The social superpowers of e-commerce
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The social superpowers of e-commerce

Driving conversions from social media isn’t easy, but advances in technology are here to help.

The days of successfully targeting potential customers on social media with simple promoted posts are fading. Advances in machine learning and automation are adding new layers of complexity, raising the bar, and increasing competition. Meanwhile, consumers are more proactively protecting their personal spaces online, blocking ads and retreating to encrypted channels such as WhatsApp and Snapchat.

With such obstacles, it’s perhaps no surprise that social media as driver for e-commerce is an afterthought for many companies – and for SMEs in particular, where it’s pipped to the post by more muscular creatures like product-market-fit and clearing regulatory hurdles.

How can businesses meet potential customers online in a more profitable way? And what is really driving social e-commerce conversions today?

1. Chatbots: stage of awareness on steroids

The super thing about chatbots is that your prospect comes to you and lays their needs bare. All you have to do is figure out what they’re asking for... and give it to them.

That’s easier said than done, of course. Headlines about chatbots have been teasing us for a while now, and it hasn’t all been rainbows and lollipops, as Microsoft discovered in 2016 when one of its own chatbots went rogue

Yet with the rise and rise of Amazon’s Alexa (sales of the Echo doubled from 2015 to 2016), we seem to be reaching a tipping point where chatbots are about to get very good, very quickly. If ever there was a time to invest in chatbot tech, natural language processing and conversation designers, it is now.

2. Direct social commerce: don’t disrupt consumer experience

There’s an apocryphal story of a usability testing participant faced with a website CTA that requires a download from another platform. The participant complains: “So I have to stop what I’m doing now and log in somewhere else before I can checkout? No, I don’t like that. I like feeling as if I’m making progress in life. This stopping and starting screws up that feeling.”

Marketers should avoid generating this feeling, and direct social commerce – where consumers can now make purchases directly from a brand’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest pages – is one way it can be achieved.

Rather than causing disruption by forcing them away from one environment and towards another, the audience can make a purchase in situ, and enjoy a more seamless experience.

Is it a game-changer? It may well be. Especially for cheaper and ‘spur of the moment’ products and services.

3. Live video: a shortcut to mindset-matching

Whereas someone on the bus at rush hour might not be in a hurry to apply for a loan upon seeing a tweet, they might be game for watching a 30-second video with subtitles.

Videos on social are not new. However, the framing and immediacy of ‘live’ videos is. Made for mobile, and easy to consume while on the go, they offer an engaging way to build a relationship with consumers that bears fruit later down the line.

With Facebook announcing plans to launch 360-degree video this year, live video is a bandwagon ripe for the jump.

The goalposts will never stop moving, and mastering the social relationship between consumer and company is tricky but, as long as we place a high value on context, mindset and stage of awareness – and feed them into the tools available – there’s the chance that we can talk of ‘social’ and ‘conversions’ in the same sentence.

Corissa Nunn Freelance Journalist
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