Then create an engaging social commerce experience
Once hesitant users have been converted, the power of the features that are unique to social commerce really kicks in. According to our econometric model, these are the principal drivers of increased social commerce spend. In our research, consumers singled out livestreaming, curated content feeds, seller consultations, and influencer recommendations as some of the main features that will prompt them to spend more through social commerce.
In truth, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting the perfect social experience, and consumers clearly value different social features when they’re buying different categories of products. Just because some categories are more expensive and/or “higher risk” does not mean there isn’t a market for them via social commerce. It just means that the earlier stages of the experience – where consumers are evaluating a product – become more important.
This includes offering virtual reality (VR)/augmented reality (AR) capabilities: nearly one in three (30%) consumers identified VR testing as a top 10 “must have” feature in a social commerce experience when buying luxury goods. An example? Prada and Farfetch being among the first brands to use Snapchat’s AR tools so users could try on outfits and accessories.
We also found that brand familiarity influences the importance consumers place on specific social features. When shoppers know a brand well, they look for capabilities like shoppable posts and visual search that enable them to discover products that speak to them as individuals. When brands are less familiar, shoppers attach more importance to features that help them make purchase decisions, such as virtual auctions, live group chats, VR testing and livestreams.
Global appetite for social commerce
Before they can move on to prioritizing features like these, brands and platforms in Western markets, where social commerce is less mature, need to focus on getting the basics right.
In other more mature markets, notably in Asia, we’re already seeing social commerce features and shoppable moments being integrated much more seamlessly into consumers’ everyday lives. And it’s clear that in markets where this has already happened, social commerce really takes off.
Ahead of the curve in some markets…
What does this look like? Take China. There, social shopping can happen in many ways. A consumer might buy directly from an official WeChat account while chatting with friends, or in one of WeChat or Alipay’s “mini programs” for a brand that has advertised in a friend’s social circle. Entertainment and shopping are fully integrated too. A Chinese consumer watching a livestream on Taobao Live can directly add a product to their cart and check out. Or they might follow a friend’s recommendation to join a group to buy a product at a discount on Pinduoduo.
China’s social commerce experience is ahead of the curve. In other markets, where brands and platforms have yet to provide integrated experiences, we’re seeing consumers who are so eager for social commerce that they’re willing to jump through a number of hoops to engage and make it happen.
…informal workarounds in others…
An example of this type of informal workaround came from a shopper we spoke to in Brazil: she told us that she watches Instagram stories from a local clothing store, sends screenshots of the items she likes to the store via WhatsApp, then receives a link to pay the store via Pix.
While all these hacks qualify as social commerce, they’re a long way from the seamless shopping experiences we see elsewhere. Imagine the potential that truly seamless experiences could unlock.
…so no room for one-size-fits-all approaches
As social commerce evolves to reach its full potential, it won’t follow the same path everywhere. While our research shows that basics like the quality of checkout experience and security are critical for all consumers, preferences vary across markets. That means that what it takes to succeed will differ from region to region.
Many factors are at play, all of them influencing the styles of social commerce that will appeal most (see graphic below). These adoption factors include current familiarity with social commerce, of course, but also the extent to which a market is mobile-first, consumer attitudes towards shopping, the existence of messenger app ecosystems, socio-economic conditions and many others.
The evolution of social commerce by country