Miscellaneous

Why the Smartest Retailers Are Cashing in on Social Commerce (and How You Can Too)

Social commerce is the industry’s latest trend, which sees the entire shopping transaction– from browsing to checkout– taking place via a social media platform. In March of this year, Twitter announced the arrival of Twitter Shops, making it clear there’s no ‘retweeting’ from social commerce. Twitter’s latest feature is one in a long line of social commerce expansions, with Instagram having broadened its horizons to include an in-app checkout interface, and TikTok partnering with Shopify to create what Gen Z’ers might term ‘ShopTok’.

Social commerce allows businesses to meet customers where they are– right at the intersection of digital commerce and social media, borrowing traffic from both booming spheres. It creates the opportunity to organically win the interest of a customer who has never encountered your brand before and holds onto it all the way through to purchase.

This is the stuff of marketers’ fantasies. So why isn’t every retailer jumping at the opportunity to get sociable? Well, to put it simply– many just aren’t agile enough.

The scale of the app-ortunity.

Those that are agile enough are seeing huge growth in sales taking place over social media platforms. One way they’re doing this is by integrating ‘swipe up’ and ‘buy now’ links into their existing social media ads. They’re also taking advantage of dedicated shopping functions on platforms like Instagram, essentially transporting their digital storefront onto other apps. And, with live streamers and influencers touting products via their own channels, the market is increasingly under the influence of a social revolution.

It’s not hard to see the appeal for businesses: social commerce gives them the potential to outsell Amazon. In just one day in 2021, two of China’s top live-streamers sold $3 billion worth of products. That’s roughly three times Amazon’s average daily sales. The global social market was worth $492 billion in 2021, and it’s projected to grow by a quarter (26 percent) annually in the coming years– almost three times faster than traditional commerce.

Social commerce takes the power out of the hands of Amazon and other big tech brands and gives it back to the innovators and new arrivals on the scene. Fifty-nine percent of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from a small business when shopping via social commerce vs. online. And, 44 percent are more likely to buy from a brand that they have never come across before.

So the market is booming, and it’s all to play for. But some players – even established online businesses – haven’t even got to the pitch yet. They’re miles off, slowed down by a rigid, outdated inflexible tech stack.

Composing a social strategy.

With the rise of social commerce and talk of the metaverse echoing around the retail sector, your brand has got to be able to keep up with the new– with social commerce being just the latest trend on the block. But this is impossible if you’re stuck with a technology infrastructure that belongs in the dinosaur age.

For instance, many digital commerce businesses are still relying upon monolithic solutions like SAP. The problem with this approach is that monolithic platforms don’t lend themselves to customization, speed or innovation. Updating a monolithic platform to add customizations to your online store means developers must alter both the underlying database code and the front-end platform. By the time your organization has trudged through the DevOps cycle, you’ve already missed the boat– and your competitor has gained a head start as customers have gone elsewhere, or sought out an alternative channel.

Maybe SAP worked for your business 20 years ago– in a world where ‘Instagram’ was a nonsense word and ‘Twitter’ was just a sound made by birds. But the market has changed since then and your tech stack has got to change with it. No one monolithic platform will work for every business. With a composable commerce strategy, your business can select best-of-breed technology from various vendors– from payments, to search, to shipping– rather than relying on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ package.

Plus, with a “headless” approach, your website’s front-end is decoupled from its back-end. This means you can make changes– like integrating a new social shopping feature or altering your digital storefront– without downtime. Your business can easily adapt to new channels and customer touchpoints, meeting your customers where they are.

Keep up or lose followers.

Social commerce puts the power in the hands of the innovator, with tech-savvy businesses gaining the upper hand and new businesses seizing market share. The rise of social commerce is a boon for businesses of all sizes, but only if their tech allows them to take advantage of it. To offer shopping integrations and drive social sales, businesses need a headless and composable approach that lets them build a responsive and flexible tech stack. Innovators will win in the social commerce revolution, while brands that are slow to react will find themselves losing followers.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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