Social commerce hasn’t quite taken off in the way it was predicted to. 

While 52% of marketers said it would be the most prominent trend of 2016, you could argue that live video or influencer marketing ended up stealing its thunder.

It seems that despite mobile commerce rising in popularity – and with one in four users trying to purchase a product on social last year – many brands have struggled to find the right balance between social media and ecommerce. 

In fact, a recent survey suggests that 45% of adults have no current interest in clicking on a 'buy now' button, while a further quarter don’t even know the technology exists. Meanwhile, many brands are scaling back on chatbots after Facebook reported a failure rate of 70%.

So, how can brands make social commerce appealing to users, as well as ensure the process is seamless across channels? 

This was a question asked at a recent event held by We Are Social, where a number of brands spoke about their previous experience and what they think will be the key to success. Here are a few takeaways.

Most buy buttons do not mirror the user mind-set

While it’s true that users are increasingly turning to social media for shopping inspiration, many brands are failing to realise how big the leap to buying on social actually is. Currently, the reality of social commerce is often very different to the user’s expectations. 

Caroline Lucas-Garner, strategy director at We Are Social, explained how most experiences involve clicking on a link in a social bio. This then means being taken from the cosy bubble of Instagram to an interim landing page, before finally onto the main ecommerce site itself.

That’s a lot of disruption when you think about it, which could naturally lead to users abandoning the journey, or worse – being put off the brand as a result. 

Similarly, Caroline suggested that buy buttons on other platforms can be akin to a pushy sales assistant, which when you’re simply having a leisurely browse (or scroll), can feel frustratingly intrusive.

Brands in your Messenger inbox feel unnatural 

Chatbots are of course another big part of social commerce – we’ve seen many examples of branded bots created for customer service or to drive conversions.

But do users really feel that comfortable allowing them into this space? It's an odd notion to see a message from a brand alongside your nearest and dearest.

Dominos is one brand that has tried to get around this by creating a character specifically to front its chatbot. Dom the Pizza Bot has his own unique set of characteristics, designed to urge people to speak to it like they would a friend. 

Another way to make users feel more comfortable interacting with brands in this context is to establish boundaries early on – even making it clear that a bot has limitations. 

Sam Poullain, senior growth marketing manager at Skyscanner, explained how his team made the decision to include a ‘talk to a human’ option in its chatbot to point users towards an alternative or next step. This way, it was able to prevent people from abandoning their journey, giving users an option to talk to a real employee instead.

For more on this topic, read:

Brand messaging can drive conversion

For ASOS, a brand that has seen growth of 84% on mobile orders year-on-year – social commerce feels like a natural evolution. It is clear that its target customer is highly engaged on social, with those aged 16-14 particularly overlooking search engines for discovery platforms like Instagram and Facebook.  

Morgan Fitzsimons, ASOS’s acting head of content and broadcast, explained how the brand is now taking a three-tiered approach to targeting these kinds of customers – choosing to focus on the top of the funnel to ensure the bottom doesn’t have to work so hard. In other words, this means focusing on the brand messaging – not just the buy button.

Its recent campaign for jeans is a prime example of this, using a combination of organic and paid promotion as well as dynamic product ads. An initial video tells the story of the brand but doesn’t include any further links. It instead introduces hints of the shopping experience in retargeted ads, before delivering blatant buying options in the final push. 

Morgan also admitted that it’s taken a while for ASOS to get to this stage, with previous campaigns on Snapchat failing to follow up with those who first engaged.  

Ultimately, she reiterated that success in social commerce lies in continually testing. Only then will brands understand how customers will best respond in this new and unique context. 

Relating reading:

Nikki Gilliland

Published 27 April, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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