Social commerce is one of the fastest growth areas of online marketing – and the speed of change has left many brands and marketers feeling unsure of how to adapt. Online shopping behaviours have been evolving for years, but the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated these trends and ushered in a huge expansion of ecommerce, including the rise of end-to-end shopping experiences on social media.
As a consequence of the above, social platforms have been rapidly scaling their shopping solutions – developing new, front-end capabilities which connect to a retailer’s existing back-end architecture – to offer a seamless, integrated shopping experience without ever needing to leave their platform. From Facebook Shops to Instagram Checkout, these front-end capabilities are advancing all the time too, at different rates depending on the platform and market.
For a comprehensive introduction to social commerce and the technologies and strategies at play, iProspect’s report on the topic – Social Commerce is Transforming Retail. Are you ready? – is a great place to start.
In these shorter papers, we will provide some initial pointers for marketers to consider as they get to grips with this new marketing frontier, with input from agencies and experts across the dentsu network, namely iProspect, dentsuMB and Whitespace, An Isobar Company.
This paper is all about the role of creativity in building the kind of connected experiences required for achieving long-term brand success in social commerce. As the Creative Experience Survey from dentsu agency Isobar reveals, the world is witnessing “an extraordinary outpouring of virtual creativity and virtual commerce”. Its poll of 800 CMOs and marketing directors in eight global markets found that 82% are already investing in creativity and digital technologies to create brand differentiation.
In a world of ever-increasing customer touchpoints, social commerce has thrown even more variables into the mix. Social media marketing has traditionally been about top-of-funnel, awareness-driving tactics: organic posts and engagement, targeted ads, video, influencer campaigns, etc.
Now, with the integration of shop-front functionality, brands must also work out how to recreate their retail experience on social, with all that entails (product curation, merchandising, UX, customer service, etc). This provides yet more marketing levers that brands can adjust in real time, thus increasing the temptation to rely solely on performance tactics over creativity.
This temptation should be avoided, however. Research from Kantar shows that creativity is comfortably the second most important factor in advertising effectiveness behind brand size, supporting previous research from Nielsen which attributed 47% of a campaign’s sales outcome to the creative, versus 22% to reach and 9% to targeting.
As social commerce redefines the dynamics of the sales funnel, creating a more direct and seamless customer journey, marketers must find the right blend between brand building creativity and sales-driving performance tactics. In fact, social commerce is bringing these two tools in a marketer’s armoury closer together, as creative advertising and content become the first step on a fully integrated path to purchase.
UK-based jewellery brand Missoma has led the way in developing an effective social commerce strategy by carefully combing creativity with real time marketing levers. Most customers discover the brand through its social media channels and growing network of VIPs and influencers – as creative brand communications generate awareness and consideration at the top of the funnel.
Working with iProspect and Facebook, Missoma then added Instagram Shops to its social strategy during the busy November and December shopping season. This enabled Missoma to optimise the in-app shopping experience for its customers with tailored product collections and seamless customer support via Messenger and Instagram Direct. The brand attracted 52,250 visitors and 5,641 sales orders for its Instagram Shop over the two-month period, and has stated that social commerce is now “an integral part of how we're future-proofing our brand”.
The Social Creative Labs at Whitespace, an Isobar Company, specialise in testing the real time performance capabilities of social platforms in combination with different forms of creative. Charlie Bell, Creative Director at Whitespace, believes that creativity will be crucial to any successful social commerce strategy – particularly as brands seek to stand out from their competitors in these new social marketplaces.
“We use best-practice thinking mixed with highly creative minds to create mobile-optimised video that will stop people mindlessly thumb scrolling and interact with your brand,” explains Bell. “Video is a key aspect of all social commerce. Social Creative Labs is a very effective way of creating video ads that feel at home in users’ day to day lives.”
Trust is a critical part of the equation too, as brands seek to ensure that consumers feel comfortable adopting new shopping behaviours on a platform they had previously just used to post photos or catch up with friends. Creatives must fulfil the role of brand guardians, therefore, demonstrating a deep understanding of their audience and of what makes their brand trustworthy and distinctive.
Marketers can then test different forms of creative by using the insight, targeting and testing capabilities of social media to optimise results. “The earlier brands can start getting into the mindset of selling in this virtual social world the more traction they will have in the future,” says Bell. “Test and learn. Try new ways of engaging your audience.”
How marketers respond to the rise of social commerce is part of a bigger question of how they respond to the emerging ‘metaverse’. Various definitions of this term exist, but it ultimately refers to the evolution of the internet into an increasingly immersive web of virtual experiences.
From cryptocurrency to the rise of augmented reality (AR), esports and virtual events, the metaverse is a useful term for understanding how our lives are becoming ever more integrated with digital technology – a process greatly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Social commerce, and the emergence of virtual stores on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, is thus one aspect of a much bigger trend that requires brands to rethink how they interact and engage with consumers in the evolving digital landscape. Creativity, combined with innovation, will be essential in charting the way ahead.
One example from within the dentsu network is Whitespace’s award-winning AR portal for VisitScotland, which enables potential visitors to experience the country in a completely original and immersive way via their smartphones.
The case study features in Isobar’s Creative Experience Survey which finds that 86% of marketers believe every customer touchpoint can and should tell the brand story, from comms to commerce. The majority of marketers also agreed that the pandemic has changed the online world forever.
As the boundaries between content and commerce, shopping and storytelling are blurred beyond recognition, traditional marketing siloes will become increasingly obsolete. Instead, the goal will be to create truly connected experiences, and truly connected brands. Social commerce is the perfect platform to begin building towards this goal.
Writing Credit: Jonathan Bacon, dentsuMB
Illustration by Belén Heredero Molinero