Interviews, insight & analysis on Ecommerce

Shopper First, Platform Second: How to create social commerce experiences using your marketing ingenuity

By Annie Little, Associate Strategy Strategist at Initials

Digital experiences make life more convenient. 

We can order a taxi within minutes, identify a song no matter where it’s playing, and deposit checks effortlessly via mobile devices.

But technology should not be prioritised ahead of user values and behaviours. 

This is particularly true for social commerce, a rapidly expanding model that allows users to browse, checkout and purchase goods directly within a social media platform. 

But are brands currently adopting the right strategies that capitalise on consumer engagement and maximise opportunities for growth?

At Initials, we recently polled a nationally representative audience to assess whether the brands they engage with (post-pandemic) have created social experiences that seamlessly align with their needs and values. 

More than half said no; 46% of respondents said “brands could do more to improve” and 10% reported they are “disappointed with how brands have responded”. 

Clearly, brands can and should be doing more to create immersive and relevant content and meaningful experiences – especially if they want to retain and expand market share. 

In this article, we’ll explore why brands need to prioritise building intimate relationships with consumers over solely creating transactional connections on social platforms.

The greatest danger is to push against yesterday’s logic

The rapid adoption of ‘digital’ triggered by the pandemic means traditional marketing methods are being deprioritised, as market leaders seek to trailblaze digital trends or become early adopters of new technologies.

But rather than reinvent organisational structures to capture digital opportunities, the real challenge lies in serving new behaviours using digital tools.

We found that nearly three-quarters of consumers (73%) say brands they engage with on social platforms “don’t always deliver relevant content” and “often create experiences that are irrelevant to me”. 

To realize the new kinds of business value that relationships can generate, brands need to re-prioritize by understanding their people, their target audiences and their needs first. The technology that serves those needs should come second. 

It is important to consider the future of social media in the context of consumer behaviour – mining in-platform audience insights and unpicking trends to better understand the human behaviours of the people who use them, their digital habits, needs and preferences.

Only by understanding these behaviours can we confidently implement the most suitable experiences to facilitate target audience behaviours.

Shopper first, platform second

To harness the full potential of social commerce, brands need to start with a ‘shopper first, platform second’ mindset.

This means focusing on user behaviours, values and preferences to better identify the most suitable social channels to engage and invest in. When done correctly, this strategy will allow brands to harness the full potential of social commerce features.

Whether you want to create an authentic sense of community, spark interaction and discovery, build a frictionless experience or drive conversion of branded products and services, it all begins with a deeper understanding of the post-pandemic consumer. 

Our research shows that 52% of consumers have a “passive interaction” with brands on social media. To forge intimacy, loyalty and repeat engagement, brands need to better understand these behaviours and curate social content accordingly.

Brands that hone their precision marketing in these ways can drive significant customer acquisition and retention during periods of convulsive change. And capturing this opportunity is easier than you think. 

The science of behavioural economics and methodologies for precision marketing has enabled brands to simplify and solve any marketing challenge that is thrown their way.

Brands need to apply this ingenuity to social experiences to truly claim their social commerce advantage.

How to win on social – activating with shopper marketing intent

To identify how to win on different social platforms and which products and SKUs to prioritise, brands must first understand their target audience priorities and the reasons for platform choice at a category level. 

By building a deep understanding of these behaviours and where a particular audience is browsing, brands can make smarter, more informed platform choices.

Next, brands need to take the time to understand the content or product features that social media shoppers want to see. These users are a unique subset of the overall shopping base, so advertising and content needs to be tailored to meet the desires of these individuals.

With this research in place, brands can implement the right technologies and adopt the right platforms at the right touchpoints in a way that feels seamless and valuable. This means starting with the experience-first, then analysing how technology can facilitate that behaviour.

Finally, when all these elements align, brands can create two-way conversations. Remember, shoppers are more than just buyers – they are people that utilise social commerce to resolve queries, learn about benefits and read reviews.

To truly succeed, brands must create experiences that intercept these idle scrolling moments with elements of interaction and personalisation. By following these principles, you can win in the social commerce space. 

What’s next?

As the rapid evolution of social commerce continues into 2022, and new functionalities are developed to satiate demand for new areas of retail, brands will turn to creative agencies for timely answers to business challenges. 

Like many new digital developments, this will come at the cost of a steep learning curve, so we are here to support our clients in maximising all opportunities for growth; from developing people-centric social experiences that captivate audiences to increasing your credibility as a social-savvy brand.


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