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Brands beware: in-app social commerce could be as powerful as Amazon

16 May 2019

By Drew Smith

Drew is the Director of Product Strategy at Volo and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.

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Facebook is moving into social commerce aggressively with the launch of Checkout on Instagram and the news that the Facebook app’s Marketplace offering will now allow users to store payment information and pay directly through the service. Previously Marketplace functioned as a listing platform only and any transactions had to be dealt with outside of the platform.

These changes represent the culmination of the trend towards social media becoming “shoppable”, as demonstrated by the rise of influencers and paid social product advertisements.

The very real draw of shopping on these platforms for customers is an equally real potential problem for brands. One of the main reasons brands dislike Amazon is that they never own the customer – Amazon anonymises them. The same could easily be said of Instagram and Facebook, acting as walled gardens in just the same way that they do in the digital advertising world.

Not all doom and gloom

While there are downsides to social commerce for brands, the fact that it allows consumers to engage and interact with brands like never before (and to then consummate that interaction with a purchase) is a massive draw.

Consumer brands are rightly obsessed with experience. The ability to seamlessly purchase products from piece of creative on a social platform puts social media marketers and creatives in the hot seat, with the funnel from attention to decision becoming shorter than ever before.

Taking out the friction of purchase to this extent means the power of creative and engaging social marketing is multiplied, and brands stand to benefit if they can harness it. The traffic, dwell time and reach of Facebook and Instagram are unmatched by any single retailer, Amazon included. If these pilot programs take off for real, every consumer brand will need a clear strategy and purpose to their engagement (or lack of engagement) with them.

Prepare to win

As usual, the more things change the more they stay the same. The brands which win in social commerce will be those with the best understanding of their customer, who can most effectively get their products seen, searched, talked about and purchased.

The primary change social commerce introduces to this calculation is that effectively getting products onto social channels will become even more troublesome. Social channels are yet another new format to learn, another set of constantly changing guidelines and murky best practices, and even more time in the ecommerce team spent moving cells around on spreadsheets to get data into the right format.

To harness the exposure and direct access to sales which social commerce is poised to offer, brands need to have their basics nailed. They need a product the customer wants, the knowledge of who that customer is and where and how they’ll be searching for and talking about the product, and a rewarding experience in purchasing and receiving the product itself.

Beyond that, though, they need to start acknowledging that the way they currently deal with product data is not fit for purpose. Some are already on a mission to find new technology and processes to address the bottleneck, and the first mover advantage to eliminating hundreds of hours of manual work will clearly be significant in the race to dominate on social.

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