Over the last few years retailers have developed a greater dependence on social media as a channel where users discover and shop new items and get inspired to make a purchase by both their peers and influencers. Platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest that offer social commerce functionality have put resources into innovative features that enable brands to effectively insert their products into consumers’ feeds.
From customizable shopping tools to voice commerce, we’ve collected the top five social commerce trends for 2022 to help anyone looking to convert potential followers into paying customers.
What Is Social Commerce?
Now, you’re probably wondering how social commerce works and why should your brand care about it? Social commerce refers to when a buyer’s shopping experience happens directly within a social media platform. Previously social media users may have done research and gained inspiration from social media, but now the whole process, from discovery to purchase is possible within the app.
Social commerce has enjoyed a massive boom over the last two years, as lockdowns kept people at home during the pandemic, spending more of their lives online. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest among others, launched shopping features in an attempt to stake their claim in the social commerce market and diversify their revenue streams.
Instagram, for example, launched Instagram Shops in May 2020, an online store within the app that allows businesses to sell their products hassle-free. The company later released Shopping in Reels which opened its shopping features to a wider range of businesses and creators.
Here are the biggest developments in social commerce and how platforms are enabling in-app sales:
Customizable Shopping Tools & Features
While brands adjust to change, consumers are settling into new patterns and habits too. The online shopping experience has undergone a whole transformation thanks to social media, and users are coming to expect certain shopping features when they interact with brands in the app:
- Buy buttons: These are the buttons you’ll often see on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram. When a user clicks on a buy button they’re directed to a page to make a purchase.
- Shoppable galleries and stories: Shoppable posts on Instagram provide an excellent way to put your brand and products in the spotlight, and since most of the time users aren’t required to leave the app, there’s a higher chance they’ll click to buy. Brands are using shoppable posts to tag their products in photographs and lead users to a product page.
- Review-based purchases: Today, one approach to achieve a similar impact to the good old “word-of-mouth” sales strategy is to include and display customer reviews on your social platforms. 93% of today’s online shoppers said online reviews influence their purchasing decisions. You can include reviews from social media on your website, and highlight reviews via social media posts to put the voice of your customer front and center.
- Buyable pins: “Pinterest Buyable Pins” is a new feature that allows shoppers to purchase products directly from brand posts on the platform without having them leave the app. Pinterest – like Instagram – emphasizes graphics and images boards, making it a fantastic marketing tool on account of its highly visual interface.
You can make sure that your social channels are ready to start enticing users and converting them into customers with the right assets. Everything from Instagram story templates to attention-grabbing posts with clear CTAs should be considered in your social commerce toolkit.
Rise in Voice Search Optimization
Voice shopping is exactly what the word itself implies: using a voice-powered device to purchase an item or to add items to your virtual shopping list or cart. Voice-assisted devices like Alexa enable you to order or reorder items by simply giving a command such as “Order [item]”.
According to the 2018 study on Voice Shopping, the main reasons why consumers like to use Voice Commerce are:
- Being able to shop while doing other things
- It is “hands-free”
- It is faster and more accurate in providing answers and results
The advancement of technology in this area has also brought many benefits for companies too:
- It enables them to provide a more personalized experience to users and track the types of things their customers buy regularly to be able to meet and adapt to their needs.
- It usually provides the opportunity to drive quick & efficient sales, particularly for grocery items – it’s easy for customers to add to cart as they go about their day to day.
- Like online stores, voice commerce increases the reach of companies that may not have the bricks and mortar locations to reach customers regularly.
The impact of voice search on how people search and shop, as well as the advancement of the underlying technologies, have a big impact on SEO and content marketing too. If you’re looking to improve customer experience and ensure prospective buyers find you, make sure you’re considering the following elements in your content and on your website:
- Keywords: By choosing keywords that are related to what your target audience is searching for via voice search, you may increase the probability of attracting organic traffic to your site.
- Featured Snippets: You may have noticed that when you use Google to search for anything specific, a box appears at the top of the screen that provides an exact answer to your query. These are called featured snippets and are the perfect tool to match with voice search because people who use it are often looking for specific answers.
- Search Local: Most users make searches using their mobile phones, and they’re usually seeking businesses nearby. It’s easier for Google to index your business based on location if you provide up-to-date and relevant information about your brand and services.
Increase in AI-Assisted Purchases
Chances are that if you’ve done any online shopping in the last year, you’ve probably engaged with a virtual shopping assistant. These are the AI-powered chatbots that appear as an on-site widget to help you make buying decisions by providing you with the answers to your questions.
With personalization, automation, and better efficiency, artificial intelligence is already revolutionizing the traditional retail experience.
You can benefit from AI-assisted purchases by implementing the following tools to your social commerce strategy:
- Chatbots: Chatbots are becoming increasingly important in the virtual buying experience. They’re not only able to answer buyers’ most common questions and guide them through large product catalogues, but can also provide the high-quality customer service that consumers demand — in a fast and organized fashion.
