Social commerce took off during the pandemic, but it’s far from a pandemic-era phenomenon. Revenue from social commerce will top $36 billion in U.S. sales this year -- a 35% jump over 2020. In eight years time it will top $3 trillion worldwide.
It’s growth trajectory should surprise no one. Social commerce is uniquely suited to meet the shopper's needs and expectations, and that alone will ensure its continued growth.
But don’t think success is a matter of posting great product photos and counting your sales as they come in. Shoppers bring all of the customer care expectations to social commerce as they do when they walk into a retail outlet or visit an ecommerce site. The speed and manner with which you answer their questions and solve their problems will determine whether or not they’ll place that first order, and turn into a loyal customer.
The Best of All Worlds
Let’s start with a definition of social commerce, which is essentially the ability to sell products and services through social media. That covers a lot of ground, including branded posts, sponsored posts, user generated content -- AKA what your fans (or haters) post about your products, and influencer marketing.
For the shopper who doesn’t want to rely just on product descriptions from a brand, social commerce is a blessing. There’s an entire community of people who know the brand or product featured in a post, and can ask for unvarnished opinions. Social commerce creates a community of people who they can rely on, including the influencers whose opinions they trust and value. Influencers have a lot of sway over shoppers, which is why marketers will shell out close to $14 billion for their services in 2021.
Meanwhile, social media platforms have been partnering with the major ecommerce platform providers to streamline the entire purchasing cycle, both for the shopper and the merchant. Headless commerce, for instance, allows merchants to move the point of sale directly to a social media post in order to support end-to-end sales; swipe up links on Instagram allow influencers to send followers to retailers to purchase products without leaving the platform.
The convenience is notable. Shoppers no longer need to navigate to a merchant’s ecommerce store, find their wallets or retrieve their credit cards, and enter the billing and shipping information For many, one-click purchasing from a social media post is a major factor in their decision-making process. The idea of following the old rules of ecommerce is a barrier that’s just too high.
One final note: The global labor shortage has left many physical retail outlets short staffed, and it’s a problem that’s expected to get worse, especially as we head into the holiday season. Social commerce lets shoppers avoid the prospect of long lines at crowded stores.
Some of the Old Rules Definitely Still Apply
When shoppers buy online, it’s an act of trust. They haven’t seen or touched the product, they haven’t spoken with a company representative, but they still trust that they’ll receive the right item in the timeframe delivered.
Despite your best efforts, a warehouse employee may send the wrong item, or an item arrives damaged. Most consumers aren’t too bothered by the occasional mishap, as long as the merchant acknowledges the issue, explains how it will be rectified, and makes good on those promises. Responsive customer care goes a long way in building loyalty!
Responsive customer care is particularly important in social commerce for a few reasons. First, you don’t want to disappoint an enthusiastic new shopper who tried your brand based on the recommendation of an influencer or community member.
Second, the shopper is likely to inform you of your mistake in the exact channel in which your brand is discovered: the social media post. When shoppers report problems with their order on social media, a member of your customer care team will need to respond ASAP so that your brand doesn’t come across as uncaring to everyone who reads the complaint.
Of course, you can’t assume social shoppers will only contact you on social media. They may decide to call your helpline or send an email. It’s still an omnichannel world, and social commerce is just another channel to bring into it. When you provide your customer care reps with a holistic view of the customer -- all interactions individual consumers have with your brand in a central location -- they’ll never need to ask the shopper to start from the beginning, which can be frustrating.
Community and Support as Revenue Drivers
Customer care provides all brands with an underutilized opportunity to win new customers, increase their lifetime value, and enhance your bottom line. When shoppers have questions about products (e.g. Do these hoodies run large? Can I leave this planter out all winter?) answering their questions can close sales. Often these questions are posed somewhere on social media, but by using an omnichannel help desk like Gorgias you can see activity where your brand is mentioned, and respond in time to win the sale.
If you’re facing a labor shortage in your own ranks, consider augmenting your team with engagement services through ModSquad, which offers personalized support to customers and influencers, increasing the likelihood of a purchase. Skilled in the ways of social support and community management for ecommerce brands, an experienced service provider like ModSquad can help support community development, engagement, and the effectiveness of your social commerce efforts.