What’s the ‘deal’ with Social Shopping?

Thought Leadership
Our Junior Editor in Sydney, Lauren Mathieson recently shared this piece examining the evolution of social shopping. As the original article focused on the Australian market, the version below has been updated with data relevant to the UK.

The challenge
If you work in marketing, you’ll understand the necessity (and difficulty) of proving ROI to your stakeholders. For those in social media marketing, this can become a minefield of vanity metrics, dark social, and trackability.

As the social media environment develops in maturity, we are seeing it become increasingly ingrained in every step of the customer decision journey. For retailers, social media has become an important tool to build awareness, connect with customers, and nurture relationships.

While the data available to online retailers is miles ahead of their bricks-and-mortar counterparts, it can be difficult to accurately track the customer journey from browsing on social, to conversion. Particularly for items with a long consideration period and a non-linear path-to-purchase.

The landscape
Over the last few decades, the retail world has experienced a dramatic shift. In a case of adapt-to-survive, more and more retailers are expanding their online offering. As revealed by our latest Digital 2019 report, globally, people spent $86.45 billion buying consumer goods online in 2018, a 8.5% increase YoY. Fashion and beauty accounted for $23.44 billion of the total e-commerce in the UK, alongside other popular categories such as consumer electronics ($19.43 billion), food and personal care ($16.24 billion), toy, DIY and hobby goods ($14.84 billion). Travel (including accomodation) topped the list with $42.20 billion spent online in the UK last year.

Yet with new market research revealing that 7 out of 10 Millennials consider their mobile device to be their most important shopping tool, it’s clear that the way we buy is not just moving online, but mobile. In 2015, only 18% of people in the UK bought something on a smartphone. Flash-forward just three years, and 45% of Brits made an online purchase via a mobile device.

With close to one-quarter of all mobile-use time spent on social media, it’s no surprise that more and more brands are realising the powerful role that social plays in the psychology of shopping. Platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have become a destination for savvy-shoppers to discover new trends and products, whether via their friends, influencers or the brands themselves. In fact, 80% of Gen Zers admit they are heavily influenced by social media when making purchases.

The new kid the block
[Enter stage right] Social shopping.

Social platforms like Instagram are rapidly enhancing their social commerce offering in a bid to entice more brands onto the platform. In the last year alone, they’ve introduced shoppable Stories Stickers, in-app checkouts and rumours are circulating that a standalone shopping app is currently in development.

Instagram introduces collections and shoppable Stories with product tags.

Direct-buying platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are offering consumers a more streamlined shopping experience that allows them to save products for later (Pinterest-style) and make in-app purchases. No longer do people have to actively visit a website or retail store to complete a purchase. Rather, they’re being approached when they’re most accessible – while passively scrolling through social content from their friends

In the world of online retail, convenience is the name of the game, which is why social shopping makes so much sense for brands already playing in the social space. Effectively cutting the online path-to-purchase down to three simple steps, customers can simply see →  click → pay and (in most cases) return back to their pre-shopping activity. As any great marketer knows, anything that lowers the barrier to purchase is a big (big) tick.

The best part about social shopping? It’s trackable. Shoppable product tags can tell you how many people have viewed, saved, clicked and even purchased that item off the back of a post, making attribution easier for retailers than ever before. They’re great from a content marketing perspective too, allowing post copy to help and inspire users, leaving product tags to do the once dirty-work of selling.

Instagram’s shoppable product tags feature.

Currently, only 41% of brands are making use Instagram’s shopping features and even less on Facebook at a mere 17%. This, however, is on the rise. Success stories from the likes of Lego, Nike and Levi’s are encouraging for brands who were otherwise unaware or unconvinced of social media’s influence over consumers. In fact, new figures show that web traffic from social grew by 22% year-on-year in 2018.

LEGO recently partnered with Snapchat to launch its new clothing line in a shoppable augmented-reality boutique.

The future
With heavy investment and new platform updates on the way, we expect that it will become more and more common to see brands jumping on the social shopping bandwagon. As they do, customers will become increasingly comfortable shopping in-app, so much so, that they probably won’t realise they’re doing it.

However, the big question is… what’s in it for the platforms? At the end of the day, social networks are advertising networks, who are able to reach an audience and sell that space to brands. As such, there’s speculation that once more businesses get on-board with social shopping, platforms may attempt to monetise the service, potentially by adding fees or taking a commission from sales – similar to that of eBay and Etsy. Like most other social features, brands should expect to pay-to-play.

The verdict
If you have an e-commerce provider that allows for easy integration with social, it’s a no brainer. These clever platforms* will do the heavy lifting for you, with no ongoing maintenance required to keep your social store up-to-date and looking fresh. Stock levels, pricing and product information are automatically updated when you fiddle with your store’s back-end. Perfect for brands with fast-moving goods and fluctuating prices.

E-commerce platforms that allow for integration with Facebook and Instagram.

If you don’t? The answer is more complicated. Facebook (and thus Instagram) allow pages to create manual catalogues within the platform. However, if your brand has a wide range of FMCG products, this can be a painful time-destroyer. Despite this, there are still plenty of creative ways for retailers to get on-board. Just check out these examples of brands thinking outside the social shopping square.

Either way, the bottom line is about your bottom dollar. Get in quick while it’s relatively fresh and (most importantly) free.

After all, it’s a great deal.