In the first few years of this decade, it seemed that social commerce would transform the way we shop online. Whereas buying via social channels may have gained traction among the popular Asian social platforms like WeChat and LINE, the online shopping experience in the west is still firmly rooted among traditional internet retailers like Amazon.
But this may not be the case for long – a culmination of important trends in device usage and social media engagement could lay the groundwork for social commerce to re-enter the stage in Western markets. But for this to work, a practical approach is needed, one that avoids compromising the consumer’s online experience.
Buying online – traditionally a PC/laptop-centric activity due to their perceived security benefits – is now a mobile-first activity.
The reason this is good news for social commerce is quite simple: for commerce and social activities to take place in the same space, it above all needs to be on mobile (just look at the success of WeChat as a commerce platform).
Simultaneously, social media engagement patterns are changing too. It’s been clear for some time now that networkers are maintaining an array of social media accounts (7.6 on average), and with the specialization of networks it’s also become clear that these networkers are picking and choosing how they engage with each platform.
Social strengthening its role as a product research channel and rising times spent on social media per day both point towards networking behaviors becoming less centered around sharing content about daily lives, and more oriented around fulfilling activities which conventionally lie outside the social arena. The arrival of sports entertainment, music and news consumption on social are just a few other important examples of this.
At the heart of this growing trend is convenience.
If social engagement is becoming more functional, and mobile is now the primary shopping device, social commerce has the opportunity to deliver a seamless online shopping experience which works in conjunction with other mobile-enabled channels.
This would be centered around the smartphone, providing consumers with innovative, on-hand tools to find the products they want. And the only way to do this is to nurture those areas where social and commerce activities currently overlap the most, such as product research and brand interactions (36% are following brands on social media). Pinterest and Instagram have been pioneers in using their existing strengths to add real value to the shopping experience.
Online experiences need to be prioritized here, however.
Social commerce must learn the lesson of online advertising.
Strong uptake of ad-blocking due to ad-weariness is a clear example of consumer backlash in the face of any marketing attempt that compromises their online experience. And with such a significant chunk of daily media time being taken up by social, this point is highly relevant to the growth of social commerce if it is to make headway.