2023 marks a tricky year for commerce with an unpredictable economy. Having said that, social commerce seems to promise a slight glimmer among the scene with social-commerce sales in the U.S. expected to hit $56.2 billion in the next twelve months, making up about 4.7% of overall e-commerce sales, according to an October 2022 report by McKinsey.
Jay Myers, co-founder of the Winnipeg, Manitoba-headquartered B2B e-commerce business Bold Commerce, reminds us that approximately 70% of all online purchases are influenced by social media. “There’s huge promise, huge potential […] The reason why a lot of brands are not seeing success is because they just see [social commerce] as a shiny new tool. They think, ‘Well I’ve got followers, maybe they’re even engaged, so if I put a buy button somewhere it should just work.’ “
Successful social commerce strategies will consider important factors such as target demographic, your existing social-media presence, and what, exactly, you’re trying to sell. Ultimately, what is most important is figuring out what tactics will resonate most with your desired audience.
When it comes to strategy it really depends on your product seeing that some products are much easier to sell than others. A low-cost product that doesn’t require a lot of research — cheap sunglasses, for instance — will have a much different buyer journey than a pricey pair of shoes. Furthermore, not every product or service will be a fit for on-platform selling or even social commerce: you’d be unlikely to book a hotel stay or flight through Instagram, for instance.
Chief Marketing Officer of cosmetic company Image, Yaso Murray, reminds brands that a visual product, like an eye mask, requires a lesser degree of customer education than a more complex and expensive serum. Simpler products tend to do better on social media. “Simplicity is one of our core pillars. On social, I think even more so,” she says. “So a cleanser is going to do well. You know?”
Brands should also be smart about influencer partnership. Partnering with influencers who can use their professional experience to increase customer education, the brand can more easily push sales on social media. This works especially well with slightly less simple products that require explanation, education and/or an exciting show and tell element. A wig would be a good example as it’s pretty hard to show it without a model. The wig application process, especially if it’s quick and easy, will also be explained via influencer use.
It is also important to remember that influencer marketing is not a one-size-fits all. Some brands may benefit from the use of two or three macro influencers whereas, for other brands, the opposite approach may work just as well. Mavely, a Chicago-based influencer marketing platform, pairs more than 650 brands, including Gap and Honest Company, with over 25,000 “everyday influencers” who can freely share affiliate links for those companies on their social-media platforms.
When considering influencer marketing, live streaming is worth factoring in. Livestream shopping, a $423 billion market in China, led to $17 billion in sales in the U.S. in 2022, and is expected to triple to a $55 billion market by 2026. Since the live shopping industry isn’t matching the extent of the East’s, for now, one should consider nuances. For example, basic household commodities — which sell successfully on Chinese livestream platforms like Taobao — likely won’t appeal to U.S. consumers in the same context. Limited edition drops, collectibles, and products that benefit from some kind of live demonstration — like clothing and makeup — are better suited to the medium.
Where a brand decides to host its live stream also matters. Although Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and TikTok all offer livestream functionalities, he argues that smaller, more niche platforms could lead to better conversion.