3 Ways Ecommerce Brands Can Use Social to Boost Their Reach and Engagement

Instagram and other platforms are the new window shopping

Popups are a great way to connect with consumers in an organic way that'll stick in their memories.
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Consumers are constantly changing the ways in which they buy. For instance, mobile shopping has taken off in recent years as shoppers grow more comfortable making purchases from their smartphones. Last year, 35 percent of ecommerce sales occurred on mobile, and this is expected to continue climbing over the next five years. With more consumers adopting mobile payments and storing their account details on their devices, it’s only a matter of time before social media emerges as a viable shopping channel that complements the brick-and-mortar and ecommerce experiences.

Over the past few years, and even recently, visual social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest have opened the floodgates for brands and retailers to connect with consumers, inspire their audiences and get discovered. Eighty percent of brands and retailers say visual content increases the discoverability of products, and 88 percent say it improves brand trust. Furthermore, 81 percent of brands and retailers say integrating social media with online shopping is a priority for them in the next year.

Social commerce makes a lot of sense in theory, but it’s much trickier in practice. It’s clear that the leading visual platforms are investing heavily in narrowing the gap between discovery and purchase by adding more shoppable functionality. Instagram just introduced Shoppable Stories, which allows brands to tag products in their stories with a shopping bag icon that leads users to more product details. Similarly, Snapchat rolled out Shoppable Snap Ads to enhance its ecommerce offering and attract more advertisers.

The question is: Will consumers take the bait?

What brands must remember is that social commerce is the modern-day window shopping. A lot of time can elapse between initial exposure to a product on social media and ultimately pulling the trigger on mobile, desktop or in-store. So, what can brands do to influence these social shoppers and pull them further down the path to purchase?

Almost 60 percent of consumers have purchased a product they first saw or heard about on social media, but it’s rare that shoppers see an item they like on social and immediately decide to purchase it.

Create compelling, bookmarkable content

A major reason why Pinterest has become so popular is the ability for users to save and catalog ideas and products they like for later. Instagram collections works in a similar way. Many consumers treat their Pinterest boards and Instagram collections like wish lists, so brands should produce high-quality inspirational photo and video content for these platforms to increase engagement. If consumers enjoy and bookmark this content, they are more likely to eventually take action and purchase in the future.

Consider pop-up experiences

Brands like Glossier cosmetics and Allbirds sneakers have amassed cult-like followings on social media, but there are few places where shoppers can see these brands’ products firsthand, try them on or buy them in person. Though both brands are primarily sold online, both found a more tangible way to connect with shoppers through in-person pop-up experiences.

Earlier this spring, Allbirds partnered with Nordstrom for the Pop-In@Nordstrom series, where shoppers could try on the popular sneakers and buy them at select Nordstrom stores. Glossier hosted its own series of pop-up experiences in cities across the U.S. where consumers were welcome to sample products, interact with beauty experts and stock up on items. In the beauty, fashion and apparel categories, pop-up experiences are particularly effective because shoppers can touch, feel and see coveted products in person, which can convert interested browsers into buyers.

Incorporate visual content in lower-funnel strategies

It may seem overly simplistic, but featuring visual content curated from social media on ecommerce product and category pages is not only engaging and authentic, but it helps drive conversion and revenue per visitor. Placing compelling photos and videos of satisfied customers wearing or using products closer to the point of purchase can influence subsequent shopper decisions and give them the confidence to buy.

I do believe the tides are turning. In a few years, if social media usage and mobile shopping activity continue to rise, buying products directly from our social feeds may become a reality sooner than later. But in the meantime, brands must treat their social channels as an element of a larger omnichannel strategy to attract and delight more shoppers.