Strategic planning for the year of social commerce
Jean-Paul Edwards
4 November 2021

OMD EMEA’s Chief Product Development Officer, Jean-Paul Edwards, analyses how social platforms are gearing up for a year when direct-to-consumer retail sales will dominate and what marketers should do to prepare.

 

As we head deeper into the final financial quarter of the year, the social media battle lines for 2022 have already been drawn, courtesy of accelerated platform innovation in response to 18 months of e-commerce advancements. As a result, social commerce will be a key frontier – with the major networks each having placed large bets on how consumers will shop, discover and interact with brands in a rapidly evolving social media landscape.

Instagram and Pinterest

Since Q3, Instagram has revamped its search tab, began testing a vertical ‘Explore’ feed and launched ads in Shops – all moves designed to surface more content and products for users. Pinterest updated its Collections Ads by adding Slideshows and has introduced product tagging and merchant details. Now, advertisers can combine Collections Ads with video and visual search to curate immersive shoppable experiences and encourage consideration for items featured in the video. When a Collection Slideshow ad is served, tagged products are now dynamically selected and personalised, based on the Pinner’s activity.

Snap and TikTok

Snap meanwhile first made its augmented reality-driven ecommerce ambitions clear when it hired former Facebook executive, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis as its new vice president of platform partnerships in August.

The company has also updated its Scan tool, named a global AR studio and acquired Vertebrae – a startup that lets brands create and manage 3D versions of their goods. A Global Deloitte Digital Study commissioned by Snap, states that 94% of people expect to maintain or increase their usage of AR for shopping purposes in 2022, with virtual fitting rooms and immersive retail experiences are likely to feature heavily.

According to the same study, brands are 41% more likely to be considered if they offer a branded AR experience and 56% of shoppers agree that AR gives them greater confidence about product quality. The platform seemingly attracting the most attention for its social commerce progress however is TikTok.

From in-app shopping and longer video lengths to new creator monetisation tools and native ad formats, TikTok has made major moves in Q3 in a bid to be the retail partner of choice for both merchants and brand advertisers.

At the end of September, the mobile video platform launched four social commerce formats including in-video product links, live shopping, the inclusion of custom, swipe-able in-feed product cards and Dynamic Showcase Ads, allowing brands to serve personalised targeted ads based on users’ interests.

One of TikTok’s key advantages over Instagram in the social commerce arms race is in discovery. According to its own data, 42% of users come to the mobile video platform to be inspired by products they don’t even know exist and almost half of all TikTok users have purchased after seeing a product or service advertised there. Dynamic Showcase Ads will push this behavioural trend further and allow brands to serve more discovery-driven content, based on what users ‘like and love’.

So with 2022 set to be a landmark year for shopping through social platforms, how should marketers prepare themselves?

Earlier this year, OMD and Omnicom Commerce Group created a global research study to track people’s perceptions, adoption and behaviours as the retail and technology landscapes evolve. Future of Commerce: The Why Behind the Buy, discovered that in the past 12 months, 63% of people have used an online marketplace and 34% have used social to buy a product or service.

With behaviours changing and online retail fostering trial and frequency, knowledge is most definitely power in this accelerated landscape, allowing brands to make better decisions, faster.

So, explore how brands are experimenting with both social and marketplace commerce strategies and keep abreast of product innovation, such as AR developments, when businesses will be able to integrate WhatsApp direct messaging into Instagram or how Reels will evolve the digital shop window of the future.

Remember also, social commerce should always allow consumers to have authentic, native interactions with your brand as they explore and discover content. The experience of discovery should be an inspiring, trustworthy and frictionless one, so the right creative storytelling is vital.

OMD examples

A good example from our own agency archive is the #ThenNowForever partnership between Levi’s and TikTok, which emphasised the brand’s sustainable fashion credentials via a series of creator posts showing a vintage picture of their inspiration – be it a parent or idol – wearing Levi’s and then a recreation of the photo in the same style.

Such simple, yet authentic storytelling by 36 TikTok influencers has been discovered more than nine billion times (via both paid and organic search), inspiring a timeless fashion choice for a new generation.

Another inspiration for finding new ways to tell digital stories can be found from our partnership with Ubisoft, on behalf of Tourism Ireland. Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla features a downloadable level called Wrath of the Druids, setting the game’s hero in Ireland as he explores landmarks like Benbulbin, Hill of Tara, the Giant’s Causeway, and the city of Dublin.

We then partnered with gaming influencers, who regularly stream their gameplay across social channels, to showcase the  landscapes, rich culture, and the folklore of Ireland to their hundreds of thousands of followers.

Conclusion

Ultimately, social commerce has the ability to eliminate friction in a user’s online shopping experience, and persuade people to purchase at moments when their excitement over your products is highest. Product lines that work best therefore are often those that require minimal thought and can be bought on a whim.

With more and more consumers trusting AI – comfortable with the fact that access to their data will improve their overall customer experience – plus, platform innovation driving more ways for brands to sell direct to consumers via the channels where they spend a majority of their digital down-time, 2022 will provide a huge opportunity for innovative campaign planning around creative, shoppable stories and content.

We won’t see one platform triumph over another in the 2022 social retail arms race (companies such as Snap are betting longer term), but what we will see is the maturation of a new retail frontier built on partnerships, consumer trust, personalisation and the power of community.

 

This article was originally published on Mediatel.

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