Navigating the choppy waters of social commerce

Islands in a rough sea.
Marcel Hiollerbach is the chief innovation officer at Productsup.

Marcel Hiollerbach, chief innovation officer at Productsup, analyses the current social commerce landscape and how businesses can use tech to minimise commerce anarchy.

Social commerce’s domination has been a long time coming with 44% of the world’s population already using social media. Turning these growing platforms into commerce platforms was a natural next step with brands and retailers jumping on the opportunity. As such, the social commerce market is rapidly expanding, predicted to be worth a staggering $6.2 trillion by 2030.

This boom has been punctuated by a number of milestones. While Facebook Marketplace has existed since 2007, Meta’s introduction of the in-app checkout function to Instagram a few years ago really cemented the modern day blend of influencers, social media and commerce we see today.

The arrival of the pandemic added more impetus to social commerce, and today’s landscape sees Meta, Snapchat, TikTok, and BeReal all competing for their own slice of the pie. Recently, TikTok has posted several job listings on LinkedIn looking for candidates to help it develop and grow its ‘F’ullfilment by TikTok Shop, furthering the platforms growing dominance within social commerce. For businesses trying to succeed in today’s market, knowing which channels to target, with the right data, is more difficult than ever.

Platform confusion

The social commerce landscape is ever changing, making it difficult for businesses to know exactly what strategies to pursue across which channels. Social media giants tweak and experiment with their commerce offerings on a regular basis. For instance, Facebook recently scrapped live shopping in attempts to distance itself from its largest competitor, TikTok. Meta also plans to drastically scale back Instagram’s shopping features, as it shifts the focus of its ecommerce efforts to those that directly drive advertising.

To add to the complexity, social media users are fickle. A year ago, who would’ve predicted the rise of BeReal? Ultimately, businesses don’t know which channels will be the best at any given time and need the capability to successfully sell on all of them. Generational differences mean that any social commerce strategy will need a multi-platform approach.

Research shows that Gen Z uses up to 2-3 platforms daily: YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, while Millennials, and Gen X use 5-6 platforms at least weekly: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Without intelligence and tech to guide approaches, businesses could potentially waste time and money. For instance, placing ads for Gen Z on baby-boomer dominated Facebook is simply bad business.

Information matters

Although navigating social commerce may seem daunting, there are several strategies available to businesses. The heart of any successful social commerce strategy is being able to accurately and effectively display product information across any channel.

The evolution of commerce tech, especially social media, has completely changed consumer behaviour and expectations. People want to receive tailored information. However, the technology needed for businesses to deliver high quality product information is lacking in many corners of the industry. Research shows that while 88% of shoppers care about sustainability, and 70% are likely to buy a product if recycling information is clear, 34% say it is
too difficult to find. With the ability to accurately display this information across channels,businesses could master the social commerce landscape, regardless of the chosen platform.

Navigating with P2C

One method many businesses are turning to for managing today’s ecommerce challenges is a product-to-consumer (P2C) approach. This is a framework used by commerce businesses to streamline how product data reaches buyers. P2C condenses commerce systems into a single management view, allowing brands and retailers to have full control over all of their product data as it’s routed through the commerce ecosystem, such as online stores, marketplaces, and social media networks.

This helps businesses get all the necessary product information – size, price, colour and texture – listed across social media in a format that appeals to users. It also helps them meet compliance requirements – for instance, data standards on Google Shopping are different from Amazon, Facebook, TikTok, and so on. Approaches like P2C enable businesses to manage all the data within one system – sourcing it from vario us locations, cleaning and sorting it, syndicating it out to endless channels, and then frequently making updates as information changes.

The future of commerce

The fast-moving world of social media is an accurate analogy for today’s commerce landscape.

Businesses find themselves in a state of ‘commerce anarchy’, dealing with an overwhelming, amorphous landscape of changing channels, regulations and audiences. For example, Twitter is introducing new commerce features, like Twitter Shops, and expanding its advertising capabilities, like Dynamic Product Ads, to increase its value for brands.

With continuous movement in the ecommerce space, reaching consumers and driving sales is growing difficult even for platforms like Amazon that have been around for decades. While social commerce is big business, it’s still in its infancy, evidenced by the constant changes to platforms and features.

However, businesses don’t need to be put off by the choppy waters of social commerce. By focusing on the right tech to ensure the right information reaches consumers, they will set themselves up for success on any channel – BeReal, Snap or whatever new, shiny platform is capturing attention.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.

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