Insta-shop: getting a handle on social shopping

Jul 27th, 2022

By 2024, eight out of 10 businesses will use social media to sell their goods or services. This article will explore social shopping’s impact on the eCommerce landscape, and where to start with your own social shopping strategy.

Mindless scrolling through social media platforms comes at a price; there are many studies about this habit that argue long amounts of screen time can cause decreased concentration levels and zoning out, so far these studies haven’t come to a definite conclusion. However, the addition of products you can actually buy from said platforms means now they’re affecting your purse as well as potentially affecting your mind.

Social shopping: browse the latest trends from the comfort of Instagram

Online shopping certainly isn’t new, sites/apps like ASOS, eBay, Boohoo etc. have made the shopping experience accessible for all (with a phone or laptop at least). Perhaps unsurprisingly eCommerce sales surged during the Coronavirus lockdowns, in 2020 as high as 87% of UK households made online purchases.

Buying habits have changed a great deal since 2020, with emphasis placed on a brand’s trustworthiness and authenticity. Although there isn’t legislation pertaining to social distancing in the UK any more, we are a lot more aware of how close we are to others in a limited space.

Around 3 in 10 adults (29%) across Great Britain reported always or often maintaining social distancing when meeting up with people outside their household in July [2022]

For many, browsing through the aisles in various shops was a social activity pre 2020, two and a half years later, the line that saw a substantial “up” during the pandemic, has just about settled to pre-Covid levels. With advancements in social media technology, shopping can be a social activity just in a different way.

A 2015 article from Vogue discussed the future of shopping, and although it could not predict the sudden mass migration to online – it was able to foresee the channels changing in which we shop.

Today, shopping is scrolling Instagram in the back of an Uber, finding a product you like, tagging a friend to get a second opinion, and buying it right off your smartphone.

The idea of using social media platforms like Instagram to make purchase decisions isn’t necessarily new. Brands have been able to tag products within posts since 2016 without the need for followers to navigate off the profile. In a fairly recent update, Instagram made it possible for anyone (at least in the US thus far) to tag products as ‘shoppable’, their followers will see their recommendations and shop through the app rather than being redirected off the platform.

A social element comes into play once more with the online shopping experience, it’s just through a different outlet. Prospective customers can talk about a specific product through chat and customise it in the message feed. It’s like being in a virtual market made up of businesses you wouldn’t usually find on the high street.

Is eCommerce under threat?

A lot of blame is placed on online shopping for the decline of the high street store; Covid-19 and inflation certainly impacted brick and mortar shops and those who went online, like one of our clients, Chums prospered, those who fell behind unfortunately had to permanently close.

Is the same fate in store for eCommerce?

Millennials and Gen-Z have different purchasing habits than their preceding generations. While this doesn’t automatically mean that ASOS is going to disappear from our apps list, there is a possibility that it could shift its focus onto social shopping, if it is indeed, the future.

On the other hand, ASOS (As Seen On Screen) doesn’t have brick and mortar store fronts, and has invested heavily in eCommerce. With the semi-recent acquisition of Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands for £265m, serving as a reminder that eCommerce is here to stay, even if for a short while.

The buyer’s journey from product discovery to purchase has been substantially simplified, thanks to Instagram. The younger generations are often observed as impatient when presented with something new and “shiny”, similar to Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “I want it now” usually means they’ll get it now(ish – postage days don’t count).

That’s not to say that those younger than Baby Boomers are spoiled, they’re just spoilt for choice. The accessibility to new ways of discovering trends can be overwhelming, and the endless updates to social platforms is confusing. So, if someone finds a lampshade they like on Instagram and they are able to buy it through there… why wouldn’t they?

Last year, Instagram announced that 140 million users tap on product tags in shopping postings each month.

Discovery engine, Pinterest, boasts 440 million monthly active users and is looking to make a significant shift to become a commerce platform. After the recent appointment of Bill Ready as its new CEO in June of this year, Pinterest looks like it’s ramping up its social shopping offering.

