The Evolution of Social Shopping in the Ecommerce Landscape

Opinion: Now is the time to leverage innovative new methods

When a visitor lands on a site from social, the ecommerce marketer gains valuable insight ipopba/iStock

Rapid advances in technology compel marketers to take a good look at how the evolution of platforms is affecting customer interactions, with analysts expressing doubts about the future of brands’ mobile initiatives.

Amid mounting costs for marketing non-game applications and the rise of alternative digital channels like progressive web applications, Gartner forecasts that 20 percent of brands will abandon their mobile apps by 2019, even as mobile usage continues climbing.

As millions more plug into social media, however, brands are increasingly looking to these channels to meet audiences where they are.

The shift has not been without controversy, sparking questions about whether the original purpose of social media is becoming muddled, and whether a marketing department’s social media campaigns represent money well spent.

Despite the skepticism, social media represents a potent source of consumers and revenue, making it a key element of a brand’s digital initiatives in an evolving ecommerce landscape.

Where social and ecommerce meet

Although social media took root as a convenient way of keeping in touch with friends, it has come to play a vital role in consumers’ everyday spending choices. In a survey of 5,500 consumers in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Australia, 74 percent of respondents said there was a link between viewing a video on a social platform and making a purchasing decision.

In a move that reflects the growing importance of social media in ecommerce, Instagram launched its shopping feature in 2017, enabling brands to tag products within their organic posts and create more immersive experiences for consumers.

And now, with the addition of its native payment feature, Instagram will allow shoppers to buy items without even having to leave the platform.

While the feature is currently only available for restaurants and salons, it presages a significant shift in the social shopping experience, moving customers away from the need to browse a brand’s site in order to make decisions with them. And as driving site traffic has always ranked among the biggest goals in ecommerce, social platforms are beginning to circumnavigate websites entirely, directing consumers from post to purchase without any stops along the way.

Where personalization fits in

Still, social media platforms currently drive meaningful traffic to ecommerce sites not only through organic traffic, but also via paid media investments on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

And when a visitor lands on a site from social, the ecommerce marketer gains valuable insight into the user—insight that can be harnessed to personalize the user’s experience, for instance, whether the user clicked on an ad for discount jeans or for a newly launched line of premium denim.

Using this information, a site can then tailor its message and offers and recommend the appropriate products to dovetail with the user’s original campaign source.

With fewer clicks at a marketer’s disposal and a smaller window for capturing attention and driving sales, a bespoke user experience will yield more conversions when every moment counts.

With lines between social media and ecommerce increasingly blurred, brands shouldn’t see social as a threat, but an opportunity. Social channels may continue to enter personalized marketing territory, but the treasure trove of information on preferences and affinities marketers have access to via onsite activity for personalizing the shopping experience will largely keep consumers within a company’s owned channels. Only now, social will begin to contribute more meaningful indicators to a brand regarding things like purchase intent for even more cohesive, omnichannel experiences.

Social media is not and should not be siloed from other aspects of marketing. It’s powered and supported by all other marketing channels, which work together to refine and build the most actionable audience segments. But to be able to deliver consumers these personalized, relevant shopping experiences, brands will need to employ cutting-edge technologies to unify interactions happening across each of these channels in order to deliver messages that resonate and drive results.

Brands are all too aware of the fact that consumers will readily abandon a site they don’t find compelling or relevant, but they certainly aren’t about to abandon their favorite social platforms, even despite growing data privacy concerns. The fact is, social-media-savvy consumers represent a growing share of the market. And Pew Research Center found that 85 percent of millennials use social media, suggesting that their affinity for social platforms is poised to drive further growth in social commerce in the years ahead.

For those businesses less suited for social media, onsite personalization should become the cornerstone of their marketing initiatives. But for brands looking to succeed in a changing digital world, now is the time to leverage innovative new methods for personalizing the user experience on both traditional channels and social commerce.

Mukund Ramachandran is chief marketing officer of personalization and engagement solutions provider Dynamic Yield.