Why forward-thinking brands are pursuing ‘inverse’ social commerce

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It’s time to flip social commerce on its head.

While we traditionally think of social commerce as the ability to make purchases within a social media app, the next generation of social shopping will focus on integrating key elements of the social experience, including UI and content, into retail websites and their mobile apps.

As social commerce becomes more mainstream, and as consumers become accustomed to its interfaces and characteristics, ecommerce sites that offer a social experience will be poised to achieve the omnichannel, cohesive and synchronized customer experience they strive to deliver, while improving their business performance.

6 top traits of social commerce

Social commerce refers to the ability to buy and sell goods directly through social media platforms, such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Pinterest. Instead of redirecting social media users to your website or mobile app, social commerce enables shoppers to browse items and check out without leaving the social media platform.

Amid the ecommerce boom sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the social commerce market has undergone enormous growth. It is widely adopted in the US, where sales rose by 35.8% in 2021 to 36.6 billion. By 2025, social commerce sales are expected to reach nearly $ 80 billion.

There are several key social commerce traits that make it so popular among today’s consumers and retailers alike:

1. Built for mobile

Social commerce is designed to provide an optimal mobile experience – unlike ecommerce websites, which have concerning drop-off rates on mobile (86%). It’s designed to be seamlessly embedded within the experience of scrolling through news feeds and “tapping” to view more details.

2. Expanded reach

More than half of the global population – 4.6 billion people – now use social media. Although there is no supply chain in the world that could handle this many shoppers, social commerce at least exposes you to millions more relevant consumers.

3. Short time-to-purchase

The number of steps (or taps) between product discovery and checkout is far smaller with social commerce than regular ecommerce. In social commerce, a shopper discovers a product that catches their eye while they are scrolling or viewing stories. This could be in the form of a sponsored post, or an organic one if they follow the brand. In one tap, the shopper can view the product on the brand’s social page, and in one more, make a purchase. The short, frictionless journey enabled by social commerce significantly minimizes the chances of drop-off.

4. Non-intrusive

Sponsored posts and product ads on social media platforms blend in with the shopper’s regular scrolling experience. Ads appear in the same format as organic posts by the accounts they follow. Users have the ability to simply keep scrolling if they aren’t interested in the product, or interact with it with a simple tap.

5. Targeted

Since ads are meant to be targeted to relevant consumers, they support the sense of familiarity, personalization and curation that social media users expect when using the apps. For example, someone who follows numerous secondhand shopping and alternative fashion accounts will be targeted with ads by similar accounts, which makes them more likely to engage.

6. Trustworthy

Finally, the act of purchasing through an app that a shopper regularly uses feels more secure than shopping on an unknown ecommerce website. First, the social media platform itself may process the payment, instead of the website. Second, brand accounts have social proof built-in via likes, comments and tags, which offers a sense of trust.

How ‘inverse’ social commerce uplifts ecommerce site and app performance

By incorporating social commerce into ecommerce websites and apps, brands and retailers can build on the many benefits social commerce has to offer.

Here are some of the top benefits brands and retailers stand to gain.

  • Support an omnichannel experience: By making your ecommerce sites and apps mirror the social commerce experience, you can achieve better coordination across channels. The “look and feel” of your site will mesh better with your social commerce presence, and convey the same sense of ease and efficiency.
  • Increase sales: A true social commerce experience includes a short and simple customer journey. By creating a product discovery and checkout journey that mimics the social commerce flow, you can minimize opportunities for drop-off and encourage shoppers to act on their inspiration.
  • Boost personalization: By tailoring “feeds” or product displays on ecommerce websites and apps to individual shoppers, you will expose shoppers to more products that suit their style and preferences.
  • Become mobile-first: Incorporating elements of social commerce UI onto your website and app will, by design, create a more mobile-friendly experience. This is imperative, since 72.9% of ecommerce sales are made on mobile devices.
  • Encourage user-generated content: Getting shoppers to post content featuring your products is a great way to build engagement and brand loyalty. By dedicating real estate on your website and app to UGC, you can increase shopper engagement while building social proof. Plus, by showcasing social content onsite, you can get more mileage out of paid influencer campaigns.

What social commerce UI could look like on your site

There are many elements of social commerce UI you could adopt to enhance your website and app – especially for mobile users. The key is to incorporate traits in a way that coheres with your brand aesthetic and identity.

Here are six examples of social commerce UI you could leverage.

By now, consumers are used to creating accounts for apps and services with their Gmail, Facebook or Apple credentials. By allowing your website and app visitors to log in with Instagram, TikTok, Facebook or Pinterest, you could instantly gain a wealth of information on their interests, tastes and preferences. With these insights, combined with existing personalization parameters on the social media platform they used to sign in, you can tailor product feeds to individual shoppers.

The act of scrolling through social feeds is fundamental to social commerce. You can re-create the endless scrolling experience on your website or app by replicating the design on your product listing pages and allowing users to tap images to view PDPs. Consumers, many of whom are habitual scrollers on social media, are sure to spend more time viewing your products this way.

Copy the customer journey

The short and sweet customer journey on social commerce is part of what makes it so appealing to shoppers. When you shorten the path to purchase by adopting a similar journey, you can increase purchase rates and reduce drop-off. A social commerce-inspired customer journey would start with scrolling through a feed of product images, tapping on a product image of interest, viewing a PDP where the shopper could select their size or item color (if relevant), tap to checkout, and pay instantly via their digital wallet.

By offering the ability to add likes and comments on product images, you will boost engagement, simplify the experience of leaving feedback, and reap the benefits of social proof. However, it’s important to make the “look” of likes and comments similar to social media. Many ecommerce sites already allow shoppers to “favorite” an item or save it for later. To get the most out of on-site social commerce, the appearance of likes and comments should look similar to social media apps.

Add a page for tagged images

By including a page of “tagged” posts, you can display your user-generated content in an aesthetic and familiar way. This page can be synched with Instagram or TikTok, where users on each platform post images and videos featuring your products and tag your brand. Think of it as a hub for all of your influencer and customer content.

Publish stories

One of the features that keeps social media users engaged on apps is stories. Instagram and Facebook shuffle users from one account’s content to another, providing an endless stream of real-time content. By adding stories to your ecommerce site and app, you can keep users on the page for much longer periods of time while exposing them to entertaining and fresh content, featuring the most relevant products for each shopper. Stories are one of the best ways to make the most of the precious onscreen real estate because they allow you to easily upload new content and constantly refresh.

Get ahead of the flipped social commerce curve

As social commerce becomes more and more ubiquitous, consumers will come to expect the same simple, efficient type of experience across all channels – whether consciously or subconsciously.

Taking a proactive approach and getting ahead of the “inverse” social commerce curve now will enable you to significantly boost the performance of your ecommerce site and mobile apps, earning the benefits that social UI and experiences have to offer.

Vered Levy-Ron is CEO of Syte.

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