It was once an innovative concept for eCommerce brands to leverage social media. Now, social media and online shopping experiences have become nearly synonymous.
From shoppable ads to influencer marketing, there’s been an evident shift in the eCommerce space to social media platforms. The rise of social commerce (and the continuous social media feature updates that come along with it) means a host of opportunities for brands to engage customers and build stronger communities. It also means there’s been a boost in the prevalence of incorporating user-generated content to establish social proof — because the more social interactions and social proof that brands can drive, the more they can optimize conversions.
If there’s one thing we promote at Smartrr, it’s building community-led subscriptions. The fact that both subscription programs and social commerce play vital roles in building brand communities naturally creates a method to further drive customer loyalty, retention, and lifetime value by leveraging the two together. Plus, with Shopify Collabs becoming more and more popular in the ecosystem, now is the best time to lean into social.
Here’s what you need to know.
Think of the times you’ve been scrolling through Instagram and paused at a nice pair of jeans that you could buy directly through the ad. Or maybe you clicked on a brand’s page and started to browse through their products without leaving the app. These are examples of social commerce.
Essentially, social commerce refers to the act of eCommerce businesses selling products directly on social media platforms, thereby widening brand audience and customer reach.
According to Shopify, one of the major benefits of this so-called social selling 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.” Given that the majority of people spend about 15% of their waking life on social media, a figure that’s only expected to rise, effective social media marketing is a prime opportunity to foster loyalty and level up customer engagement.
Plus, tapping into social media also allows brands to leverage an omnichannel approach to marketing and overall brand strategy, seamlessly integrating messaging and branding on all platforms and improving the overall customer journey.
In theory, utilizing social shopping platforms makes a lot of sense — but how effective has social commerce really proven to be? Let’s look at some numbers.
Currently, in the United States, about 30% of internet users make purchases directly within social media platforms and, as such, social media ad spend is projected to reach $184.94 billion by 2025.
With 75% of DTC brands planning to offer subscriptions this year, it’s a highly attractive time to launch subscriptions alongside a social commerce strategy. By combining social commerce and eCommerce subscription programs, Shopify merchants can simplify the shopping experience and curate a more impactful, intentional customer experience.
“Subscriptions have played a huge part in keeping this viral TikTok moment for us more sustainable. Subscriptions are allowing us to build in this retention aspect into our acquisition strategy since so many new customers are already signing up for subscriptions on their first order.”
– Emma Standing, Head of CX and eCommerce at Bubble
The reason we’re talking about social commerce in conjunction with subscriptions isn’t just because it’s an effective way to acquire new subscribers. It’s also because they both are extremely conducive to fostering customer loyalty.
In general, subscribers are your most loyal customers and the most likely to engage with your brand’s community — and of course, social media is all about building that community. Leading the narrative around the expectations and benefits of your subscription program to this already-engaged social community is undoubtedly a best practice.
Brands embracing this approach are rewarding their loyal online community with exclusivity through their subscription programs. Once an engaged follower converts to a subscriber, their customer account portal can elevate 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 and a subscriber will become an influencer and brand advocate before you know it.
Let’s look at a real-world example of a brand leveraging their social commerce and subscription strategy: Starface, the skincare brand known for its bright yellow star-shaped pimple patches.
From the team’s social media channels to their 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, creators, influencers, as well as real Starface consumers to provide strong customer reviews and establish social proof. Their customer-centric approach has clearly paid off — as it’s granted Starface 2.1 million followers.
TikTokers can follow the brand directly or stumble upon their content on the For You Page. From there, they can browse products directly on the app and be seamlessly sent directly to the brand’s website to make the purchase.
This unlocks a major opportunity for brands to promote their subscription programs by defaulting their buying options to subscribe and save on their PDP. Starface’s customer account portal, powered by Smartrr, unlocks other opportunities to continue enriching the customer experience with features such as one-time add-ons — and brands also have the option to add other LTV-boosting touchpoints like referrals, loyalty rewards, trending upsells, 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 having to leave the app. Starface also utilizes shopping tags in photos to feature products from their catalog that can direct customers to make in-app purchases.
There are so many ways Shopify merchants can take advantage of social media to engage their community and promote their subscriptions.
DTC brands can leverage social to build hype around product launches, give influencers and partners permission for customers to shop directly from their accounts, and livestream influencer recommendations and product demos — on Instagram, TikTok, and even on platforms like Pinterest.
Specifically, businesses and creators can tag products in their Instagram lives, allowing viewers far easier access to products. Brands can also announce their upcoming product launches so users can set purchase reminders for the drop date.
Now, how do these features go hand-in-hand with subscription programs? Well, for one, while you’re using these features to build hype around your product launches, you can also reward subscribers for their loyalty and treat them like superstars by giving them exclusive first looks at launches.
Additionally, you 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 your customers that you truly value their input (and you should – getting customer feedback can revolutionize your product!). By engaging the end consumer in these ways, you can cultivate more thoughtful, fruitful connections, creating a mutually-beneficial relationship between your brand and your customer.
As the importance of influencer, creator, 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 and social experience are skyrocketing. Shopify Collabs is one such opportunity.
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 allows 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.
🧠Smartrr Update: With the understanding that social media and subscriptions are incredibly powerful tools when used together, Smartrr has some exciting updates on the horizon to strengthen this relationship. Smartrr’s recently-announced Shopify Flow Templates, which automate a variety of subscription tasks, are paving the way for future Shopify Collabs Flow Templates in the name of streamlining subscription-led collaborations and partnerships. Stay tuned!
Because subscriptions and social commerce have seen impressive success and are only projected to keep growing, 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 — even better — opting into subscription programs. Plus, it gives brands enhanced opportunities to build the optimal experience for customers. Leveraging this growth creates the potential to impact brand awareness and affinity, customer loyalty, retention, lifetime value, and most importantly — foster a brand community.