We (marketers) have all been waiting for this moment for the last decade: The moment social media goes from being an engagement platform to a revenue generation tool.
Yes, for years now, businesses large and small have had to struggle to defend their social media spends. After all these years, just 36 percent of all CMOs claim that they see clear quantifiable results from social media marketing. Questions like ROI, revenue attribution, last mile conversions have dogged the platform like a heavy albatross around its neck. Long-winded methods are adopted by various firms to showcase the impact that social media has on the bottom lines of businesses.
No more. Finally, enough factors have come together to prove the naysayers wrong. Now we have tools that can directly produce the results that marketers were hoping social media would be able to influence someday. Transactions are no longer limited to e-commerce sites, they happen right here on social media now. So what are these five ingredients that are responsible for this perfect storm?
1. Extensive Social Media Product Catalogs
As mentioned earlier, shoppers now have the option of buying right where they are on social media platforms. Earlier, product ads on social media were created with the purpose of enticing click-throughs to the advertisers’ sites. However, with Twitter’s Buy button and Pinterest’s Buyable Pins, and Facebook’s whole new Shopping section (under testing), a bunch of unwieldy steps have been taken out of the equation.
Never one to be left far behind, Facebook might intend to introduce a Shopping tab a la Pinterest, which enables users to directly head towards a “store near their home” if the mood strikes them. Remember the ill-fated F-Commerce days when brands struggled to set up dedicated stores inside Facebook but received little to no response from users? The new Shopping tab is a far cry from those.
And good old e-commerce platforms are taking note – web store frameworks like Shopify have rushed in to add a social point of sale for retail products with Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest integrations.
2. Superior Mobile Payments Technology
No matter how great their intentions, no social network can achieve the long held dream of being a true social commerce enabler until the problem of simple payments is fixed. This is where the new digital wallets score over Facebook’s earlier, failed foray into social shopping.
Today, a majority of social media users access it via their mobile phones. According to the Adobe Mobile Consumer Survey, 71 phone of respondents accessed social media via their mobile phone. No wonder, Facebook makes more money via mobile ads than desktop advertising. With mobile overtaking desktops in the case of access to the internet worldwide, mobile is truly a force to reckon with.
This is why, the rise and growth of mobile payment apps like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Stripe, etc. this year are of special significance. Each of these payment options offer users secure and extremely user-friendly ways of paying with the mobile handsets. With mobile payments becoming a popular and safe way to pay, users will not have trouble buying and paying for products on social media via their mobile handsets. Hello, social commerce!
3. Social Goes Local
Think of all the things that you can do with local searches on Google – you can now do most of them from within Pinterest. Pinterest now allows users to discover new places to hang out, shop, or relax at, using the Places Pin. Make calls to a business, find their address, know their hours of business, get their location on a map – these are just a handful of features that will be available through the new and improved Place Pins. Want to ask something very specific? Call the place of business at their listed number directly from within Pinterest. Users can also see a map of the business’s location, pin it and get directions via Apple or Google Maps.
A caveat for businesses that want to cash in on this exciting new feature: keep your Foursquare data updated, as Pinterest taps into Foursquare’s public API for location information.
With 7 billion Place Pins already lighting up maps, users can expect to find most places they want to go to pretty easily on Pinterest.
Newer social-mobile apps like 7Dayz make finding places and things even easier by offering a live stream of visual stories of all people in close proximity to where the user is at any point of time. Talk about location centricity!
4. Attribution Gets Smarter
Last touch attribution leaves too many things to chance. Many efforts made to generate conversions remain unnoticed. Twitter hopes to change that with its Conversion Lift Reports. Advertisers can set up test and control groups for each of their messages and request Twitter for a detailed performance report for each campaign. Twitter takes into account multiple platforms, devices and multiple ad exposures to arrive at a figure that shows the increase in conversions offered by one ad type over the other.
Not long back, Facebook rolled out two-tap lead generation ads that help businesses track users much better than regular ad units. Businesses that tested out this new experimental ad unit report 54% lower cost per lead as compared to any other acquisition effort.
With smarter ways to track where each lead comes from, the old complaint about social media ROI is set to evaporate. A platform that users spend inordinate chunks of time on, one that is effortlessly trackable and already widely used is a perfect choice for expanding as a transactional tool.
5. Turbocharged Social Customer Care
A huge aspect of e-commerce is customer care that surpasses its brick-and-mortar counterparts in responsiveness and accuracy. Social customer care has long been a strong suit of the most customer focused businesses on the internet. However, it too came with its inherent set of limitations.
Users expect instant answers on social media. Unfortunately, these are only possible if companies staff their social media desks round the clock. Similarly, often social customer care teams get caught up in replying to similar queries and similar problems over and over again. Personally identifying information – the kind that e-commerce sites use – is too sensitive to post on users’ social media timelines, making social customer care even trickier.
Many of these problems are now things of the past. The last few months have seen a slew of improvements in social media messaging that seem tailor made to up business’ social customer care game. Longer DMs on Twitter, the ability for Facebook’s Business Pages to send personal messages send to fans, the introduction of Saved Replies that can be used to tackle frequently asked questions or questions asked when the social platforms are unmanned are all great options for a social commerce venture to thrive and grow.
To Sum Up
Social media’s transformation from a place to meet friends to one where you interact with brands you love to one where you can buy stuff you love is as logical as it is unstoppable. With all the critical pieces falling into place, it’s only a matter of time when social commerce takes flight the way mobile commerce did not so long ago.
Rohan Ayyar is a web analytics and conversion optimization specialist at E2M, a premium digital marketing agency. You can find his articles on 20+ major business publications including Fast Company and Entrepreneur, and hit him up on Twitter at @searchrook.