Marketers today are trying to meet their audiences on every possible channel — and social media sites, for many, are viewed as indispensable channels because of the additional “social” benefits of the platforms — like organic customer acquisition, social validation on purchasing decisions, and the potential for reaching more of the “right” customer through demographic targeting.
But sites like Instagram and Facebook have become just that: Straightforward media channels for getting ads in front of potential customers. Social media advertising is an expensive endeavor — and as privacy laws tighten, those additional benefits become increasingly elusive and unreliable.
Advertising on social media sites gives marketers the chance to understand metrics that hint at capitalizing on social validation (such as shares, likes, and clicks). But otherwise, they do little to boost conversion or customer satisfaction — and do nothing to facilitate a social experience for your customers once they arrive on your website.
Thankfully, there’s another way to attract new customers and deliver an actual social experience of shopping online. Giving customers the ability to invite friends to view and give real-time feedback on potential purchases — directly on your site — drives up traffic, increases conversion, and helps to lower customer acquisition costs.
Regaining ownership of the customer experience
Using social media helps you attract new customers — albeit at a high cost — and keep existing ones engaged with you. But any social media site simply acts the same as any traditional media partner: a middleman between your business and your target audience who shows ads. It offers no way to convert customers when they’re on your site or to monetize your customers’ relationships with others through social interaction.
Social interaction, however, has a huge benefit when it comes to influencing purchase decisions. And when it comes to their purchases, your customers’ biggest influencers are their friends (not celebrity endorsers or paid influencers). No matter how they arrive on your site — via Instagram, Facebook, email, or otherwise — your customers lack the ability to consult with their friends in real-time on their potential purchases once they get there. To get friends’ or family members’ feedback in real-time, they need to copy links of your products and circulate them through other platforms.
By allowing these conversations and social-feedback experiences to happen outside their sites, merchants not only leave money on the table in the form of abandoned carts and slow-to-return customers, they also allow the platforms shoppers communicate on — such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp — to essentially “own” a part of their customers’ shopping journey (and own the data that goes with it).
Once a shopper leaves your site to communicate with others for feedback, you lose the ability to see what that shopper is talking about and what gets them excited about your products. If those conversations happen on a social media platform, that information instead gets packaged up (anonymously) and sold as behavioral data — data that you, or your competitors, may even buy and use for retargeting.
Providing a real-time social experience on your own site
Ultimately, delivering a real-time social commerce experience to shoppers benefits merchants at every step of the customer journey — giving them greater access to customer data while better supporting shoppers as they make purchase decisions with the help of others, directly on the merchant’s site. Cutting out the social media middleman makes social commerce truly social, and drives up conversions and loyalty as a result.