Today’s hyper-connected digital consumers are changing the rules of the game as far as e-commerce is concerned. Happy to buy anything from organic foods to cosmetics, clothes or luxury cars online, they’re increasingly utilizing social media platforms to research potential purchases, share shopping experiences and crowdsource product recommendations.

With platforms like Instagram and Pinterest becoming the destination of choice for savvy-shoppers eager to discover new trends and products via friends, influencers, and brands themselves, social media is no longer just about conversations.

It’s now about commerce too.

A Short History of Social Commerce

Social commerce isn’t a new concept. First coined by Yahoo back in 2005, the term ‘social commerce’ encompasses the promotion of products and services through social networking platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. As such it’s spawned a whole new marketing channel for brands to exploit.

Today consumers can vote or rate products, discuss their online shopping experiences and compare notes, get advice and support from online experts, or share products via their social feeds in return for promotions and giveaways. They’re also following bloggers, celebrities, and other social influencers who frequently showcase and endorse products in their media posts.

In recent years, social platforms have upped their game with the introduction of new features that help shoppers discover, research and buy products online. These include the introduction of ‘Shop Now’ buttons, shoppable tags on photos and stories that allow users to directly tap through to a brand’s online shop, or ‘shop the look’ links that give users personalized shopping recommendations similar to the products they’ve been viewing.

Now, social platforms are looking to integrate direct on-platform tools designed to take shoppers from inspiration to action. In other words, enabling shoppers to check out directly on the platform itself, rather than being redirected to an online store.

It’s a move that both streamlines the checkout process and captures consumers ‘in the moment’ desires – and it’s set to transform the future of commerce.

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Shopper Behaviors Are Evolving Quickly

With 71 percent of millennials saying they consider their phone to be their most important shopping tool, and the majority of smartphone users spending the bulk of their screen time on social networks, the shift to social commerce is well underway:

  • 58 percent of people say social media is influencing their purchasing decisions
  • Social referrals to retail e-commerce sites have grown by 110 percent in two years
  • 84 percent of shoppers review at least one social media site before purchasing
  • 15 percent of US shoppers have made purchases directly through social media platforms
  • 60 percent of Instagram users say they find new products on Instagram

As consumers continue to embrace mobile shopping, the power of social media to influence purchase decisions will only increase. It’s a trend that’s generating a race between brands as they battle to achieve true direct social-to-purchase capabilities.

According to recent research by Gartner, 66 percent of brands adopted a social commerce feature in 2018. And with a growing number of consumers turning to messaging apps to connect with brands and get fast responses to common queries, more and more brands are taking advantage of chatbots to build more intimate and responsive connections to customers and boost sales.

Social Commerce: Tips on How to Thrive and Survive

With social becoming such an important channel that’s set to grow exponentially, brands will need to get a head start and ensure they have the right tools in place to capture that potential.

Connecting social media users to brands with just one click, it’s never been more important for brands to get social right from the get-go, whether that’s investing in automated checkout chatbots or ensuring that consumers can interact with your brand 24 hours a day, without having to wait for a response.

Using automated chatbots to deliver information or offer recommendations is another way to generate greater affinity with today’s time-pressed consumers and research shows that 74 percent of shoppers are open to making purchases through a chatbot. Indeed, Marvel has achieved impressive success using an automated chatbot checkout to boost box office sales to its films. Reaching out to fans via social media posts, users were directed to a checkout chatbot which seamlessly took them through the booking process for a series of blockbuster films – Avengers, Infinity War and Ant-Man.

Creating a streamlined online experience that makes it frictionless and easy for shoppers to get the information they need and make a direct purchase by instantly providing payment details in a safe and secure way, is the key to building trust in a brand’s social commerce endeavours.

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Building Consumer Trust – Making e-Payment Simple, Safe and Secure

Despite the fact that 80 percent of shoppers are familiar with social media shopping, 59% said that the security of their credit card and banking information is a top concern. To gain the trust of potential shoppers, brands will need to ensure they can demonstrate the privacy and safety of customers’ personal information is of paramount importance. Indeed, protecting customers and safeguarding reputations and revenue streams will depend upon it.

Fortunately, solutions like Semafone’s Cardprotect Relay+ now make it possible for businesses to quickly generate secure digital payment links that can be delivered to customers through webchat, email, SMS, chat bots and other social commerce channels.

Offering a seamless buyer experience, Semafone’s Cardprotect Relay+ enables organizations to generate secure payment links on-demand which are sent to customers through social media platforms, chat windows and other digital channels. When the customer clicks on the link and enters their payment card details into the secure web form that is presented to them, all their sensitive information is encrypted and securely routed directly to the payment service provider. What’s more, the system relays a stream of real-time progress updates to the customer service representative, notifying them when the customer has opened the link and begun to fill out their information. If the customer encounters any issues, the representative can reach out to troubleshoot accordingly.

Easy to integrate with any social media platform or third-party applications, Semafone’s Cardprotect Relay+ makes it easy for brands to initiate social commerce at scale, in any which way they choose.

Social Commerce: The Future of Buying and Selling Online
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