Amidst ongoing supply-chain shortages and the economic challenges posed by the pandemic, the 2021 holiday season is critical for most U.S. retailers.
Offering a shopping experience that enables shoppers to discover new products and easily make purchases — on the channel of their liking — can be the difference between a great holiday season and a mediocre one.
Research shows that consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, are turning to social media apps for their holiday shopping needs. According to McKinsey, 58% of consumers are using social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to make their holiday buying decisions. This is a trend that is likely to carry into 2022 and beyond as more consumers favor digital channels over in-store shopping experiences, therefore, creating a massive opportunity for retailers to drive holiday sales and recoup losses incurred during the pandemic.
However, offering a seamless and friction-free experience on social media channels is not without challenges, according to checkout and shopper network Bolt’s Chief Business Officer Bob Buch.
“It is mostly a terrible experience that is filled with redirects to different websites, entering information on small screens and having to jump through hoops,” Buch said in an exclusive interview with Retail Bum.
“Not to mention consumers lose the flow of their social media streams.”
Retailers are thus challenged with delivering an uninterrupted browsing experience that requires minimal steps during checkout.
The problem with building long-lasting relationships with customers
Social commerce today represents a massive opportunity for brands and retailers. As of 2020, social commerce was estimated to be worth $560 billion and is projected to be valued at $2.9 trillion by 2026.
Driving engagement across various social media channels requires retailers to stay ahead of consumers’ ever-evolving shopping and payment habits, Buch said.
“You have to be nimble and flexible in order to meet the ever-changing demands of your customers,” Buch said.
“A few years ago, TikTok was barely a blip, but now, it’s moving culture and helping a lot of brands sell a lot of products.”
While social media platforms present many opportunities for conversion, especially if they support direct selling options, brands and retailers often tend to find themselves at the mercy of these platforms.
“You are always an algorithm change away from irrelevance,” Buch said.
But, more importantly, merchants lose the opportunity to form a direct relationship with buyers that are engaging with their brands on social media channels.
Take Instagram, for example. While the platform undeniably offers merchants a great opportunity to connect with new and existing customers, the implementation process is rather cumbersome. Furthermore, Instagram Shopping is not totally advantageous to the merchant as it lacks the ability to provide sellers with the information that is needed to create a highly-engaged customer base which ultimately impacts conversion.
“With Instagram Shopping, you have to integrate with a whole new commerce backend and you’re also not getting the information about the shopper you need to build a long-lasting relationship,” Buch noted.
Maximizing DTC conversions on social media
Winning the social commerce game requires retailers to deliver a one-click shopping experience, where customers can buy products of their liking without leaving their social media stream. On the back end, this translates to orders coming in as if they were placed on their website, making order fulfillment and tracking a breeze for retailers.
One turnkey approach that can help retailers attain that seamlessness is offering a one-click checkout experience on social media. This can be achieved by utilizing an API-enabled, decentralized checkout solution.
Taking this approach helps retailers offer one-click checkout experiences directly on social media feeds, on third-party websites, as well as in their online store, Buch said. In turn, this also equips them with the ability to gather first-party data that is key to offering personalized post-purchase experiences.
“[Collecting] first-party data is increasingly vital for brands to maintain their direct relationships with their shoppers — it is especially important as we continue to see privacy-related changes to cookies and mobile operating systems,” Buch said, referencing Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and Firefox’s Enhanced Tracking Prevention (ETP) measures that are limiting retailers’ ability to leverage third-party cookies to track shoppers.
By joining a shopper network like Bolt, merchants also stand to gain access to tens of millions of shoppers, who can seamlessly check out on their site even if they have never shopped with a merchant before.
As more shoppers embrace social channels for their holiday and day-to-day purchasing needs, it is becoming increasingly important for retailers to invest in solutions that help them expand their storefront to a variety of channels. It is also important to ensure that these solutions can drive engagement by delivering an optimal checkout experience on customers’ social media feed.
“Converting shoppers from social media is a skill that will continue to pay off in the future,” Buch said.