For the past 20 years, the internet has transformed the way we seek information, communicate with one another and conduct business. With the explosion of social networks and mobile technology, we're no longer just consumers. We're now and forever the “connected consumer.”
In just the first half of 2015, we’ve seen the latest attempt to capitalize on the connected consumer with the concept of “social selling.” The term seems to be gaining in popularity throughout the technology industry, defining it as more than just selling through social channels, but instead selling through relationships — behavior retailers have historically struggled to perfect, even up to this day.
However, retailers and leading online brands are beginning to take note of social selling and the potential marketplace they can reach through it. One billion globally connected consumers are driving nearly $1 trillion worth of annual revenue, with 75 percent of those transactions being made via mobile devices. With those numbers, it's no wonder nine out of 10 marketers now say that their omnichannel campaigns take highest priority in their overall go-to-market strategy.
Google, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram have all recently announced plans to lean into this growth market by entering the e-commerce space. Retailers ultimately hope those plans will help them perfect their social selling strategies — or perhaps bypass them entirely. With the introduction of "Buy" buttons and Facebook Messenger for Business, these online giants will soon act as a point of connection between businesses and the millions of consumers already using the social networks. Whether facilitating point of sale with a Buy button or communicating with a sales representative through Messenger, retailers may now have the ability to facilitate purchases through consumer relationships built by popular brands.
As these networks begin to roll out their social selling campaigns in the coming months, retailers will need to adjust their own campaign strategies to take advantage of the new selling platforms and heavy foot traffic now available to them. Consider the following tips to help you:
- Ensure your global commerce strategy is solid. While consumers are ready to purchase cross-border, are you ready to sell cross-border? Facebook alone has well over a billion users, with 750 million users active globally. We know through Pitney Bowes’ research that 40 percent of globally connected consumers have made online purchases outside their native country. We predict this number will continue to rapidly grow.
- Cross-check your brand experience across channels. As consumers now have more options surrounding how they make purchases — in-store, mobile, web, social network — consistency in the brand experience will be essential. Regardless of which avenue a consumer chooses, you want to guarantee that their experience with your brand will never change, even if it’s delivered through a third party.
- Work out the kinks in processing and shipping. Consumers expect to place an order and receive it in the allotted shipping time without any glitches. If a customer has a seamless shopping experience, from discovery to purchase to shipping and receiving, you’re certain to gain one more loyal customer and, if you’re lucky, they may even share that positive experience socially.
We're seeing rapid changes from all types of companies and business models to try and address how the future of commerce will be conducted. While we’re still in the early days, the promise of social selling could radically change the e-commerce landscape. Only time will tell, but as recent history has shown, it’s the consumer in charge that will lead the way.
Gregg Zegras is the senior vice president of sales of global e-commerce for Pitney Bowes, a provider of global e-commerce solutions.