The Future of E-Commerce: Native Selling via Social Media
The explosion of social media goes hand in hand with the iPhone revolution. The average U.S. consumer spends about five hours a day on mobile devices, and about a third of that time is specifically dedicated to social media. Let that sink in for a minute.
People want to create, share and consume social media content at a staggering pace. Consumers increasingly rely on what pops up in their social media feeds to make purchase decisions.
Facebook advertising has become more targeted and relevant, but high-quality "organic" content is the golden ticket to capturing attention. By delivering the sort of content consumers crave on Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and other social networks, brands can cut through the clutter and close a sale.
The Rise of Native E-Commerce
E-commerce has expanded at a healthy pace — in the first half of 2016, the sector grew by about 16 percent — and it shows no signs of slowing. Brick-and-mortar retail has taken a beating as consumers embrace the convenience of the internet.
To win at e-commerce, businesses must focus on a specialty niche or curated offering (unless they're Amazon.com or Wal-Mart), use data to track on-site customer behavior, and react to trends as quickly as possible — eventually letting artificial intelligence (AI) do most of the reacting. They also need to embrace new technology to reach customers in novel ways.
A sound social strategy must touch customers at all points of their purchase journey. Work to remove any friction from their path to purchase, which is especially crucial for impulse purchases. If a potential customer is watching a YouTube video about your new sunglasses, for example, include a “buy” option with the content.
Native e-commerce has distinct advantages over routing customers through traditional retail channels. It's safe, secure and optimized for mobile. By pairing social media with native e-commerce, companies can be ready for the future of retail.
How to Use Social Media to Improve E-Commerce
Social media isn’t going anywhere, and e-commerce sales are expected to balloon to $632 billion by 2020. Here are four ways to make these trends work for your business:
1. Focus on specific offerings. You should be past the point of building your brand. Instead, use social media platforms to discuss new product lines or seasonal offerings. While you’re highlighting these items, ensure you’re creating a clear path to purchase.
2. Drive ongoing engagement with customers. Leverage a combination of organic and paid social media marketing. This should include influencer and retargeted marketing to engage with customers across multiple touchpoints. Ensure you have a process in place to identify and respond to customer comments and questions through your channels and "earned" media.
Companies that boast enhanced digital capabilities have been shown to convert sales 2.5 times more often than organizations that have fewer touchpoints. A larger multichannel footprint can also increase positive word-of-mouth for your company.
3. Give people a reason to buy. Provide special coupons, limited offerings and event-driven items to give people a reason to buy what you’re selling. Just ensure you understand the return on investment of your marketing activities.
In e-commerce, you can measure success by subtracting customer acquisition cost from customer lifetime value. Pay careful attention to acquisition cost to understand which activities drive sales and determine where to focus your efforts. This is easier said than done, but you can use unique coupon codes, specific landing pages and custom vanity URLs (e.g., UTM codes) for social campaigns.
4. Get visual. Considering that 65 percent of people are visual learners — and presentations that use visuals are 43 percent more persuasive — it’s important to tell your story using compelling imagery. Social media offers a tremendous opportunity to deliver a narrative through videos and images, helping you attract customers along the way.
Gen Z (people who grew up alongside e-commerce and social media) will soon replace millennials as the most coveted customer base, so it’s necessary to get ahead of the native e-commerce curve. These consumers will expect a slick, seamless experience that crosses channels, and their positive word-of-mouth is vital to the health of your business — now and in the future.