Social behavior has significantly changed over the last year, and it shows no sign of stopping: according to Statista, one billion new social media users will be coming online between 2019 and 2025 worldwide. Social is becoming the entry point for everything we do online. It’s where we get our news, entertainment, communication and now commerce, too. Already highly successful in China, social commerce is one of the fastest-growing capabilities in digital marketing.
Inspired by these trends, our Social Innovation Lab teamed up with the Phenomena.Monks, a community of strategists providing exploration of social phenomena, to explore this trend further and summarize their findings in their latest report: “Social Commerce Commences.” The resource investigates the different influences—including user behaviors, retail, platform features and more—that have made social channels the place to open up shop, and provides brands with some strategies and insights they can use to meet their audiences more effectively across the digital customer journey. The report is also available in Spanish and Portuguese.
How Social Shapes Shopping
Social commerce is all about meeting people where they are through platforms that provide a unique and evolved experience for shoppers. When the pandemic confined people indoors, mobile usage skyrocketed. At first, people turned to marketplaces to buy products that met their basic needs. Now, most feel comfortable buying almost anything on social platforms—even cars—and spending their time in virtual flagships.
But although the pandemic played a pivotal role in the expansion of ecommerce, it wasn’t the only factor leading to this phenomenon. Successes in China, where social and live commerce are commonplace, as well as the rising influence of creators have both set the stage for everyone’s favorite new way to shop. With each come new ways for brands to differentiate and better meet the needs of their audiences everywhere they show up.
What we considered to be a “full customer journey” has been flipped on its head. Social commerce ecosystems have set the stage for brands to provide an immersive and frictionless shopping experience. Users are no longer passive customers, rather, they have evolved into creative agents. The “TikTok made me buy it” trend, featuring sometimes offbeat and quirky products that have gone viral on the platform, is an excellent example: social audiences now frame their self-expression by curating their virtual identity and consumption.
With audiences online becoming a greater influence in the purchases of their peers, social commerce represents a shift in power from retailers and brands to people. This new dynamic suggests brands reexamine how they create meaning in each stage of the purchase journey across almost every product category.
New Platforms and Spaces
Platforms have evolved from being a top-funnel involvement category to a high-interaction experience category. Consumers understand this, and are raising their expectations for technology’s role in their shopping journey.
For users, social commerce is not a one-size-fits-all experience—so it shouldn’t be for brands, either. For platforms, the race to become the go-to social commerce destination comes down to powering more effective interactions by understanding their customers first. For example, WhatsApp helps brands meet consumers’ growing expectation for 24/7 customer service through a 1:1 chat interface, while Snapchat’s sophisticated AR lenses give people the chance to engage with and learn more about a product or brand. Aligning platform-specific features with the needs of your audience is the key to connecting with audiences on a meaningful and authentic level.
The report goes deeper into the changing role of communities, creators and platform algorithms in brands’ social commerce strategies, though retail stores are in the midst of a significant transformation of their own—one that runs in parallel to emerging social commerce trends as people rely on technology to fill gaps in the experience. For instance, the concept of “phygital” experiences happen when you mix offline (physical) and online (digital) experiences through technologies like mixed and augmented reality. The future of retail is multidimensional and omnichannel, with stores increasingly taking on the role of community hubs and spaces for brand building.
Above and Beyond: The Next Iteration of Social Commerce
Social commerce is thriving. Even though the key forces and players behind its growth are all operating as independent silos and platforms, their impact on consumer journeys and the decision-making process are still shaped by independent influences. When it comes to the future of social commerce and what drives change for these players, recognizing the adaptability of business models, technologies and the evolution of how trust triggers are designed will remain key to success. Social commerce is dynamic. It's fast-moving. And it requires all players to build out processes and tools to help brands and businesses adapt. To that end, our report will help you strategize to lay the foundation for more meaningful, consumer-centric experiences whether in feeds or in the shopping aisle.
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