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Nearly 77% of social network users have purchased once via a social media channel, including links or transactional units. 9 out of 10 consumers plan to buy from a brand they follow on social media and almost as many say they are following influencers to inspire their purchase (87%).

So here we are! Social networks are becoming a more indispensable channel throughout the customer journey and might just be the only one in the coming years. Quietly… Consumers are becoming more comfortable with the idea of social buying. And agilely…Social platforms are adapting – building new embedded features that are turning into commerce platforms: from shoppable tags to product visual search to transactional chatbots.

Brands are also joining the game of social commerce: Nike is using Instagram’s Check out feature to sell directly in-app. Gucci is giving access to “try out your sneakers” in 3D on Snapchat. Levis turns content creator videos into “Shop Now” call to action on TikTok… This is a global digital movement. But where are we exactly right now on social media shopping?

The subject is very rich: we are decoding for you the ongoing social commerce transformations for the major social platforms in 2 separate articles to cover in-depth these new sales channels and how they will look in the future.

Instagram is becoming the one-stop social shopping hub

Credit: @poloralphlauren

Have you ever paid attention to the evolution of social shopping on Instagram?

Firstly, the Call-To-Action feature: Shop Now, Learn More, Subscribe… We bet you have already seen this kind of sponsored post while browsing a brand or your friends feed. You probably also have, at least once, impulsively tapped on that interactive content. Well that’s it!

From that moment on, you stepped into the world of social shopping – into those Insta-experiences that connect users and brands, drive qualified traffic to turn it into the most expected conversion step.

Followed this initial feature: Product Tags, introduced in 2016, which is letting users check product and price directly on a post or story with a link to a 3rd party website for purchase. According to Instagram, more than 130 million people are clicking on the product tag each month. Online buyers like to know the brand or price-tag for the products they fall in love with…

The latest social shopping feature from Instagram is Check-Out launched in 2019. It now allows consumers to browse images or videos of items in their feed and to buy directly into the app. Even though this feature is currently only available in the US, at least 78 big names are on the wave: Dior, Prada, Burberry, Uniqlo…

Credit: @camilacoelhocollection

Both creators and brands receive shared insights within the Instagram App to track and optimize  the performance of shopping posts, including Reach, Engagement, Commodity button clicks and more.

While we wait for this feature to be rolled-out soon to the rest of the world, there are already some success stories: Revolve brought 80 content creators to Mexico to collaborate on shoppable brand content for their #RevolveSummer campaign, “influencers drove the majority of reach to Revolve — more than 50% of  the total campaign impressions were driven by the participating content creators.”

While we wait for this feature to be rolled-out soon to the rest of the world, there are already some success stories: Revolve brought 80 content creators to Mexico to collaborate on shoppable brand content for their #RevolveSummer campaign, “influencers drove the majority of reach to Revolve — more than 50% of  the total campaign impressions were driven by the participating content creators.”

From CTAs to Shoppable Tags to Check Out, Instagram strives to ease their user’s shopping experience. These features maintain a coherent and smooth customer experience from discovery to purchase. It also provides more opportunities for brands and influencers to generate business within their community and track down performance accurately.

All combined, these features start to create a truly seamless social media shopping experience, cutting frictions and shortening the customer journey. We are very close to turning browser driven shopping to social media shopping.

Instagram caption from the shopping menu

Snapchat, or how to make shopping a whole different experience

$1 trillion – It is the direct spending power of millennials & Gen Z in the US alone. 238 million – It is the number of daily Snapchat users… mainly consisting of those millennials & Gen Zs. And they are 2.5x times more likely to buy online after the visit or research in-store than non-snapchatters (Murphy Research Study on Consumer retail buying behaviors, Snap Inc…).

They are omni-channel shoppers and deeply rely on their phone throughout their path to purchase: 39% of users send Snaps to ask their friends’ opinion and the 4 out of 10 buy influencer endorsed goods and services.

Obviously there is an enormous pool of young consumers out there looking for a whole different shopping experience. This is where Snapchat has a solid competitive edge to offer VR or Interactive consumer journeys to connect their users to brands

Simply, these GenZs are looking for something that bridges the gap between online and offline, and offers a one-stop lively shopping experience instead of only letting them exchange about what they would like to purchase on the App.

