From shoppable ads to influencer marketing to feedback loops, eCommerce is clearly drifting to social media platforms. This shift toward social commerce, and the continuous social media feature updates that come along with it, create numerous opportunities for brands to engage customers and build stronger communities.
The increase in social commerce has also heightened the prevalence of incorporating user-generated content to establish social proof. Incorporating social proof helps simplify consumers’ buying decisions immensely, as user-generated content acts similarly to asking a friend for their opinion on a product or brand, overall building trust and credibility with the brand. Given that the DTC space is focused primarily on online sales, the more social interactions and social proof that brands can drive, the more conversion rates will improve.
Not only this, but merchants are also building brand communities with their most loyal customers, i.e. their subscribers, through tailored and elevated subscription programs. The fact that both subscription programs and social commerce play vital roles in building brand communities stirs up the opportunity to further drive customer loyalty, retention, and lifetime value by leveraging the two together.
Shopify’s recent Future of Commerce Trend Report 2022 emphasized how social commerce is on the rise and is expected to nearly triple by 2025. It comes as no surprise, the typical social media user spends approximately 15% of their waking life on social media– and social media usage is only expected to increase. Currently in the United States, about 30% of internet users make purchases directly within social media platforms and, understandably, 49% of brands plan to increase their social commerce investments this year. Furthermore, it is predicted that 75% of DTC brands will offer subscriptions by 2023, making it an attractive time to launch subscriptions alongside a social commerce strategy. By combining social commerce and eCommerce subscription programs, merchants can take advantage of simplifying the shopping experience and curate a more impactful, intentional customer experience.
In a nutshell, social commerce takes eCommerce businesses and makes the entire shopping experience available directly on social media platforms, widening brand audience and customer reach. Shopify cites that a major benefit of social commerce is that businesses can reclaim control over their brand identity in digital channels and “build the brand equity and engagement lacking in most online marketplaces.” Social commerce allows brands to take an omnichannel approach to marketing and overall brand strategy, seamlessly integrating messaging and branding on all platforms and reducing friction from the customer journey.
Subscribers are your most loyal customers and the most likely to engage with your brand’s community. Social media is all about building that community. Permeating a narrative around the expectations and benefits of your subscription program to this already engaged social community is undoubtedly an up-and-coming best practice. Brands embracing this approach are rewarding their already loyal online community with exclusivity through their subscription programs. Once an engaged follower converts to a subscriber, their customer account portal elevates their customer experience with VIP discounts, members-only products, exclusive social feeds, gifting options, and a subscription-led rewards program. Couple this with creative UGC reward strategies such as the following and a subscriber will be an influencer and brand champion in no time.
Take Starface, the skincare brand known for its bright yellow star-shaped pimple patches, for example. From its social media channels to its customer account portal, Starface does an incredible job making sure that the entire customer experience is cohesive and captivating. Starface’s TikTok consists of content from Starface itself, celebrities and influencers, as well as real Starface customers to establish social proof, further emphasizing their customer-centric approach – an approach that has granted Starface 1.4 million followers. Tiktokers can follow the brand directly or stumble upon their content on the For You Page, then browse products directly on the app and seamlessly migrate directly to the brand’s website to make a purchase. This unlocks a major opportunity for brands to promote their subscription programs by defaulting their buying options to subscribe and save options. Starface’s customer account portal, powered by Smartrr, unlocks countless opportunities to continue enriching the customer experience with features such as giftable subscriptions, reward opportunities, refer a friend, loyalty programs, and more.
Similar to TikTok, on Starface’s Instagram profile, the brand utilizes Instagram’s shopping feature to create an immersive storefront where users can browse all of Starface’s products without leaving the app. Starface also utilizes shopping tags in its photos to feature products from its catalog that can direct customers to make in-app purchases.
Businesses participating in social commerce can also use features like this to build hype around product launches, give influencers and partners permission for customers to shop products directly from their accounts, and live stream influencer recommendations and product demos– not only on Instagram and TikTok but also on platforms like Pinterest. Specifically, businesses and creators can tag products in their Instagram lives, allowing viewers to purchase products with much less friction. Brands can also announce their upcoming product launches and users can set purchase reminders for the drop date.
These features go hand-in-hand with subscription programs. For instance, when using these features to build hype around product launches, brands can reward subscribers for their loyalty and treat them like superstars by giving them exclusive first looks at launches. Brands can also give subscribers early access to shop the drops as one-time add-ons in their subscription orders, building more hype around the launch while also increasing average order value. Giving subscribers early access or exclusive products creates the opportunity to also ask for feedback to use in product development, showing that the brand truly values its customers. By engaging the end consumer in these ways, brands cultivate more thoughtful, fruitful relationships, creating a mutually beneficial relationship between the company and the customer.
Ahead of the 2022 holiday season, TikTok is rolling out three new advertising features, allowing brands to put clickable ads in live videos and link products in in-feed videos to make it easier for consumers to discover and buy products– and also discover brands’ subscription programs!
As the importance of influencer, celebrity, and user-generated content continues to increase in an effort to solidify social proof, opportunities in the creator space to make shopping an even more interactive, social experience are skyrocketing- opportunities such as Shopify Collabs. Shopify merchants can use Collabs to discover and manage their relationships with creators, giving them a new sales and marketing channel to find and engage with high-impact audiences all within the Shopify app. Shopify Collabs allow merchants and creators to connect on a new level, providing creators with unique links or discount codes to share merchants’ products with their followers and promote these brands’ subscription programs.
Because subscriptions and social commerce are projected to continually grow, formulating a strategy that fuses the two together just makes sense. All in all, social commerce equates to fewer clicks, meaning less friction and a greater likelihood of customers making purchases or opting into subscription programs, as well as enhanced opportunities to give customers the optimal experience. Opportunities for leveraging this growth have the potential to impact brand awareness and affinity, customer loyalty, retention, lifetime value, and most importantly, a brand community.