What is Social Commerce

Fani Sánchez

Written by Fani Sánchez

It is an undeniable reality that e-commerce is getting more and more integrated in our daily lives. There’s just no doubt about it. The maturing process it is currently going through is already starting to have ramifications, such as those we intend to talk about in this article.

According to the 7th Social Media Study 2017, 53% of the surveyed sample group affirms using social media in order to search for products or services before making a purchase (mostly through Facebook), and a 39% use social media to share their experience with said purchases.

Given the scenario we find ourselves wrapped in, social media undoubtedly plays an important role in our purchasing decisions, and brands want to bring as closer as possible their product to their users, fully plunging into social commerce.

What is Social Commerce

Social Commerce is an extension of e-commerce, integrating social platforms as a yet another channel in the sales process of a product or service, either in the earlier stages of research, or for direct selling.

Social Commerce

According to the 7th Social Media Study 2017, 83% of the surveyed sample group claims following brands on social media. There are many businesses who choose to provide users with another channel where it’s possible to acquire their products or services. Brands have seen this as a golden opportunity to increase their sales, by being able to reach the final customer much easier through social networking services, and they aren’t going to let it go to waste.

Facebook is the main social networking platform where users go to look for reviews on their next purchase, and to a lesser degree, they also go frequent YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram. They don’t always actively search for information, sometimes they merely ask for other users’ opinions.

The advantages of Social Commerce

This branch of e-commerce with a social component has many advantages for both customers and brands.

  • Wider broadcast. Social platforms are much better received than present-day or traditional advertising. Your target audience can be found on social media sites, you only need to choose in which of them you want to invest to get to your prospective customer.
  • Lower cost. Although this affirmation has extensive nuances, social commerce usually has less management and acquisition costs than other sales and advertising techniques like AdWords or Social Ads, for example.
  • Engagement. Social channels are very effective for increasing your customers’ engagement with the brand.
  • Greater trust. 39% of the surveyed sample group confirms trusting more those brands, which are present in social media.

How social platforms have joined e-commerce

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest… social networking services are finding ever more numerous and diverse ways to integrate with e-commerce to a greater or lesser extent. They can go from platforms exclusively developed for direct purchasing, with special features allowing users to find out more about a brand’s products and services, or a direct path to the product page where customers can acquire them.

Now, let’s see some of these features social platforms have been implementing over the last few years, and which can be useful to you as a brand to make the most out of social commerce.

Reviews and ratings

Some social networks implemented features focussed on sharing comments on a brand’s products or services. This way we can easily see other fellow users’ hands-on experiences with any brand, which can help other potential customers to make a decision regarding their purchase or contracting of services. We can find them on:

Facebook

Facebook fan pages are provided with the option to enable user reviews. Enabling them exposes the brand to receive bad reviews and ratings. However, this shouldn’t be an obstacle in our social media strategy, but a challenge: they are complaints we can work on, and when handled and resolved successfully, they can even improve the image your users have of you. Here are some of this feature’s characteristics:

  • The review is comprised of a star-rating and a written comment. The rating is mandatory (you can’t write a review without rating the page), but it is possible to rate without leaving a written opinion.
  • The numeric rating scale goes from one to five stars. More stars equals better rating.
  • Rating privacy depends on the user who wrote it. They can choose to make it public (all users within and outside Facebook can see it) or they can be applied as many privacy filters as any other Facebook post.
  • You can report reviews that do not follow Facebook guidelines (for example, if they are offensive) to get them removed, but under no circumstances the brand has control over reviews that are published or not published.

Reviews on Facebook

Google+

Google Plus reviews are prior to Facebook reviews, and both are very similar. The main differences between Google+ reviews and Facebook ones are:

  • You can only review pages that are associated to a location on Google Maps. For example, we can review a shop down the street, but we can’t review Vodafone’s brand page.
  • G+ reviews are always public, and never anonymous. In the past it was possible to anonymously write a review, and there are still traces of them in some locations.
  • As per the previous point, this means that to write a review you need a Google account.
  • Reviews can be displayed with certain search queries on Google, for example, brand searches.

Human Level reviewed on Google Maps

Facebook shop pages

Facebook Commerce was born in its most basic form several years ago now. It was through custom-developed apps and a new feature “Store”. Let’s talk about them.

During mid-2016 we saw the arrival of Facebook Shop pages in Spain. Currently, we can use it without restrictions, with the logical exceptions regarding certain products or services (tobacco, drugs, weapons…)

Facebook Commerce marked a turning point in the way this social platform handled direct selling of products. Nowadays, any page can easily add a Facebook shop page. However, the possibility to purchase products directly through Facebook (including checkout) is only possible in the United States. In the rest of the world, Facebook allows the possibility to create product pages, such as the one pictured below, and to purchase the product on its seller’s website, to which we are directed through a call to action button.

Facebook shop

The interesting thing about these products is that when they are published on Facebook, we can add them to our posts, giving them a greater level of visibility.

Custom-developed e-commerce apps for Facebook

Before Facebook stores came along, there was the possibility to custom-develop an app for Facebook that we could integrate into one of our pages’ many tabs. E-commerce platforms made a great effort to develop them, so that their users could also integrate them into their Facebook pages. Shopify or OptimizedStores, for example, implemented this feature. The screen capture below shows an example of such implementation in an OptimizedStores shop:

OptimizedStores implementation of a custom-developed Facebook shop

As you can see, you can’t pay directly through Facebook here either. But as opposed to the current Facebook shop page feature, this system has the advantage of enabling you to automatically import all products from your store, whilst with Facebook shop pages you have to go about manually adding each product, which can take forever if your product catalogue is rather large.

“Buy now” button on Twitter

In late October 2015, after more than a year of testing, Twitter launched the “Buy now” button. However, as it frequently happens with these things, this feature stayed on the other side of the world, and never reached the old continent. It was a button that allowed users to purchase products directly through Twitter. Your shop had to be ready for this feature to work, and once again only the Shopify platform and other similar ones included this implementation.

#AmazonCart: buying on Amazon through Twitter

Since 2014, thanks to Twitter’s alliance with Amazon, Amazon.com users can add products they see linked on Twitter to their baskets, as easily as replying to a tweet with an #AmazonCart hashtag. Again, this operation doesn’t work outside of Amazon.com in the US (so no luck for Amazon.es, Amazon.fr, or any other European country).

Pinterest’s Rich Pins

These work by adding some code to the product pages of your online store, making Pinterest product pins display additional information regarding their price, stock, etc. For example:

Rich Pins on Pinterest

Certain e-commerce platforms have already added this code automatically, so you don’t have to do anything if your store is on Shopify or Etsy.

You can’t look the other way

As you can see, Social Commerce isn’t so much a trend anymore, but a reality. There are plenty of options allowing you to integrate your social profiles with an e-commerce store, and if you know how to use them, you will give your prospective customers the chance to get to know your products better, without having to invest too much into other advertising techniques.

 

Fani Sánchez
Autor: Fani Sánchez
Senior SEO consultant at Human Level. She single-handedly manages SEO campaigns for large media outlets, tourism websites, online directories and online stores. She's also successfully designed and executed social media campaigns for @humanlevel and other third-party entities.

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