How Snapchat is leveraging this?

Akin to Instagram’s CTA, Snapchat developed in 2019 Snapchat Ads or In-App Stores – a native commerce experience available to the US-based official accounts that have a Shopify store.

Two formats of campaigns are available depending on the brand’s objectives: Brand Awareness Ads with simple image or video helping brands to showcase 3 up to 20 products or the latest discounts while Dynamic Shopping Ads is used to create shoppable experiences to drive sales for an entire catalog of products or services.

Akin to Instagram’s CTA, Snapchat developed in 2019 Snapchat Ads or In-App Stores – a native commerce experience available to the US-based official accounts that have a Shopify store.

Two formats of campaigns are available depending on the brand’s objectives: Brand Awareness Ads with simple image or video helping brands to showcase 3 up to 20 products or the latest discounts while Dynamic Shopping Ads is used to create shoppable experiences to drive sales for an entire catalog of products or services.

Credit: Dr.Martens & Drinkinfinity on Snapchat

With Snap Pixel, brands can select audiences for a better targeting strategy: 1. prospecting – reach prospective audience even if they have not yet visited the brand’s website; 2. retargeting – target those who recently viewed the brand’s products or content.

Snap Pixel also allows brands to measure the effectiveness of Snapchat Ads: tracking how many Snapchatters take actions on their website and metrics like return-on-ad-spend.

Credit: Snapchat

This update allows brands to reach their potential audiences, introduce themselves creatively, engage with customers and finally drive sales on their website.

Last year Bhad Bhabie, Shay Mitchell, Spencer Pratt and other celebrities were the first creators invited to test the swipe-up-to-buy features to sell make-up, crystals and clothing. According to Snapchat, this tool is planned to be released to more official accounts soon. When more creators will be involved, we believe it can further boost the in-app engagement and reach new levels of conversion.

Another step Snapchat has initiated, to improve the shopping smoothness, is their own visual search tool – you can now point the camera (In-App) toward an object or barcode and shop for the identified item directly on Amazon.

Credit: Image-based shopping hooks up to Amazon from the Snapchat app from Mashable

Visual search is a natural and logical progress for Snapchat. As the top AR leader, we expect them to bring new technologies of this kind to create interactive experiences for millennials & Gen Z users who have been showing great passion for camera driven features . An intelligent move for better social shopping!

What’s next? The app still keeps making headway introducing more shopping features with in-app mini programs – Minis – coming soon! We expect to see if it will further feed Snapchatters’ needs and bring the social media shopping experience to the next level.

3. Tik Tok was built with social shopping in mind

Credit: olivier bergeron for Unsplash

Tik Tok brings some competition in the social media environment and that is a good thing! It will also certainly speed up the development of social shopping.

From the unveiling of the Hashtag Challenge Plus feature last summer, the booming short-video App has been slowly adding shopping ads that allow creators to take part in social media shopping.

The new feature turns content creator videos into in-feed ads with call-to-actions, such as “Shop Now”, Download”, “Learn more”, etc. And it suggests that Tik Tok will encourage influencers to boost this shopping feature by splitting ad revenues between them and the platform.

Credit: Later

Levis, being one of the pioneers using Shop Now buttons on Tik Tok shows how powerful the feature can be: when they started back in April, the brand saw tremendous growth in engagement but also the traffic to their eshop doubled thanks to the shoppable in-feed ads.

The brand also collaborated with some Tik Tok influencers including Callen Schaub and Cosette Rinab to promote their “Future Finish 3D Denim Customization Technology”. Users who watched the influencers’ videos could click on the link inserted on the post to purchase the same design on Levi.com. Levis reported the video watch time was twice than average and product views on “Future Finish” pages more than doubled.

Credit: levis.com

Ok, but what is it that really makes Tik Tok unique when it comes to social shopping?

