Social commerce: The future of online retail

By Yuval Ben-Itzhak, Chief of Strategy at Emplifi

Convenience is now a top priority for consumers. As a result, online shopping excels. Consumers can complete the entire customer journey from browsing to purchasing within minutes and are able to order deliveries to arrive when its most convenient for them. While function is important, fun still needs to be front and centre when it comes to captivating audiences. Enter social commerce.

Experience is key

Social commerce isn’t new. Instagram trialled new tools for in-app shopping back in 2016, which in technology terms was lightyears ago, and there were others who even came before that. Back then, it was essentially online shopping but through social channels. Social commerce today is more about the experience.

Today’s consumers are mostly made up of millennials and Gen Zs, a group of people who were almost born with mobiles in hand. They are the first digital native generations. Shopping through social media is simply a natural extension of their daily routine. But these consumers are always looking for the best experience, and this isn’t limited to making a purchase.

Advancements in social commerce now stretch across the customer journey to include embedded care and service on social media platforms. CX-centric organisations are now siphoning categories of service and care cases to marketing specialists, product leads, and sales associates to allow service centre agents to focus on escalations or more advanced customer cases. But how can brands get social commerce right?

Synchronise your omnichannel offerings

Modern social commerce requires Omni-shop orchestration to be at its most successful. Brands no longer sell through just one retail channel – it could be through livestream shopping, owned websites, or other retailers/marketplaces. Live stream shopping for example has grown extremely popular and could quickly become one of the most effective ways to gain audiences. While the traditional QVC style shopping might make us think of grandparents buying everything from Christmas lights to cutlery, live stream shopping of today is quickly being adopted by global B2C brands.

Live stream shopping is no longer about sudden price drops and getting a bargain before the brand runs out of units, it’s instead focused on delivering one-to-one personalised shopping over video between a sales associate and a consumer. It is also being leveraged to host one-to-many livestream video events to launch a product, support an influencer event, or kick off a seasonal promotional campaign. The latter often features popular celebrities, influencers, and exclusive content to draw in audiences. But this new wave of shopping must be backed up with other communication channels to be effective.

Therefore, brands must optimise selling products on shops across different social media networks like Facebook and Instagram, as well as leverage business messaging apps to help shoppers drive conversion. The ability to orchestrate, synchronise, and then sell across shops and messaging apps will give brands the broadest reach – and allow consumers to engage with them through whatever touchpoint they prefer. 

Social commerce is here to stay

Despite being around for some time, there is still so much room for social commerce to develop and grow as social media channels continue to evolve.  It cannot be ignored by retailers because it is here to stay and will be more than a short-term trend. With millennials and Gen-Z’s (also known as the digital natives) making up a large percentage of the consumer base, it will be no surprise to us all when social commerce overtakes all other forms of shopping. Brands and retailers who master social commerce and keep CX at the heart of their every interaction both offline and online will be the real winners.

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