Social Media Is an E-Commerce Oasis. But Is It Right for Your Business?

You can do just about anything on the internet these days. Wanna get married? Sure, have at it. Explore the far reaches of the planet from the comfort of your browser? The world is yours. Get a professional foot massage? Well, no, you can’t do that yet. But fingers (and toes) crossed. Get on it, tech startups!

At the crux of this evolution is the fact that people are shopping online more than ever – and social media is a big reason why. Which makes perfect sense; when they’re not spending time on Facebook, potential shoppers are on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Google+, Yelp, Goodreads, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Tinder, Flickr – you get the gist. And the more time people spend with social media, the more information marketers have to deliver their product to the right person at the right place at the right time – meaning higher conversion rates and increased cost-efficiency. Not to mention, social media is the new go-to for customer relations and outreach, making it a one-stop shop for all our online retail needs.

So what does successful e-commerce look like on social media?

It could be anything, really – a promoted post and call-to-action on Twitter, a product demonstration on Facebook Live, a buyable pin on Pinterest. Here’s a quick rundown of the main options:

  • Facebook “Store” Tab – E-commerce platform Shopify allows you to add a store to your Facebook page so users can buy your products without leaving Facebook.
  • Pinterest “Buy It” Button – Shopify also now allows users to buy products directly through the Pinterest app. Brands with a Shopify store will automatically create a buyable pin every time they pin a product from that Shopify store.
  • Instagram and “Shop Now” Tag – “” from RewardStyle is a companion app for Instagram. Users simply screenshot an Instagram post from a LikeToKnow retailer (retailers are accepted by invitation only); the app collects the screenshot and takes the user to the page for the product featured in the post. Instagram is also testing out a “Shop Now” tag with a select number of retailers, allowing users to get more product information or even make a purchase with the tap of a button.
  • Twitter’s Retired “Buy” Button – Twitter introduced a “Buy” button in 2014, but when it failed to gain traction with users, the company abandoned it early this year. Twitter is, however, still offering “Donate” buttons to nonprofit organizations.
“It won’t be long until we’re able to tour a business through YouTube or Periscope, interact with their products online and buy as many as you want with a single click of a button.”

Even new tech like VR and 360-degree video is on the cusp of broad integration. Heck, it won’t be long until we’re able to tour a business through YouTube or Periscope, interact with their products online and buy as many as you want with a single click of a button. The possibilities for lead generation will be virtually boundless within the next few years, if they aren’t already.

But when it comes to conversions, not all social media is created equal. Facebook is obviously king of this domain, with nearly 2 billion monthly active users worldwide, superior targeting capabilities and advanced analytics data. But other sites are holding their own in this space as well. A study by Shopify showed solid returns for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vimeo and even Polyvore – so Facebook isn’t necessarily a given. Ultimately, where you advertise will depend on who your target market is and where they spend their internet hours.

“I get it,” you’re grumbling. “My business needs an e-commerce strategy that includes social media. Are we done here?” No, we’re not! Because it’s actually not that simple; there are some downsides to social e-commerce as well.

Downsides to social e-commerce

For starters, highly targeted content could potentially be highly intrusive – a definite no-no at a time when consumers are more protective of their identities and conscientious of their online privacy (or lack thereof). It also takes time to build, manage and maintain an e-commerce presence, so an increase in budget and manpower are almost certainly in the cards if you want to do it right (which you do). If you’re a small business just getting its feet off the ground, you might not see the same results as a larger company with more resources at its disposal.

In other words, determining if social media e-commerce is right for your business requires, like most marketing endeavors, thorough research and careful examination. And hey, we can help with that! Just give us a shout.

Blog Author: Balcom Agency writer

Tags: PR & Social Media, Retail

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