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When social media first came onto the scene, it was designed for people to connect to one another. But as the platforms developed and the user base grew, money needed to be made, brands found opportunity to participate and reach their customers in a new way. Nowadays, it seems unimaginable for a new business to open up without any social media presence.
The direct-to-consumer (DTC) model is still relatively new when compared to brick-and-mortar retail shops. For those that are solely based online, an investment in social media comprises a significant part of the marketing budget. When companies like Warby Parker and Casper first launched, the DTC model was fresh and unique. Nowadays, nearly every retail segment has a DTC brand and the competition is heavy with new brands.
In 2010, ecommerce sales made up only 4.2% of total US retail sales. One decade later, the number is now 11.8% and it’s only steadily climbing. In 2020, as the pandemic continues to prohibit retail companies from opening their stores, having an ecommerce marketing strategy seems more needed than ever.
Why use social ecommerce?
For DTC brands that exist solely online and retailers shifting to an online-first presence, you need all the tools in your arsenal to push sales on your website. You can’t rely on foot traffic so social media replaces this tactic.
Social commerce features have rapidly emerged to allow selling directly from social platforms such as Instagram and Facebook Shops, reducing the number of clicks to sale and allowing customers to shop on the same social networks they are increasingly researching and discovering products on.
Social commerce contrasts with social selling, which includes relationship building and interactions that take place on social media before a sale, including research, word-of-mouth, direct interactions with the brand and more.
Ecommerce sales are heavily influenced by the online world, and it makes sense for brands to use social media to drive them. At least 72% of US adults use some type of social media. Since your customer is very likely already on social media, you want to go where the customers are.
There are many ways to approach social commerce and selling and as some brands have demonstrated, there isn’t one “right” way.
Use organic and paid strategies
On social media, a combination of organic and paid strategies is usually the preferred way to go.
According to the Sprout Social Index™ Above & Beyond, consumers find brands on social media in a variety of ways. Forty percent of consumers find new brands from their personal network, 35% from influencers they follow and 32% from word-of-mouth. Two of the three methods of discovery are from organic strategies, but all have the potential to be conducted through paid social as well.
We’ll go into a little more detail on some of these strategies but here are some examples of what organic and paid social strategies look like for ecommerce.
Organic social media strategies for ecommerce
- Presence of and use of product reviews on your social media accounts
- Adding relevant hashtags to increase the discoverability of your brand
- Personalized interaction with customers on your accounts and theirs
- Providing excellent social customer care
- Using user-generated content to further your social proof
- Use social listening to improve your product and discover new customers
Paid social media strategies for ecommerce
- Paid advertisements and post boosts
- Using lookalike audiences and website visitors to supplement your advertising
- Running influencer marketing campaigns
- Creating a brand ambassador program
- Forming brand partnerships
- Creating a referral or affiliate program
- Running advertisements and boosts of any of the organic strategies mentioned above
Set up social ecommerce channels
Shopping within a network is easier than ever on Instagram and Facebook. Use these platforms’ features to make shopping and product discoverability on social media a seamless experience for your customers.
Instagram and Facebook share the same backend operation for shopping. After loading in your product catalog or linking your website’s ecommerce platform (such as Shopify and WooCommerce), you’ll be able to start tagging products on your posts.
When products are shown on Instagram posts, they can be tagged, allowing customers to view purchase details with a tap. Clicking on the tagged product will lead you to the product’s website page for you to purchase. The browser pops up within Instagram so when you close out or finish your purchase, you can go right back to browsing.
Pinterest, a network known to consumers for discovering and researching new products, has its own Shop feature. Once your website’s product pins are enabled, pins show the price and are listed in the Shop section of your page. Parachute is an online-only, DTC home goods brand that utilizes both product pins and promoted pins on Pinterest.
Use social proof
Word-of-mouth and reviews are still tried-and-true tactics for encouraging purchases.
Another way of boosting your social proof is to use an influencer marketing strategy. Warby Parker highlights notable customers in their Wearing Warby blog series, and also repurposes this content on their social feeds, including through an Instagram Stories highlight.
Use social listening
Social listening can benefit all departments of your company. But for sales specifically, you can use social listening to identify gaps in your competitor’s strategy and see what your industry’s customers are talking about. These discussions can lead to new products, strategies and better customer service.
For an online-only company, social listening is imperative because you rely more on interactions and online activity to guide your strategies. Which leads us to setting yourself apart from others in an increasingly crowded social space.
Find your authentic voice & be unique
Five years ago, DTC brands in the furniture retail segment were few and far between. Now, there are dozens of mid-century furniture manufacturers alone vying for your social attention. The same story has been repeated with DTC brands specializing in dozens of different market segments. How do you set yourself apart when the field is so crowded?
One way to do this is to find a brand voice that is authentic to your company. Paired with brand visuals, this is one of the first steps to getting noticed. Next, identify what makes you unique and different from others in your field. It could be your company’s story, a specialization or even your customer service.
Research has found that 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. If all of your products are similar to your competitors’, then providing excellent social customer service can set you apart from the pack.
Use analytics to guide your ecommerce sales
We mentioned social listening before but there are additional analytics you can take advantage of when approaching social selling. Using social media data to inform your sales plans on an ongoing basis will only help your ROI.
From social media analytics, you can find a multitude of ecommerce-related data:
- Website clicks
- Profile visits
- Social shares from your website
- Mentions from customers
- Ad offers and click throughs
- Mentions of new products or campaigns
Some analytics, like Instagram impression from the Explore page, are part of an organic ecommerce social strategy. Others, like website clicks or social-only offers, are more specific analytics that can help define your social ROI.
There are many tactics an ecommerce or DTC company can use on social media. But what most would agree with is that a social media presence is necessary to elevate your marketing. Social media helps your customers discover your brand, look at reviews, receive referrals from trusted sources and shop.
Because the online landscape is constantly changing, it’s important to check in on your social selling strategy and look at new data relevant to your industry. COVID–19 has only pushed brands further into the ecommerce sphere and those retailers who are adapting to the changes are the ones who will be most successful online.
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