6 tips for social commerce success

Social commerce is posting very impressive growth. Last year, social commerce accounted for $3.3 billion in transactions. That’s still only about 1.1% of total ecommerce transactions, but the strong upward trajectory and near-universal participation in social media mean that developments in social commerce are too important to ignore.

These six tips will keep you in the social commerce vanguard:

Have a strategy, or be squeezed out

The top social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, are all in the process of taking ownership of commerce on their platforms. Each is rolling out a direct sales button. Although a boon in terms of visibility and adoption, taking a passive position gives the networks greater control over visibility and revenue sharing. Consider using official sell-through buttons as a component of, not a replacement for, your own social commerce strategy.

Facebook is dominant, and they know it

According to Shopify data, last year Facebook accounted for 85 percent of all social commerce transactions, and a higher conversion rate than all other platforms. Nobody knows this better than Facebook, and the ongoing focus on paid placement for brand posts means diversification must be part of any social commerce strategy.

“We’re trying to increase our Instagram following, because they don’t have algorithms set up to limit views the way Facebook does,” says Robert Thornton, founder and CEO of Paper Clouds Apparel.

Know your market and where they like to interact before randomly spamming dozens of emerging social networks. Targeting still matters in social. Niche networks like Polyvore are lauded for the highest average order value in social commerce platforms, but you’ll be barking up the wrong tree if you have nothing to offer its fashionistas.

Play the intersection of crowdfunding, delayed gratification, and social consciousness

Even as Amazon and others jockey for position in the same-day delivery market, crowdfunding and other pre-order mechanisms continue to gain traction as well. Thornton shifted his custom-design T-shirt business to a two-week pre-order format after scuffling for years to clear unsold merchandise. “It just wasn’t a profitable business plan to have all that leftover inventory,” he says.

It helps Thornton that his business is differentiated from countless other quirky T-shirt vendors. By featuring designs from individuals with special needs, and directing a portion of the proceeds to causes supporting those conditions, Paper Clouds Apparel has a distinctive story to tell with each and every pre-sale campaign. Compelling content is king, social selling or otherwise.

Look to unlikely sources and new twists

Any social network can become a serious player overnight. Snapchat is now expected to expand its cash-transfer service to commerce. The app has come a long way from being just for laughs.

Joinem is trying to capitalize on the intersection of social and selling with a group-deal platform. On the surface, that’s little different from the Groupon Goods or LivingSocial nationwide offering, but the startup lets customers build up referral dollars from interacting with each other to meet deal volume minimums. It also listens to users who submit products for consideration by the company’s buyers.

“We’re letting consumers pull the products they want to see, as opposed to a traditional retailer that lets products be pushed by the vendors,” says Darren Waxman, Joinem CEO and co-founder.

Mobile and social are close partners in commerce

Mobile platforms aren’t accounting for the majority of ecommerce sales just yet, but the share is as high as one-third and climbing rapidly. The impact of mobile and social together is particularly strong, showing that impulse-driven purchases in particular are likely to come from social apps on mobile devices. Shopify data indicates that the majority of Facebook commerce traffic originates on mobile. Search-driven buying is still primarily initiated on the desktop, where buyers prefer to do their considered-purchase research.

Connect the dots

Reviews and ratings have been important brand content for years, but social commerce takes them out of the realm of the aggregate and anonymous. Organizations should build more context for social shoppers by presenting reviews, testimonials, and activity feeds from connected friends and followed tastemakers.

If your social ties with the tastemakers and influencers in your market aren’t particularly strong, it’s time to make introductions and keep them engaged.

“Our fanbase is 90 percent female, and for them, the ‘mother bloggers’ rule the Internet,” Thornton says. “To get our message in front of them, my strategy is to email, email, and email. You bang your head against the door until somebody finally opens it.”

Post by Jason Compton

Jason Compton is a writer with over 15 years of experience covering marketing, sales, and service. Based in Madison, WI, he is a regular contributor to Direct Marketing News, previously served as executive editor of CRM Magazine, and has been published in over 50 outlets.