The future of eCommerce is changing, but can it compete with a feed of personalised items that we would like to buy according to the intricate and elusive algorithm? With the end of third-party cookies in the horizon, one way to remain competitive is to begin transparently collecting first party data to deliver the kind of personalisation that is required while working on creating a mass appeal advertising strategy that could be needed should more browsers and tech companies end tracking similarly to Apple.

You could argue that many eCommerce sites will send emails of similar items you have interacted with, but that’s not immediate – and immediacy is key with younger generations eager to shop.

The saving grace while eCommerce plays catch-up with social shopping is due to a lack of trust experienced by people when actually paying for the products through a social platform. Two in five (38%) consumers worry about how secure their payment information really is, they are also concerned about any other details that could be stored or they could simply fall victim to a scam and never get the product or their money back.

Optimising Social Shopping

Taking techniques from your social media strategy will inform the optimisation of your social-shop. This seems obvious when thinking about it, but there is also a fine balance between your usual strategy and promoting a shop.

Social shopping needs to be a healthy mixture of social media management and customer service:

Be part of the conversation

A classic technique for any strategy, social listening could involve researching different hashtags and getting involved with people who want to be a part of the conversation – this will increase your engagement rate. Include your company name in the hashtag research as people may not have tagged your social handle, but are still talking (hopefully positively) about their experience with you.

It can also help you improve on weaker areas within the social media strategy, a hashtag with 100K+ may be oversaturated, but one with less than 10K might have more scope and opportunity for engagement.

Provide great customer service, and quickly

Similarly to the point above, customer service is a great and simple way to get more engagement. By consistently delivering outstanding customer service, your brand builds a rapport with prospective consumers and repeat customers.

“The Customer is King”

With the shift in purchasing habits over the last couple of years, consumers aren’t looking for the hard sell; they want an experience. Another way to make a connection with your audience is to use the customer’s content, known as user generated content (UGC).

UGC has been reported as 50% more trustworthy than any other medium.

It promotes audience validation and, although it’s a cliché, – people really do buy from people. For example, a mannequin in front of a brilliant white backdrop, displaying limp clothing just doesn’t cut it anymore. With positive steps to body positivity for every body, consumers want to know what clothes look like on real people.

How to report with social shopping

The frictionless strategy has enabled users to have a streamlined shopping experience without having to leave an app, and with a large number of impulse buying affecting analytics, how do you report on the successes of your store?

As of this year YouTube is also testing capabilities of adding shoppable tags and links to video content. On fifth July 2022 TikTok revealed that they are abandoning their expansion into live eCommerce in Europe and the US, due to internal problems and the failure to capture and gain traction with consumers.

Cart abandonment rate on eCommerce apps and websites is just under 86%, a survey conducted by ContentSquare of consumers aged 18 to 65 discovered that 7.30% of shoppers blame an underwhelming User Experience (UX) for their desertion. With the store coming to the customer it is expected that the rate will decrease.

Hugh Fletcher, global head of consultancy and innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce stated that:

With margins expected to get tighter, retailers and brands need to invest in digital platforms that satisfy shoppers.

In addition to your usual social media reporting there are a couple of key metrics to include.

Average Order Value (AOV)

This is the average amount customers spend when they make a purchase from your profile. This metric helps online retailers understand customer purchasing behaviour.

A large AOV usually correlates with an increase in profit. To calculate this, you can use the following equation:

(£) total revenue / (#) orders placed = (£) Average Order Value

Gross Profit Margin

Gross profit margin (GPM) is the percentage of revenue that is actual profit before adjusting for operating costs, such as marketing, overhead, and salaries. GPM basically tells you how efficiently things are running.

Remember to regularly analyse your reports to see what needs improving. Social media trends are fleeting so it’s important to update your strategy and tactics. You should also align your KPIs to the strategy updates in order to have a consistent and accurate outlook.

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