Here’s a not-so-secret fact – when it comes to e-commerce marketing (and even marketing in general), social media is playing a more dominant role than ever. Both marketers and businesses are taking full advantage of the medium – and you should be too. But the way we use social media is constantly changing, and it pays to stay abreast of the latest trends and user behavior. If you’re looking to fine-tune your e-commerce social media strategy for 2017, here are some areas in which you should be investing some time and budget.
Private social messaging
Despite the name, social media is becoming increasingly private, with many users preferring private communication with individuals or groups to public broadcasting. It’s very telling that WhatsApp, WeChat, Messenger, and QC Chat currently have a wider community than the top social networks – people (and Millennials in particular) are looking to connect on a deeper, more intimate level.
And so it is that Chatbots have come onto the social media marketing stage. Artificial Intelligence looks set to be a game changer in 2017, if only because so many businesses are now investing in it. Faceless machines are a lot more charming than they used to be, having the ability to answer customer queries with an immediacy that is not always possible with other forms of customer service. Good AI not only has the potential to improve communication with your e-commerce customers but can also increase your conversions by meeting your customers’ queries at that moment.
So we expect to see social media moving more towards social messaging in 2017, allowing businesses to make a real-time connection with their audiences. A great example of an online store using live chat effectively is Condor Cycles: a simple setup built using the Shopify e-commerce platform. You may remember Condor Cycles from our previous post: 10 Spectacular Shopify Plus Stores and the Design Agencies Behind Them. With its simple live chat interface, you can speak to a member of the team quickly and easily.
- Customers hate being left on hold or waiting days for a reply to their email – with live chat, the response is instantaneous. Whether you have staff available to answer live chat queries or you use a live chatbot, the result is improved customer satisfaction and a more likely chance of conversion
- With messaging apps being used by over 4 billion users around the world, we can expect to see e-commerce social messaging taking off in a big way in 2017. How could it help or improve your business’ customer service and conversion rate?
Direct Social Commerce
With around 93 percent of Millennials spending regular time on social networks, e-commerce is now spreading directly onto social media channels. As mobile browsing and purchasing become more normalized, it’s likely that this trend will continue to grow in 2017. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest already enable users to purchase products directly through their mobile apps, with Snapchat intending to follow suit very soon. Users trust their social media networks, and increasingly they are coming to these networks on the hunt for new, interesting content and potential purchases.
- WeChat social commerce has seen a growth of 31 percent in the number of customers who initiated purchases via the WeChat platform: twice the number of the previous year
- Social commerce can be used to create intrigue, whether it’s through great photography, video or a leading article. What call to action can you offer to new and existing customers who might happen upon your store via social media?
Above: an example of a Facebook Store as used by the ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s
Paid Social Advertising
As e-commerce brands increasingly use social media, the market is becoming a lot more competitive. Achieving the same results through pure organic traffic is harder – partly as a result of social algorithms that favor posts from friends and family over brands and businesses. Networks, of course, want you to invest in their advertising. Increasingly, you will find that you need to pay to get your business seen. Unfortunately, as more businesses start using paid advertising, the prices are slowly rising. The key will be to find the right balance between budget and visibility.
A paid advert can be as simple as a well-placed image, like the below example from Slack:
Or it could be an enticing video that draws your audience into the scene, like this example by Vacation Myrtle Beach:
Whether you want to boost your posts, reach more people, promote your page or promote your website, Facebook Advertising, in particular, offers a range of different options. It’s important to nail your social advertising strategy, otherwise, you are simply throwing money down the drain.
Live Video – Action as it Happens
Live video is a great new way to build brand awareness and build a community around your business. It kind of came to light in 2016, but now it’s taking off in a much bigger way and is a focus of many content marketing strategies in 2017. You can live stream events using social live video for as long as 4 hours, so theoretically you could share an entire live event on social media, as it happens. Facebook Live, YouTube and Periscope Pro are all jumping on the live video bandwagon, and you should be too. Here’s why:
Videos are, without doubt, one of the most engaging ways to stand out on social media. As people scroll through their feeds, a video jumps out and grabs your attention. The engagement numbers are clear – videos get results. Live video content is already on the rise, with 43 percent of marketers planning to try it in 2017.
Consider where your target audience is spending their time on social media, and zone in on these areas. This is where you will make the connections. There is no point spreading the word on Twitter if your desired audience largely spends their time on Facebook. Live video has the potential to be used in a range of interesting and creative ways, whether it’s for a live Q&A, a product demonstration or a behind-the-scenes tour of your business.
- Facebook and YouTube have both announced that they will be launching 360-degree video in 2017, showing that video as a marketing medium is very much here to stay – and it’s growing
- Dunkin’ Donuts recently gave a tour of their test kitchen via Facebook Live, resulting in 36,000 views
Virtual Reality Makes its Mark
Tech businesses are already investing in virtual and augmented reality, as it shows signs of becoming the next big thing in 2017 and onwards. So how will this affect the social media environment and e-commerce stores in particular?
We can expect to see VR changing the way that people start to interact with each other on social media, particularly as more businesses start to produce headsets, and they become more affordable for the mass market. Up until now, the price has certainly been an obstacle for many reasons, but as VR becomes more mainstream the cost is likely to come down.
The unique selling point of VR is that it brings engagement by offering a memorable experience that is totally immersive. Brands are very quickly realizing the rewards that come with capitalizing on this new medium. Soon, it will be expected of e-commerce brands to provide this kind of high-quality demonstrative experience to their prospective customers. Exactly how this will play out is yet to be seen, but a great example of it already being used effectively can be found in the Tom’s Virtual Giving Campaign, which took its customers on a virtual journey to Peru to see the work of Giving Partners:
From a marketing standpoint, it will be very interesting to see how these respective trends play out across 2017. How do you intend to captivate new and existing audiences for your e-commerce business via social media this year? Have you tried any of these methods already? Share your experiences – good or bad – in the comments below.
Patrick Foster, e-commerce entrepreneur, coach & writer.