Late last year, Walmart conducted a radical experiment: Selling clothes on TikTok. The retailer hasn’t shared performance metrics. But regardless of how much merchandise is sold, the fact a retailer the size of Walmart is testing out social selling in the U.S. is a clear signal it’s only a matter of time before we’re buying products directly within our feeds, much like consumers in China already do.
What Is Social Commerce, and Why Is It Important?
Social commerce is exactly what it sounds like: Enabling shoppers to transact directly within social media platforms. But this isn’t just posting links to ecommerce stores — it’s allowing shoppers to click “buy now” and convert almost instantly. One big advantage lies in immediacy. It’s a quick path to purchase, which means fewer opportunities for customers to abandon carts along the way.
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There are a number of reasons social commerce is beginning to take off in the U.S. now. For starters, consumers are spending a lot more time on their phones — and on social media networks. According to research from Business Insider, the average time spent on social networks increased from 56.23 minutes per day in 2019 to 65.44 minutes in 2020.
Social commerce is also a natural extension for social media platforms, given their longtime role in helping users discover new brands and products. That’s why Business Insider forecasts social commerce sales in the U.S. will reach $36 billion in 2021.
Big brands looking to evolve to meet consumers’ changing needs and capture a chunk of those annual sales know it makes sense to at least test out social selling.
Which Platform Is Right?
One of the biggest challenges is there isn’t a dominant platform. TikTok is one option. Facebook and Instagram are contenders. Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest are even more possibilities. And that’s not even a definitive list.
The platform you try depends on which networks appeal to your audience. But it also depends on the types of products you sell. Fashion brands, for example, are ideally suited for visual platforms like Instagram. Coincidentally, 84% of Instagram users are open to discovering new products on the platform, so it’s an ideal channel for apparel brands to tip their toes into social commerce.
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In fact, some argue social commerce and a related tactic, social selling, has the potential to reshape how fashion is bought and sold altogether. That’s because it enables more dialogue between brand and customer, much like would happen in a boutique. That helps establish connections and build relationships — while also creating opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling.
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But even if your fashion brand doesn’t have the resources of a Walmart to test state-of-the-art executions in social commerce, you can still take advantage of savvy social selling tactics to encourage customers to convert. While you’re at it, you’ll get a better sense of which social networks offer the most potential for social commerce down the road. Here are seven tactics to try out first:
Create Shoppable Videos
In 2015, fashion brand Kate Spade teamed up with actress Anna Kendrick for its first shoppable video series, #MissAdventure. Each video included a clickable button to “shop now” in the upper right-hand corner, which took viewers to the company website. The videos generated 7.5 million views. Then, four years later, Kate Spade tapped Kendrick again to produce a shoppable video tied to New York Fashion Week.
Video is a powerful commerce tool — especially for fashion brands in social selling. Research shows 84% of consumers were convinced to buy a product after watching a video. Just remember what Kate Spade did: focused more on storytelling than selling in the videos.
Direct Shoppers to a Link in Bio on Instagram
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) luggage brand Away frequently posts about its products on Instagram — and it’s easy for users to track down the bags and suitcases they love thanks to a website linked in its bio: awaytravel.com/Instagram. There, each shoppable image includes a link to the relevant page on the Away website. It’s a relatively low-maintenance way to tackle social selling and encourage consumers to buy without going to the trouble of creating an Instagram store.
Build Excitement for a Product Launch
When Nike’s Jordan brand was preparing to release a special edition Air Jordan III “Tinker” shoe in 2018, it worked with Snapchat to generate a sense of urgency and reward loyal fans during the NBA All-Star game that year. Thousands of attendees at an afterparty in Los Angeles were given exclusive Snap codes, which allowed them to effortlessly complete their purchases. The result? The shoes sold out in 23 minutes.
Your brand may not have the recognition of the Jordan brand yet, but you can still use this social selling tactic on a smaller scale to get fans excited about your own product launches.
Offer Gift Suggestions
Toy brand Lego is using a chatbot on Facebook to help gift-givers figure out which Lego set to buy for a given occasion. After answering a few questions, the shopper can buy the set directly within the chat platform — all without leaving Facebook. The result: Cost per conversion is reportedly down 71%. Makeup brand Avon has also used chatbots on Facebook Messenger to help users test lipstick shades.
The bottom line: By using chatbots to fill a consumer need, you can also encourage sales with this social selling strategy.
Share UGC — or Find Micro-Influencers
Your fans are one of your best marketing tools. DTC eyewear brand Warby Parker knows this better than anyone. It frequently posts user-generated content (UGC) on social channels like Instagram. Not only does this reward its superfans, but it also shares positive experiences with other followers and helps build community. Consumers are more likely to view this content as genuine because it comes from fellow customers, too.
Micro-influencers, or influencers with more concentrated followings, offer potential in this realm. Research shows influencers with fewer than 35,000 followers have the highest engagement rates. That means if your brand is looking to meaningfully connect with social media users to increase engagement, you don’t need to blow your budget on a Kardashian.
Include Social Proof
Do your customers love you? Of course they do — so take a page from Dollar Shave Club’s Pinterest board and share their positive reviews and unboxing photos. Like UGC, these reviews can help not only build trust but also set your brand apart from competitors.
Simply put, consumers trust testimonials more than ads. And customer reviews are arguably even more trustworthy than micro-influencers because they weren’t paid for their feedback.
Quirky DTC fashion brand Modcloth often shares promo codes with its Twitter followers — research shows 63% of consumers follow brands on social media for this express purpose. It also shows shoppers are more likely to buy less expensive goods (or those under $100) via social media.
But fear not if your fashion brand sells high-end items. Use this social selling opportunity to reach new customers with a more accessible item from your collection. You can then start to build a relationship and introduce that customer to more expensive options later on.
The First-Mover Advantage
Social selling and social commerce are relatively new, so it makes sense that brands are still figuring them out. Marketing, however, has a long history of rewarding those who are first to experiment — and that’s especially true in social media.
To be fair, we don’t have a crystal ball, but social commerce is expected to be one of the biggest shopping trends in 2021 and beyond. And while you don’t necessarily need to be selling directly on social media platforms yet, you do need to be integrating social selling strategies into your overall marketing plan. Not only is there potential to boost conversions, but you can also build better relationships with your customers. For more insights into how to do precisely that, check out AdRoll.
Last updated on December 21st, 2022.