Trends The next big thing in e-commerce?

Some e-commerce experts predict a boom in shopping on social media – and that opens up a whole range of opportunities for businesses of all sizes. The key: a seamless customer experience and efficient delivery.

(Photo: Shutterstock 247426483)

Shopping on ordinary websites? That’s so last year. Or pre-pandemic, at least. With more than half of the world’s population regularly checking into their favourite social media apps, companies of every size are beginning to see the potential of social media to help them expand their business. For example, consumers can watch “skinfluencers” trying out skincare products, ask them questions and buy the products directly; while DIY buffs can purchase a great new appliance after getting invaluable tips from an expert using it. Seeing it live boosts the emotion factor – that “I need one of those” feeling you can get when watching a great demo.

Over 58% of people use social media regularly

Let’s face it, the time is ripe for this evolution. A recent study by Datareportal – in collaboration with the specialist companies We are Social and Hootsuite – shows that as many as 58.4% of people around the world use one or more social media apps regularly. That’s about 10% more than a year ago. Repeated lockdowns in many countries clearly contributed to this growth, but the figures are still rising now that many of us are back to some semblance of normality. So it won’t come as any surprise to learn that social media’s share of global digital advertising spend jumped to over 33% in 2021. That represents some US$154bn, which is 17.4% higher than the year before.

Fast growth of Instagram and TikTok for marketing and commerce

Apps that started out as video or photo sharing among young people are now turning into advertising powerhouses, especially TikTok and Instagram. However, a closer look at engagement shows a different side to this bright and shiny marketing coin. Figures from the Datareportal study show that the engagement rate by fans of Facebook pages in general is just one reaction to a post for every 10,000 page fans (or 0.07%). And the number is even lower for pages with more than 100,000 fans. Although the posts aren’t necessarily ads, this situation may make it harder for brands to justify significant ad budgets on some social media. What may be happening, of course, is that the user sees a post and then does a separate search for the product or service concerned. Or that they check out the product in their local branch (assuming the brand has bricks-and-mortar outlets). Hence the importance of the omnichannel approach.

Omnichannel: why it’s important

Omnichannel offers exactly the same customer experience to a user, across all of their devices and regardless of whether they contact a brand on its social media, website or messaging app or go to a physical shop (or any combination of these). It’s becoming increasingly important now that the lines are becoming blurred between the ways we interact with a brand when we want to buy something or contact customer service. Many of us want to research products on the net before going to a store to buy or try it. The opposite applies too – we may like the look of something in a store, but prefer to go online to buy it – perhaps because we want to make additional purchases at the same time. What’s important to the customer – and therefore the brand, too – is that all these channels are interconnected so that the brand already knows the customer and understands what they are interested in. Having an omnichannel strategy in place can significantly boost sales and strengthen customer retention.

A key step in the omnichannel journey: logistics integration

Building an omnichannel strategy rarely happens overnight: it’s often a work in progress with new channels, devices or functionality added in a phased approach. But one element that should be prioritised right from the outset is delivery. All the interactions across various channels and devices deliver a great customer experience – but not the product. This is why a brand’s logistics partners should be integrated into the omnichannel initiative to ensure that delivery services are notified when a customer makes a purchase – wherever the person may currently be located and whichever device they’re using.

The heart of the matter: choice.

Social media-based marketing and omnichannel strategies are all about one thing: giving customers choice. They’re much more likely to come back to a brand after a great experience and to recommend it to their friends. Also, customers should be able to decide when and how they want to receive their goods, which in most cases is as conveniently as possible rather than as fast as possible. Offering end-to-end choice in this way is a great way to boost business – for all sizes of company.

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