Social commerce: why we must not ignore this new ROI goldmine

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As we ease back into a new normal and things start opening up again, there are new avenues of profits for brands and advertisers worldwide that simply can't be ignored.

Our favourred social media platforms have turned into proper digital storefronts, with social commerce taking the centre stage in this new ROI revolution for brands. Why does social commmerce matter so much? Why should brands care?

To learn more about the topic, we reached out to Ed East, CEO of creative agency Billion Dollar Boy, who discussed his views below.


Social commerce: the ROI goldmine brands should capitalise on

Forced into isolation over a year ago, and dipping in and out of lockdowns ever since, we’ve needed to adapt to new ways of living to keep up with the changes thrown at us during an extremely trying period. Naturally, we’ve been desperately seeking community and connection, and many of us have turned to social media to satisfy those ever-growing cravings. 

With more of us on our phones than ever, the pandemic has drastically changed our shopping habits. Unsurprisingly, social media is at the heart of that change. Platforms like Instagram have evolved from destinations of solely aspirational and educational content into full-on shop windows. Never has it been more vital for brands to put resource behind successful and innovative marketing strategies to maximise ROI, and social commerce is leading the charge.

Why? Because it’s a real-time return on investment. A recent report by eMarketer found that social commerce sales in the U.S. are forecasted to reach $36 billion this year, up from $26.7 billion in 2020 and $19.2 billion in 2019. 

Shoppable ads and live events: tangible real-time return

There are a number of ways brands can tap into the social commerce boom. We’re living in an impulse society where instant gratification has become the norm. As consumers, we’re now programmed to want things yesterday, and this has only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Brands that can successfully smooth out the customer journey and make it as seamless as possible will come out on top - be that with shoppable ads that take users straight through to the product landing page, or even live shoppable events.

Tommy Hilfiger identified this potential late last year, curating a digital shopping event which showcased sustainable pieces from its 2020 Autumn/Winter collection. Viewers were able to add their favourite styles to a virtual trolley and purchase them directly after the broadcast.

What the fashion brand did to really maximise earnings from the event was engage celebrity talent, Sir Lewis Hamilton. Offering viewers the chance to shop with the Formula One World Champion was an extremely creative solution to facilitate consumer engagement and deliver ROI.

Of course, not all brands have access to celebrity talent like Lewis Hamilton, but it goes to show just how powerful influence can be. Instagram cites a report on its website that found 87% of people say influencers have inspired them to make a purchase - that’s why engaging them can deliver unprecedented levels of ROI. 

Just recently, Clarks hosted a live shopping event, working alongside creator Nià Pettit (@niathelight) to showcase its Spring/Summer collection. The event was accessible from both Clarks’ and Nià’s Instagram feeds.

Speaking about Clarks’ decision to explore social commerce in such an engaging way, Tara McRae, Clarks’ Chief Marketing Officer explains: “We have been focused on creative, fun, and innovative social and digital programs within marketing to connect with our consumer. While Covid-19 has forced us all to adapt with the world connecting virtually, it’s also accelerated technological advancements which have enabled us to do so at pace. 

“It’s really exciting to witness real-time, tangible ROI from shoppable events like this, with consumers able to purchase products there and then. Social commerce is booming and becoming an increasingly powerful tool to connect with consumers. Working with one of our favorite talents added an extra layer to the event, drawing in both brand fans and creator followers - Nià has a natural way of connecting with her audience and it was great to see this play out during the event.”

Social media: the ROI journey

Social networks are working hard in the background to build out their back-end capabilities, which will facilitate e-commerce and allow brands to create effective shoppable moments on the platforms themselves. The tech is finally catching up - and providing these platforms with capabilities they didn’t previously have. 

Social commerce and shoppable content used to be a pipedream: the technology allowing click-throughs from social platforms to commercial landing pages just wasn’t there. Then came businesses like Smartzer, which helped brands to create shoppable interactive videos.

Instagram has been spearheading social commerce for a while now, introducing a number of tools to support brand marketers and content creators alike in driving direct ROI from the app. “Shops” are customisable storefronts allowing users to purchase directly through a brand’s profile page; “product tags” allow businesses to highlight products so that consumers can be taken straight through to that product’s landing page; and “collections” allow brands to customise their shop with an editorial point of view by categorising products into themes. Checkout for Instagram, a tool allowing businesses and creators to sell their products directly on Instagram, is also available in the US. 

And it’s not just Instagram taking the leap. Just recently it was reported that Pinterest is encouraging users to purchase through the app with the introduction of a new feature that automatically saves shoppable product pins in one place, displays delivery costs and reviews, and will notify consumers of any price changes too. This Shopping List feature will be the latest Pinterest has announced this year aimed at driving social commerce through the platform.

Historically, we’ve seen creator content has the potential to perform so effectively on social media, so employing them for social commerce campaigns is a no-brainer too. The “traditional” outputs that influencer content uniquely provides - for example awareness and engagement - are still there, but social commerce adds an extra layer to that, resulting in an avenue for direct sales. 

Tracking the success of influencer content has been a challenge for the industry since its conception. Beginning with likes and followers, marketers soon layered this with overall engagement. This was then built on with swipe-ups and affiliate codes, which allowed brands to experiment with tracking ROI. 

With shoppable content and social commerce becoming more available, brands will be able to see a tangible, real-time return on their investment.

Ed East is the CEO and Co-Founder of Billion Dollar Boy. Header image: Pablo Ladosa for Samsung.


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