the show, don’t tell policy. Use images and videos to show your product in the best light possible or entice people and/or customers to post photos of them wearing or using your products and then showcase the best of these user-generated contents on your platform. What makes this practice so attractive is that social platforms have added features that could easily facilitate businesses in getting more sales this way.

Instagram has made it possible for brands to connect their catalogs with their Instagram account so that whenever pictures of a particular product was posted, users can easily check out the price and other details for that product through your Instagram posts. I haven’t used Facebook in a decade but as I understand it, Facebook has an e-commerce feature baked into their platform as well, which checks out since Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Tapping into the power of the so-called influencer

If you want to get in on this trend but still have little clue on how to approach them, you might want to consider using a middleman in the form of an influencer. You might not be able to afford the US$1 million dollars to get a paid endorsement from the likes of Kylie Jenner but the world has gradually shifted from massively popular public figures into a more specialized kind of influencer. To be more specific, the kind that is respected for knowing what they’re talking about instead of the famous for being famous types.

Circling back to the anecdote about watches I mentioned at the beginning, I actually found a local boutique watchmaker with a Bauhaus-inspired design reminiscent of Nomos but at a much lower price point. They use a standard Japanese movement instead of an in-house movement and being a snob that I am, I was a bit hesitant at first but then I saw they got a favorable write-up from a respectable blog regarding their build quality and that was more than enough to convince me.

When it comes to picking the right influencer, consider quality over quantity. A high follower – or subscriber for YouTube – is appealing but you have to consider whether this particular influencer has any influence in your industry or not. For example, Stephen Fry is one of my most favorite people in the world but I’m probably not going to take music recommendations from him. The same logic applies to influencers, for them to actually work they have to have an influence first.

Cultivate brand loyalty by engaging with users on social media

This is basically done by taking advantage of the social part of social media. Answers questions and replies to comments and/or complaints lobbed your way to build trust and foster a relationship with your customers. Post regularly to ensure that your brand isn’t going to be forgotten but not so excessively that you’re giving them the impression of spamming. Social media isn’t useful just for a marketing and sales platform; they’re also an ideal channel for customer retention.

I mentioned about using user-generated contents earlier in this piece and ideally, you’d want to reward the users whose post you decided to use instead of just simply crediting them. Give these users free swags or a one-time use promotion code for their next purchase, which could give an extra incentive for them to post your products in the future and helps guarantee more business on your part. In fact, you could also run a contest based on this scheme to give your customers more reason to follow your social media accounts.