Is social shopping revolutionising Customer Experience?

In 2020, Customer Experience (CX) was dramatically transformed by Covid-19. Faced with the closure of a large number of shops and successive lockdowns, few options were available to retailers. Online shopping was the only way in for consumers. And at the same time, the use of social networks increased.

These observations were reflected by the convergence in the use of social media by both consumers and retailers. For consumers, the use of social networks is becoming a new way of making purchases and for retailers, they have become a universal and instantaneous sales showcase.

How can we define social shopping? What are the challenges?

The term “social shopping” or “social commerce” means the use of social networks to develop sales. It is a practice widely adopted in certain markets (the United States, China….) and 52.1% of global online commerce comes from China. 

In order to respond to these new modes of consumption, social networks such as Facebook and Instagram have been integrating the possibility of purchasing into their application since May 2020. 

The online shopping phenomenon has been around since 2012. Take the example of the French e-commerce website La Redoute which has a chat tool linked to Facebook allowing consumers to directly chat with their friends on the site. 

Social shopping offers retailers the possibility of personalising their approaches and offerings depending on the consumer. In Europe, 93% of social shopping is currently concentrated on the best-known social networks: Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. 

Newer platforms such as Snapchat, TikTok and Pinterest are beginning to play an important role in social shopping. The fact that they are used on a daily basis and have the ability to trigger purchasing behaviour through their immediacy and relationship with images, their importance is growing. We are talking about the heuristics of social proof here, with influencers driving trends and consumption habits. The synergies between social shopping and influencers make it possible to increase sales while responding perfectly to new consumer expectations. 

Social Shopping: a passing trend or a profound transformation of habits

Social Shopping makes it easier for brands to embrace hyper-personalisation and its benefits, including better customer engagement and retention. The merchant can build a narrative around an experience to maximize the appeal of the product. The same product described in different ways addresses different audiences with different expectations.

The sales potential is greater than the experience offered by the same product in the shop window. Via social networks, retailers acquire the possibility to address each individual. 

For consumers, social shopping allows access to an almost infinite catalogue of products from their smartphone. It also makes it possible to view products more quickly, practically and without the filter of brands.

One of the consequences of social shopping is greater transparency around products, brought about by the immediacy of social networks, particularly through consumer comments. For brands, this means greater clarity, but also more readable and accessible communication, at the risk of immediate sanctions (boycotts, etc.)

A consumer phenomenon driven by competitive innovation

Social shopping, a phenomenon of real-time consumption, highlights two major innovation trend: 

  1. Dynamic advertising - connecting advertising on social networks to an extension of an e-commerce platform. The consumer's shopping journey is frictionless and seamless. It enables a maximised customer experience. The success of the Squid Game series has led to a strong emphasis on social media for merchandising. Vans saw sales of its "white Vans Slip-On" increase by 7,800% and associated searches increased by 92%.
  2. Live shopping - a kind of "online teleshopping", allows users on live platforms (Facebook Live, Live Instagram) to buy the products shown in one click. Clarins, which uses this technology in the United States and Canada, has recorded conversion rates of up to 30%.

In addition to the technological challenges posed by the integration of a social shopping strategy, competition between brands is increasing. Companies need to stand out with their communications and their search for originality. Advertising costs to enable the distribution of products continue to rise, with advertising investment up 50.3% globally by the end of 2019.

Brands have to respond to different expectations based on consumers' countries and cultural references, but also on their age, gender, standard of living and more. This segmentation of audiences makes it difficult to offer a single way of examining social shopping, and therefore leads to an massive rise in related costs.

The future of social shopping lies in an even more personalized approach and ads that know your size, favourite colours, brands you like and that adapt even more to your news feed. So, shopping and even trying out products (via AR) will be seamlessly integrated into your life.

But how far will the limits of social shopping be set in the future? Could we one day, by agreeing to give brands a "shopping budget", receive products selected by the brands in question based on our preferences on social networks?

Published on the French media JDN