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Five key steps to help retailers optimise their social commerce strategy

Written by Ian Moore, founder of Excellent Zephyr

Forecasts suggest that the value of global social commerce sales will reach around US$ 2.9 trillion by 2026. The social commerce industry in the UK is expected to grow by 31.6 per cent on an annual basis to reach US$ 25237.3 million by the end of 2023.

According to Paypal’s latest eCommerce Index, 44 per cent of UK consumers claim they’ve used social platforms for purchases, and 22 per cent say they’d be more likely to buy something having seen it on social media. For retailers, social commerce enables them to access the UK’s 57.1 million active social media users – that’s a social media penetration rate of 84.4 per cent of the country’s population.

The evidence is clear that increasing numbers of UK consumers are purchasing products on social media. And retailers are certainly not blind to the boom with more than half (52 per cent) of UK retailers believing social commerce is a key emerging trend for the sector.

With this in mind, how can UK retailers capitalise on the growing appetite amongst consumers for purchasing via social channels? To help retailers optimise their approach, here are five key steps they can take to get the most out of selling products directly on social media as part of their retail strategy.


  1. Create quality content to keep customers engaged

Customers follow brands on social media channels for a reason; this doesn’t mean, however, that retailers should not focus on keeping them coming back for more. Quality content is vital for keeping customers engaged. When creating content, there are a number of things to keep in mind. Retailers should always look to provide value and communicate how customers might benefit from what they’re sharing. Content should always be visually engaging, such as a beautifully curated Facebook Shop, or stunning video content via Instagram stories. And with 68 per cent of consumers saying brand stories influence their purchasing decisions, it’s essential that retailers connect emotionally with customers by telling their story – the more people understand the brand, the more connected they’ll feel and the more likely they are to return.

Influencers are also a great way to help retailers connect with audiences. Fabletics, the online activewear retailer, is well known for using influencers across its social channels – high-profile personal trainer, Massy Arias, and singer, Kelly Rowland, to name a few – to engage digital consumers and promote products.


  1. Capture customer data for precision targeting

Retailers should capture data when selling on social channels, such as demographics and purchase history, and use it to retarget customers with relevant products. Retailers should also gain an understanding of how their brand performs on social platforms which can save them time by only creating content that works. Facebook Business Suite offers performance insights and there are a number of social listening tools such as Sprout Social and Brandwatch that can help retailers determine how their content is performing. Analytics tools share insights such as post likes and links clicked to help understand what customers like and dislike. Gaining an understanding of data and insights across every platform is key – customers following a retailer on one channel may differ from those that follow the retailer on another channel, so it’s vital to understand specific audiences on specific channels so that content can be curated appropriately.


  1. Educate, engage and sell via livestream shopping

Livestream shopping has seen a real boom in recent years and is particularly popular with younger audiences – in 2022, almost half (47 per cent) of UK consumers between the ages of 19 and 25 claimed they had engaged in livestream shopping events. Now a $512 billion market worldwide, livestream shopping, which started on social media in China, is a powerful way for brands to educate, engage with and sell to customers in an interactive livestream event featuring brand representatives or influencers.

Snug Sofa ran its own livestream quiz show and selling event (with comedian Katherine Ryan) which attracted 12,500 virtual viewers, and Marks and Spencer announced the launch of ‘M&S Live’ last year. Charlotte Tilbury provides engaging and targeted interactions for its customers on several channels using the latest livestream and metaverse technologies. Three years ago, the brand launched a 3D digital store where shoppers can explore, shop, and receive personalised recommendations from virtual store associates and regularly holds live shopping events on TikTok.


  1. Keep customers happy with real-time responses

The majority of UK customers expect quick responses to their questions and comments on social media – according to Hubspot, 79 per cent expect replies within 24 hours (and within half an hour on Twitter!). With a fifth of UK customers claiming they won’t use brands if their experience isn’t excellent when shopping online, retailers should bear this in mind and reply swiftly to customers to keep them happy. Retailers should also respond to customer reviews – whether positive or negative – as this shows customers that a retailer has taken on board their opinions and helps boost loyalty.


  1. Embrace an all-in-one tech solution

To ensure a smooth and seamless social commerce journey, retailers should consider working with a third party agency to help with their online, social media and, where necessary, offline sales needs. Having the right digital systems in place so that everything across the business is connected, seamless and organised, is crucial. Just as consumers enjoy the convenience of shopping via social platforms, retailers looking to embrace selling on social channels, will benefit from the convenience of working with one agency to deliver an all-in-one tech solution – including social commerce, online stores, payments services and logistics, and more – to deliver a truly end-to-end retail or ‘total commerce’ experience.


Final thoughts

Consumer demand has encouraged more and more businesses to pivot online and, in recent years, social commerce has emerged as the perfect opportunity for converting consumers into customers. Brands and retailers that don’t adopt social commerce now are sure to start falling behind the competition. Brands and retailers that embrace it will not only reach consumers that are looking for personalised and exciting shopping experiences, but also gain and retain loyal customers.