Before the days of smartphones and social media, teleshopping was in its heyday. Glamorous models would talk through product ranges in a casual yet polished way. Then, without having to leave the comfort of your living room, you could dial a number and the product could be yours. As technology has progressed and online shopping became king, teleshopping lost some of its allure.
However, the rise of social shopping has seen a new trend of retail livestreams emerge, suggesting there’s still a place for the dynamic, personal approach to retail we once knew and loved. While these livestreams are a far cry from the discount-driven, QVC-style programming, seeing people demonstrate, chat through, and review items is a great way to bring a product range to life. It also allows people to engage with a brand in a far deeper way than they ever could by scrolling through a list of pictures.
During the pandemic, it’s been reported that 47 percent of internet users aged 16-64 are spending more time on social media, therefore, retailers are looking to social platforms to engage with audiences via tools like Instagram Shopping and Facebook Marketplace. But the savvy brands are looking at social shopping more broadly. Social shopping encompasses more than storefronts and clickthroughs to brands. If a retailer wants to truly make the most of social media, it must think more creatively and use in-built social tools to brand build and form relationships with their customers.
In the past 12 months, as shoppers were encouraged to stay home, some brands began to capitalize on the social media surge and utilized social shopping livestreams to build up a strong following. From a user perspective, if you’re sitting at home scrolling through Instagram and a notification pops up stating a brand or user you follow is about to go live, it sparks curiosity and a click-through is likely. In the pandemic, in particular, people have had more time on their hands and livestreams done well are the perfect way to draw the user in.
The great thing about social media is its personal touch and its discoverability features. Users don’t necessarily log on with the intention to shop, but as we scroll through Instagram or Pinterest, images we see spark inspiration. It provides access to new brands that can’t be found in a shopping mall and connects us with smaller brands through videos that show how items are made or people packaging up orders. TikTok, for example, has a user-created sound used by small businesses that show the behind-the-scenes and packaging of items. The personal nature of the videos creates an intimacy that makes you feel a genuine connection with the brand, leading to a desire to support the owner’s venture as you’re on that journey with them.
It’s the same with Instagram livestreams; clicking on an Instagram live and watching a real person talk through an item (apparel, in particular, lends itself to this) takes me back to my school days when I used to try on clothes with friends or send them a video to show them how it looks or sits on me. Never Fully Dressed is a great example of a brand that utilizes livestreams to show off its product range. Its content isn’t over glamorized, you see someone giving their opinion or some advice on how things could be styled, which in turn gets viewers’ fashion cogs turning. For audiences, social media is about building a connection with a brand that can’t be replicated via traditional digital channels or even in-store.
Benefit to Brands
For brands, social is somewhere to showcase offerings and exude personality. Knowing the benefits of each different social platform can help shape a brand’s presence, and different platforms can be used to demonstrate a different facet of the brand. For example, Facebook Marketplace is a great place to display discounted items, and TikTok a fun place to go behind the scenes and up-close and personal with staff. Instagram lends itself to influencer partnerships and livestreams, which can provide a brand with a plethora of cost-effective content that can be reused across social channels. And both YouTube and Instagram can extend brand reach via influencers who provide honest reviews which can also be used as product videos or as soundbites. Brands that partner with influencers or other brands can tag their profiles to share and boost follower counts. Having a strong presence across different social platforms can create a cycle of loyalty and contributes to organic growth.
Ultimately, social shopping encompasses far more than in-app shopping tools. Organic and paid social advertising has an important role to play in the growing popularity of social commerce. Social truly is the visible storefront for your business, which makes getting things right all the more important in the modern marketing landscape. It also inspires people and can lead users on a journey of discovery and brand channels that might result in sales further down the line. For this reason, it's important for retailers to keep an open mind about how they measure success, depending on their strategy. Engagement, shares and follows can also be powerful indicators of success, along with traditional measurements like click-throughs.
For retailers keen to embrace social shopping, variety is key; variety of content, variety of people, and variety in approach. Social shopping has been around for a while but in many ways, it’s still quite new for audiences, and measurement and attribution methods are evolving alongside the industry. The brands that do it best are those with purpose and personality, those that are willing to adapt and be playful. Social media is a great place to engage with new audiences and embrace new (or revamped) techniques, retailers need to take risks to reap rewards.
Chandni Kothari is the biddable associate director at Croud, a full-service digital marketing partner.