As retailers around the world come to grips with what is considered to be the “new normal”, ecommerce has never been more important than it is right now. In order to thrive in the coming months, it’s crucial that retailers examine exactly how they can use technology to create a better experience – and social media is an important part of that equation.

Research has found that 60 per cent of people discover new products on Instagram and the key to success is meeting those customers exactly where they are. More often than not, retailers add too many unnecessary steps in the conversion process by requiring those same customers to shop that product via another platform. So how can retailers leverage social media as both another touchpoint with customers and to simplify the path to conversion?

The community value of social media vs the ability to convert sales

First and foremost, social commerce sells products directly through social media networks. It differs from social media marketing by the simple fact that retailers are not redirecting users to an online store, but offering them the ability to checkout directly within the network they’re using at that moment. Given there are over 1.79 billion active users on Facebook alone, it makes sense for retailers to target their customers on these platforms, leveraging a huge potential audience in doing so.

In recent years, Instagram has prioritised the development of its social selling capabilities and as a result, has become one of the most promising platforms when it comes to ecommerce integration. The integration of social selling on the platform has become so ingrained that retailers failing to take advantage of the tools available risk losing brand exposure and customers.

From Facebook to Instagram to TikTok; do brands need to be on every social platform?

When it comes to social selling there are many options for retailers — from Facebook Shops, to Instagram’s buy now button, or Pinterest’s buyable pins. With that in mind, it’s important to select the right platform for your product and audience.

There’s little to be gained from retailers targeting each and every available platform and spreading themselves too finely across all. Instead, choose one or two of the most relevant platforms to your customer segments and focus on delivering customers a streamlined, seamless and user-friendly experience every time.

Simplify the process where possible

The overarching goal of social-selling is to simplify the path to conversion and optimise the user experience – both of which are increasingly important for retailers in the crowded online space. Whether it’s on a brand’s owned website, through email marketing or across social media channels, the user experience can be simplified by technology. In fact, many major success stories for social commerce brands claim to be using third-party solutions, with many retailers leveraging tools like ManyChat with click to Messenger ads to generate thousands of new leads.

The use of chatbots in aiding customers to make informed decisions is also on the rise and the statistics speak for themselves. 51 per cent of millennials (who will soon be the major buying market) are more likely to make a purchase over social media and a majority 77 per cent of shoppers think it’s important to get advice from people they know before purchasing – likely via social media – so it makes sense to sell where they’re going to research.

Why the time is now 

While social selling has become increasingly popular over the last few years, in recent months, as a result of the current COVID-19 global health pandemic, it’s become almost a standard. Online shopping and social selling have picked up exponentially with customers unable to shop at brick-and-mortar stores due to restrictions and store closures. With this in mind, retailers who utilise the right social platforms to sell their products to customers will open up the potential of reaching more people regardless of their geographic location and will be able to meet shoppers on their journey.

Jordan Sim is director of product management at BigCommerce