Social commerce is booming, and the importance of incorporating it into a well-rounded omnichannel sales strategy has never been more urgent, according to Joris Kroese, CEO and Founder of global omnichannel commerce solutions provider, Hatch. Here he shares his thoughts on social media in commerce.
Defined as the utilisation of social media platforms to promote, sell, and purchase products and services, social commerce was catapulted to the forefront last year, amid the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. When retail shuttered, customers shifted to shopping online rather than in-store. Social media usage also accelerated, and brands quickly recognised the potential for increased sales via their social channels.
As a result, the UK saw a 95 percent increase in social commerce sales during 2020, while the global social commerce market generated approximately $474.8 billion (£374.8 billion) in revenue in 2020. The trend acted as a liferaft for many brands struggling with the closure of retail, and social commerce has proved itself to be a valuable, if even crucial, sales channel ever since.
In my opinion, for a brand to achieve sustainable success it should recognise that no one sales channel should be prioritised over another. A strong omnichannel strategy remains the most effective and sustainable way of maintaining customers and increasing sales. Omnichannel means that each sales channel works together in harmony, creating a sense of cohesion across the brand and enforcing a seamless cross-channel sales experience. Last year, PwC found that the number of companies investing in omnichannel experiences increased from 20 to over 80 percent. Given that 40 percent of customers say that they won’t do business with companies if they can’t use their preferred channels, it seems clear to me that operating sales channels in competing silos is clearly no longer a sustainable option. For brands considering investing in social commerce, it is essential for them to question how best it can be incorporated into a healthy omnichannel strategy, rather than how it can compete with any other sales channel in particular.
Seamless path to purchase
For a true omnichannel experience, I believe a brand should interlink each channel with the intention of enhancing the buyer’s journey. A prospective customer should be able to check stock on the company’s website, make an order for delivery, or reserve a product for collection in-store. An omnichannel strategy that has integrated social commerce should create a seamless path to purchase for consumers browsing the company’s social media profiles. It is important that brands ensure their content across all channels is interlinked and not competing with one another, especially given that many consumers often look to social media for further insights into the brand itself, or the product they are considering purchasing. This is backed by research indicating that 84 percent of shoppers seek additional insights on social media before making their purchase.
The last year has proven that incorporating social commerce into an omnichannel strategy has the potential to increase overall sales and enhance a company’s brand in the process. In fact, as social commerce flourished last year, so too did omnichannel retailers, marking a 40 percent growth rate in 2020. Despite the clear benefits of the omnichannel experience, many companies struggle with striking the right balance in their transition from working in silos. In this respect, I think AI technology offers solutions that deliver the invaluable insights a company may need to get their new omnichannel strategy off the ground.
Harnessing the insights of AI-powered Where to Buy solutions can solve these pain points and enhance the brand’s omnichannel experience, making every touchpoint an opportunity for purchase. By using Hatch’s Where to Buy solution, even a chatbot could be integrated into the omnichannel strategy and offer another sales opportunity.
For me, a well-rounded omnichannel strategy like this prioritises the consumer experience above the channel profit, ultimately concentrating on overall profit. Integrating social commerce should be considered in the same way. Social channels enhance the brand and connect with customers, but most importantly they should appear in harmony with the other sales channels available. When every aspect of the buyer’s journey is considered, each channel can truly work together for the overall benefit of the company’s sales.