- Omnichannel interactions: Beyond your website, omnichannel interactions include email, push notifications, and messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. By following up on exclusive promotions or an abandoned cart, they help you build consumer engagement long beyond an initial website visit.
- Personalized messages: These tools allow you to personalize the customer experience by generating product recommendations based on visitors’ onsite activity or providing tailored promotions or content, giving visitors even more reasons to buy.
New and Contactless Payments
As its name suggests, contactless payment allows any user to make a payment by simply holding their card or smart device close to a terminal, all without having to use the magnetic stripe reader or the chip reader. And, after the 2020 worldwide health pandemic and the trend towards cashless shopping, fully contactless checkout systems are gaining further momentum.
There are other contactless payment methods that are also being pushed forward by the rise of social commerce too:
- QR codes for mobile payments: Although these types of codes are normally used in advertising, it is also possible to pay using them too. This method allows you to scan a code with your smartphone, and in this way, send or receive money between devices.
- Mobile banking: Mobile banking is a booming sector that is acquiring more and more value and greater importance among customers. Thanks to the mobile applications developed by banks, it is becoming less necessary to go to branches. Technology companies such as Google (Google Pay) and Samsung (Samsung Pay) have also developed their own platforms to pay through mobile phones and work as “digital wallets”.
- Bitcoin: Another trend to watch for in digital payments is cryptocurrencies, more specifically Bitcoins. These new currencies already have their own digital wallets such as BitPay that allow users to store and manage bitcoins through the application.
With all this new technology available to supposedly simplify digital payments, it’s important that brands know how to take advantage of them. Here are the two main things to consider:
- Update your point of sale: First, businesses must implement contactless payment terminals, so that they can accept payments from contactless credit and debit cards, smartphones and smartwatches. For contactless online shopping, it’s crucial to have a connected receipt printer that can effortlessly accept orders no matter where they come from (whether it’s from a mobile app, website, or home speaker).
- Spread the word: Accepting contactless payments can improve the customer experience and help create user engagement. And, since a variety of people from all ages are taking advantage of contactless payments, make sure your message reaches them where they are. For instance, you can share your message on your website, social media channels and email.
- User-Generated Content
Now that nearly everyone has the power to capture quality content on their smartphones, people are generating their own content and sharing it with others with a single tap or swipe of a finger. This is where the concept of User-Generated Content (UGC) derives from – any content including text, videos, images, reviews that is created and shared by individuals, rather than brands.
Shoppers say that user-generated content helps them in making purchasing decisions. For brands, UGC offers a way of demonstrating social proof. Instead of placing items on a product page, they’re instead displayed “in the real world” with “real people”. This is a win-win situation, as they’re relying on user-generated images as the main content, while simultaneously placing the spotlight on their current customers.
Like other marketing tactics, executing UGC effectively requires specific goals and objectives to be successful:
- Set specific user-generated content goals: Try to be specific. If you want to increase awareness around a launch, running a hashtag campaign on Instagram could help generate buzz about the product or service you’re promoting. Or maybe you’re looking for more authentic imagery to use in your advertising, in which case, incentivizing high quality UGC and aiming for a particular volume of usable content could be your KPI.
- Never underestimate the power of giveaways: Followers are ready to tag, share, and retweet if it means they might get something of value in return. While some businesses may be hesitant to do giveaways, there’s no better way to boost awareness with little effort. Competitions are a great way to drive hashtag usage too.
- Choose the best social networks for your campaign: Depending on your goals and target audience, you need to determine the most appropriate social channel for your campaign. For instance:
- Instagram: This is the preferred option for most UGC. It’s easy to find content through hashtags and given its visual nature, users are happy to share everything from product flatlays to selfies.
- YouTube: Depending on what type of product you sell, YouTube can be a great choice. YouTubers create highly engaging UGC from unboxing and haul videos to reviews and tutorials.
- LinkedIn: It may not be as obvious as other networks, but it is useful for promoting user content that aligns with your brand on a more corporate level.
The future always promises uncertainty, but for social commerce there are some key things to keep in mind. Contactless payments are becoming the norm, AI shopping assistants are becoming smarter, and as customers have more online shopping options to choose from, brands that want to grow their business need to create a social commerce experience that sets them apart.
Whether you are encouraging the display of user-generated content or providing the users with eye-catching offers to choose your brand, social commerce is the key to expand your brand beyond the established e-commerce channels and enhance customer’s experience.
About the Author
|Lily López is a Content Writer and Marketer at Envato by day, and a Spatial Design student by night. She’s based in Tijuana, Mexico and has worked with several global clients for the past 7 years developing projects involving Content Operations, Data Analytics, Copywriting, Outreach and Voice-over productions. When not working, Lily can be found hanging out at the nearest flea market.|