Social Commerce: The Time to Start is Now

Many SMBs merchants have been hit especially hard by the swift and significant shift in ecommerce in the past nine months. While ecommerce and social selling may not have a top priority before, leaning into these channels is now a matter of survival for some merchants.

eMarketer found up to 51% of U.S. adults have increased time spent on social networks during the pandemic, and the percentage of retail sales online in Q2 alone was up 44.5%.

Competition for attention in ecommerce is fierce. Social commerce is a great, cost effective way for merchants to expand channels and visibility. 36% of U.S. internet users say social networks have become as important as other information sources for making product choices and 70% of shopping enthusiasts say they turn to Instagram to discover products.

Solutions offered by social and ecommerce platforms make it easier than ever to start selling on them. Facebook Shops, which launched last May, includes a template for quickly setting up an online store there or on Instagram. Merchants can showcase and sell products, and followers can browse, shop and be seamlessly transferred to a secure checkout on the merchant’s site or directly within either app. Shops also allows merchants to organize products into special collections and merchandise them on Facebook.

Major platforms have native integrations with Facebook Commerce Manager, which enables merchants to send product listings, manage orders and sync inventory across Facebook Shops and Instagram Shopping. U.S. merchants also have access to Checkout on Instagram, giving shoppers the option to buy in app from their favorite brands. 

Once you’ve set up shop on one or more platforms, here are some best practices for marketing and driving traffic:

  • Take advantage of social commerce’s organic reach. Make sure your product data is complete (titles, descriptions, size, color, etc.) and mapped to the right categories. Facebook uses this data to merchandise products across all its shoppable surfaces.
  • Establish a regular cadence for product-tagged shopping posts to ensure consumers can discover and buy your products within Facebook.
  • Increase your reach with the new Facebook Ads Manager to create brand-new ads with product tags, and leverage custom audiences and retargeting for product-tagged ads.
  • Facebook Messenger is a great way to engage directly with prospects, and there are a lot of tools available to help you automate engagements through chatbots.
  • Most people don’t visit social media specifically looking for products; they buy because something caught their eye. This means running promos or showcasing sale items generally grabs more attention than merchandising higher-priced items. The average order value on the most popular networks is about $80.
  • Collect an email address. Shoppers may purchase something small through a social ad, but once they opt in for email, merchants can integrate the new customer into a broader marketing strategy.
  • Engagement is critical. There is a reason it’s called social commerce. Without likes, clicks and followers, merchants won’t acquire the traffic to convert sales or measure effectiveness. Check out how other successful brands are engaging customers and develop a strategy that matches your audience. Hint: high-quality images and visuals, combined with product-tagged posts, can go a long way.

Even when the pandemic eventually recedes and people go back to their “normal” lives, ecommerce habits are expected to stay ingrained among new believers. If the thought of expanding into social commerce is daunting, don’t let the perceived complexity run you off.

There are plenty of features offered by social and ecommerce platforms and an unlimited number of integrated tools available to help you get up and running quickly, then handily manage your social commerce and your online store all from the same place.

Sharon Gee is general manager of omnichannel at BigCommerce

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