They have in mind the core expectation of the users: an engaging, fun and playful experience. The way their social media shopping features are embedded has 1 rule: don’t disrupt the user experience in-App. This is why on Tik Tok more than on any other platform, it is a smart move to involve influencers and content creators. The more authentic and smooth the experience, the more likely it will drive sales.

While Tik Tok is still dabbling in social commerce on the western side, Douyin – the Chinese counterpart of Tik Tok – has developed similar but much more advanced shopping features. Chinese users not only can be directed to external websites to buy products through shoppable links in-post, they can also purchase directly among a good selection of brands in-App without ever leaving Douyin.

Now, what we are not yet familiar with on TikTok but what Douyin is all about in China is Live Streaming. Now an essential source of revenues on the social media channel both from brands and influencers. Live streamers are big celebrities and entrepreneurs. Jun Lei, the founder and CEO of Xiao Mi (Chinese electronics brand) recently made his very first live streaming show on Douyin: sales in-App exceeded 28 million USD in two hours only.

Credit: Douyin

Will this be the future of Tik Tok? There are too many uncertainties to make that conclusion. One of the reasons that Douyin can be running ahead of Tik Tok is the advanced popularization of online payment and e-commerce solutions in China.

Besides the efforts required for further digitalization and market education in the west, the increasing complexity of regulations or restrictions makes the future evolution of the platform uncertain. But we are confident that Tik Tok is here to stay “what doesn’t kill it will make it stronger.”

4. Whatsapp, the way to build strong client relationships

Credit: Anton for Pexels

Every online buyer wishes to have a high-value and personalized shopping journey. Have you ever calculated the value of keeping a customer happy compared to recruiting a new one? Simple! Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%, according to a research done by Bain & Company.

Now WhatsApp is THE App to make that required connection with customers, and it can be automatised with the chatbot feature, engaging customers with real-time evolved conversations and answering instantly and quite easily any of their needs.

With 1.5 billion users in more than 180 countries, the familiarity and the easy-to-use interface allow WhatsApp to be the ideal platform for chatbots, to develop business and shape interpersonal relationships with customers.

More and more companies are WhatsApping: Pandora uses chatbots to offer one-to-one customer service; MakeMyTrip allows customers to conveniently check ticket status through Whatsapp; BMW sees their call request drop by nearly 60% while the rise in recommendation rate by 90% thanks to their Whatsapp chatbots…

Credit: CM.com

Today Whatsapp is supporting more than 50 millions Business App users globally and keeps introducing new features to make opening a chat with a business as easy as possible: customers now can simply scan the QR code a business displays on its storefront, product packaging or receipt to initiate a chat.

The QR code is available for business around the world using the Whatsapp Business app and Whatsapp Business API.

Whatsapp QR code example

If you are expecting to optimize direct communication with your customers, scale-up engagement rate as well or convert more leads, Whatsapp is the best asset beside your CRM program.

Whatsapp Business testimonials

Now, Whatsapp is exploring direct shopping and in-app payment for a fully integrated experience.

The trial happened in India first and recently in Brazil. But just a week after the launch of Whatsapp Payment, Brazil’s Central Bank suspended the feature in the country, due to banking restrictions.

This highlights the potential slow points before we all can enjoy the perfect social commerce platform. Whatsapp is working to clear the path among the leaders of social media shopping experiences.

From a friendly messaging tool to becoming a powerful business tool, Whatsapp is scaling up to become a true controlled sales channel and marketplace for business of any size: for your tour guide in Sri Lanka or for a top luxury international brand.

Get in the game early

While the worldwide pandemic has impacted tremendously most of the brick and mortar stores from early this year, The change in consumer behaviour will radically change for good. As a quick fix, many actors turned their store in direct Whatsapp shopping services. Now is the time to structure this channel and build in the CRM program.
And why not consider influencer marketing to promote this direct sales channel to reduce as much as possible the steps from awareness to conversion?

Are you ready? the rocket is about to take off

The rise of social commerce is dramatically reshaping or going to reshape the way we shop or do business. The rise of new social media channels is adding complexity in that landscape. Many actors are taking their share in the consumer journey.
Each needs to be leveraged at the right time and right pace. The future is for those who can capture this digital acumen.