When Covid hit and physical stores closed, many retailers were left floundering, trying to work out how to maintain their relationships with customers and remain relevant in their hearts and minds. Enter the acceleration of social commerce.
“The role of social media is changing. It is now both the megaphone and the marketplace for brands. It is the new search, the new storefront and the new helpdesk,” observes Etienne Mérineau, senior director of marketing at Hootsuite.
“Retailers can’t see social as just a broadcasting tool anymore as it becomes the cornerstone of the omnichannel customer journey. It’s an opportunity to unlock new revenue but also to foster deeper relationships with customers through one-on-one conversations and interactions.”
No longer deemed as an afterthought just for Gen Z, social commerce has evolved in leaps and bounds, engaging people from all backgrounds and demographics. Here, we break down three of the latest trends that are taking place in social commerce right now.
Community and collaboration are the keys to success
Successful social media marketing lies in creating a tight-knit community of loyal followers and savvy brands now realise that the secret sauce is in collaborating with great creators who can build authentic connections with people.
“Customers want to have meaningful conversations, not be advertised to. Customers want personal advisors, not advertisers. They want to discuss their options, be guided and reassured to have more confidence in the choices they make,” explains Mérineau, adding that the industry is now moving away from mass marketing to a private messaging model, changing the way brands interact with customers.
“Mass media and advertising can still play a role to inspire larger audiences, but brands need to also manage the micro interactions to create more personalised experiences that feel more authentic and engaging. That’s where creators and influencers can act as micro ambassadors of the brand and bridge the gap with consumers.”
Customer service: Helping is the new selling
Thanks to the uncertainty of Covid, stores opening and closing and the global supply chain crisis, increasingly, customers are turning to social media platforms to make queries and complaints – and most social media managers have found themselves in customer service roles. Smart brands will recognise this and appropriately put resources and training into this particular area of social commerce.
“We like to say that ‘helping is the new selling’ and that’s where customer service becomes so pivotal,” says Mérineau. “Customer service can play that personal advisor role or helping hand that guides customers and reassures them throughout their journey. Customer service is no longer just post-sale, it’s ongoing.”
Mérineau explains the steps retailers need to take to nail customer service on social:
“First, they need to show up. They need to set up shop on every channel and be present for their customers 24-7-365 on every touchpoint,” she says.
“Second, they need to operationalise for scale. That’s where chatbots and AI become handy: they can help offer a first line of defence and self-service that eliminates the noise and redundant questions from the channel to focus internal teams on higher-value conversations and personalisation.
“Third, they need to listen more than they talk, and understand that they can no longer dictate the narrative and push their message and products down people’s throat. It needs to be a two-way street that feels more organic and personable.”
Advertisers, stop interrupting, start inspiring
Social media users are receptive to advertising on their platforms, particularly TikTok, Pinterest and Snapchat, but brands need to think creatively about how to genuinely connect with people. No-one wants their social media experience to be rudely interrupted by boring ads.
After all, TikTok’s whole brand-facing wing operates on the tagline “Don’t make ads. Make TikToks.” Pinterest’s call to action for advertisers is “Stop interrupting, start inspiring.” And Snapchat invites advertisers to “Become a part of Snapchatters’ everyday conversations”.
Mérineau cites forward-thinking brands like Gucci, Kylie Cosmetics and Shein for their successful use of social media advertising.
According to Hootsuite’s Social Trends 2022 report, “Consumers, wise to the sameness of social advertising, are holding brands to a higher standard when it comes to creativity – but they’re also rewarding those that get it right. Brands that want to stand out in 2022 will have to work harder to create ads that mirror and enrich the distinct experience offered by each social network.”
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