Have you ever gone on social media with the intention of scrolling for entertainment, but left the app with a new purchase?
When I scroll through my TikTok For You page, I come across videos with products that pique my interest, without realizing that the button to purchase that item is right above the caption. As a consumer, I love how effortless shopping can now be. But what about businesses: what do they think about social commerce?
To help brands navigate social commerce features and determine whether they fit into their strategy, I surveyed 512 social media marketers who leverage social commerce tools like active community engagement and user-generated content to find out if they provided ROI. Here is what I discovered:
General Social Selling Trends
Social commerce is a growing channel for both buyers and sellers.
As our consumer trends survey shows, social media is the future of shopping. Among Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X, social media is the preferred channel for product discovery. Across all consumers, a growing number of social media users are shopping on social media.
In this survey, 87% of sellers say social selling has been effective for their business this year. 59% say their business is making more sales through social media this year compared to last year. Some marketers who sell across multiple channels believe that social media is best for targeting potential customers and offers one of the best returns on investment.
Precise audience targeting is a key benefit, well beyond advertising.
More than 50% of social sellers mentioned audience when asked about the benefits of social selling. They also say that the ability to advertise to your target audience is the most important feature a platform should have, because you can reach markets that would otherwise be untapped.
Paid ads are often the first thought when it comes to targeted advertising. But fortunately, social media offers much more than that. Brands can reach their target audience through other pull marketing methods, such as the following:
- CGU: Creators reach a community of people who share the same interests as the creator and are likely part of the brand’s target audience.
- Word of mouth marketing: One-click sharing on social media facilitates WOM, also reaching people with similar interests.
- Active community engagement: High engagement posts tend to land on discovery pages, tailored to users based on their interests.
Social sellers continue to diversify their markets.
Social selling is not considered a replacement for other channels, but rather a complementary channel. 94% of social sellers also sell on another digital channel, like their own website or a third-party online marketplace.
This is likely because social stores can easily be integrated from e-commerce websites and connected to third-party online marketplaces. The ease of implementation and high returns of social stores make them a profitable investment.
Sellers struggle to build trust, but UGC can help.
Of the companies we surveyed, 3 out of 4 republish UGC. 87% say UGC increases their sales and 92% say it increases brand awareness. Businesses care a lot about UGC, so we’re going to dig a little deeper into why it’s so essential.
In our consumer trends surveys, we find that consumers do not fully trust social shopping. Only 47% of social media users feel comfortable purchasing through social apps, with the main concern being that the businesses are not legitimate.
Similarly, when we asked social sellers about the challenges of selling on social media, many shared the difficulty of convincing customers to trust their brand/store. Since many social networks are small businesses and the number of sellers and scammers is increasing on social networks, it is difficult to build trust.
This brings us to the benefit of integrating UGC into your sales strategy. Since UGC allows customers to share their personal experiences with products, it provides social proof that the product is authentic and valuable, with clear use cases.
Social proof guides purchasing decisions: one in four social media users have purchased a product based on an influencer’s recommendation in the last three months. Consumers who find interesting products on UGC can easily access the brand’s social store from the UGC post’s tags and make a purchase.
Sellers can encourage customers to post UGC through active community engagement and incentives.
Among the types of content that brands post on social media, relevant content is the most memorable for consumers.
At the same time, there is an increase in the number of consumers who now consider themselves content creators. Brands can take advantage of this trust and growth from content creators by encouraging customers to post their own UGC.
64% of social sellers said active community engagement is most effective in encouraging customers to repost UGC, followed closely by incentives (discounts, rewards, etc.). Sellers also shared how UGC has benefited them. With the vast network of social media, a post can reach and be discussed by many.
Leveraging Inbound Marketing in Social Selling
The seamless shopping experience of social media supports the buyer’s journey.
If you’ve ever shopped on social media, you may have noticed how quick the process is.
Here’s an example of how social media features cover the buyer’s journey:
- Awareness: Through push and pull marketing strategies such as targeted advertising, influencer marketing, and word-of-mouth marketing, consumers become aware of a brand’s products and consider learning more.
- Consideration: If a consumer decides to learn more, they can view the brand profile, which contains a digital storefront, active community, and product reviews. As a visitor to the community, the consumer can notice the brand personality and how brands interact with their community. This can impact purchase intent, as we’ve seen that Gen Z particularly values brands that have active communities around them.
- Ddecision: Now that the consumer has “visited” the brand, they may ask questions. These questions can be answered via posts and reviews, or asked via direct messages. Once the consumer decides to purchase, they can proceed to payment in the app.
Throughout this process, the consumer never left the social media app. Social selling reduces the friction of traditional e-commerce, where consumers can search on social media, purchase from a website, make phone calls to obtain service, and much more. Consolidating these tasks onto a single platform simplifies the purchasing process for consumers, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and company sales.
Social selling also supports impulse purchases. When asking sellers about the benefits of social selling, several mentioned “impulse purchases.” Because social media is so widely used, someone who wanted to scroll for entertainment may be drawn to a product via an ad or UGC post and end up leaving the app with a purchase.
Active community engagement is the driving force behind social selling success.
45% of social sellers said the ability to build and actively engage with a community is the most important feature a social media platform should have when it comes to social selling.
Brand communities are the interactions that brands have with their followers, who become brand advocates.
While brands keep their customers happy after purchase, they encourage customers to become promoters through methods such as posting new reviews, uploading user-generated content, or sharing the brand with their community by just one click on the “Share” button.
These promotional strategies align with the previous section’s discussion of awareness strategies in the buyer’s journey, creating a flywheel effect.
This effect is also what HubSpot calls inbound marketing: “Once you have reached enough customers and satisfied them, they can continue to spin your flywheel by promoting your organization and attracting new customers to you. Over time, your flywheel allows you to grow without continually investing in customer acquisition.
Social selling spanning the entire flywheel is very powerful because brands can tailor content to multiple customer types on a single platform and grow their customer base faster. That being said, as a customer, I recommend engaging with small brands that you love, as this acts as social proof for potential customers, thus boosting small businesses.
Next Steps for Social Media Success
When considering social selling, take the time to develop your approach on some of the key factors for social selling success: audience targeting, brand community engagement, and user-generated content. To learn more, check out these articles:
Finally, learn more about other key social media marketing trends with our free 2023 Social Media Trends report below.