The e-commerce industry has only been growing – and at a rapid rate we may add – over the past five years. Last year saw not only an increase in e-commerce sales, but also saw an increase in sales coming through social media. According to Social Media Explorer’s article 5 Tips for Taking Advantage of the 2016 Social Commerce Boom, “out of the total global eCommerce sales, more than $30 billion were generated directly from different social networks” in 2015. This is an increase of “$10 billion from 2014, and more than $25 billion from 2011.”
So whether a small business, a major retail brand, or an bourgeoning entrepreneur needing everything to sell for the first time with an online shop, those wanting to get in on the action will need to maintain a diverse approach that includes all of the following major social networks.
E-commerce Within Social Platforms: The New “Buy Buttons”
Social media is still proving to be one of the best ways to boost online sales for your e-commerce venture. One of the biggest methods that the social media industry leaders have better adapted themselves for e-commerce is by incorporating “buy buttons” on the platforms. This has allowed social platforms to no longer operate as merely shop fronts promoting advertisements and siphoning traffic to merchant sites, but has allowed social platforms to convert e-shoppers directly on these platforms, changing the e-commerce landscape.
Motivated by the desire to produce better e-commerce user experiences, Facebook has been investing heavily in mobile optimization and further developing their Facebook Advertisements section. Now traffic coming through Facebook will be referred to “mobile-ready pages” before being redirected to the actual merchant site where they can make the purchase. This circumvents the problem that many e-commerce sites are not well-optimized for mobile. Facebook acts like the intermediator ensuring that e-commerce customers have a better mobile shopping experience. Aside from this offer, Facebook has also launched a “store” tab which can be used to shop directly in the app itself. It seems that they are poised to move beyond selling Facebook Ads and will now sell store space.
Instagram also ramped up multi-product ads and included its ‘Shop Now’ buy button. Transactions through this button still occur on the merchant site, so really Instagram is referring traffic to merchant sites; however, the payment page does actually open up in Instagram. The user is diverted to the merchant site, but then ushered back to the app after the purchase. This allows users to complete the entire purchase through the app itself without having to go searching for the e-store themselves.
Twitter has gone in a slightly different direction, partnering with Stripe payment solution, which allows users to buy directly through the platform from tweets, avoiding the need to go through the merchant site at all. The idea behind this option is to encourage conversion directly in apps and on mobile, where often e-shoppers are hesitant to complete purchases. This one platform – no muss no fuss – approach takes out extra steps that could cost conversion.
Similarly, Pinterest’s “buy it” button allows e-shoppers to buy directly within the Pinterest platform. Seeing a rapid success, moving up from 30 million buyable pins to 60 million in only a couple of months, Pinterest intelligently decided to expand their buy button program in an effort to increase shopping even further on the platform.
YouTube rolled out a new element to their ads in 2015, displaying products underneath the video box that are physically in the advertisement videos being viewed. They also implemented a “shop now” button to allow viewers to go directly to these items on the merchant pages. Regardless of the ability to skip ads on YouTube after five seconds, this targeted, visual advertisement approach with a captive audience is already showing exceptional results.
E-commerce Referrals from Social Platforms
However, Andrew Meola from Business Insider, boldly claims that Millennials are not buying through social media, but they are still relatively new and time will tell. However, even if what Meola says is true, this doesn’t mean that social media isn’t playing a huge role in e-commerce. Quite the contrary; according to Meola, instead of using these buy buttons, “millennial shoppers use Facebook, Twitter, and the like to research products before they buy them,” with “40% of global consumers ages 16 to 24 [using] social media to research products. And 30% of the general population [using] these platforms for product research before they buy.” Within the first quarters of 2014 and 2015, “social media increased its share of ecommerce referrals nearly 200%.” This means that even if the shoppers are not using the “buy buttons” and shopping directly through these social media platforms, they are still responding to the advertisements placed there and being redirected to merchant websites.
Either way, whether consumers are buying directly through social media with these new “buy buttons” or consumers are being referred to merchants by these platforms, both aspects make it perfectly clear that ignoring social media as an e-commerce business is no longer an option. The best thing that any e-commerce venture can do throughout this year is really invest in their social commerce strategies.