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How 'buy now' will be shaping the future of social commerce

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It was only a matter of time before social media moved from human connections to masses of transactions. In a recent survey, more than 60% of users said they were open to purchasing products through social, with social media increasing its share of e-commerce referrals nearly 200% between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015, faster than any other channel.

Social media platforms have been quick to realise this, both helping them increase the time users spend onsite and helping marketers drive measurable sales from social. Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg recently said “The more people buy online, the more people buy things they discover through their mobile phones, the more people discover things from News Feed and go on to purchase”.

The major networks are testing different options to utilise social commerce with Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter all expected to implement Buy Now buttons globally in 2016. Facebook is the leader in the space, with its sales-friendly platform accounting for 50% of social referrals and 64% of social commerce revenue. This is in stark contrast to its younger sibling Instagram, which is much less about sales and more about awareness and content.

Twitter has tested options including Buy Now (with the launch of Katy Perry’s Mad Potion) alongside larger scale e-commerce, hosting entire shoppable collections for the likes of Barbour, Disney and Nike. It will be interesting to see how Twitter develops its social commerce credentials, being well-suited to content and products focused around live events.

Pinterest is one of the most natural homes for social commerce, with the platform being designed not just to help you socialise, but also to plan your future purchases, whether that be clothes, interiors, weddings or destinations. 93% of active Pinterest users plan for purchases through the site and 87% have purchased something because of what they saw on the site.

Content is also increasingly becoming a focus for commerce, for example with Barbour recently launching both shoppable lookbooks and videos. YouTube is increasingly hosting this kind of content (most recently with the Beats Christmas advert) and 25% of social media users have stated that YouTube is the most influential platform for purchase decisions.

So far, the types of products that seem to fare well on social have a lower price point and younger target demographic than usual, fueled by snap purchases by Generation Z. However, as more users become accustomed to social commerce, we will see larger ticket items for sale in future. As people are increasingly using social on mobile, mobile commerce should continue to soar. This Black Friday, more consumers browsed for goods on mobile than desktop and tablet combined, and those purchasing via mobile increased by 50%.

However there are risks for brands and agencies trying to harness this growing trend. Consumers are fickle and already used to ignoring advertising messages from brands. They must trust platforms with their payment details, have a seamless transition to purchase (especially on mobile) and not be flooded with constant prompts to buy.

The opportunities, however, are huge. As consumers purchase more via social media, it means more opportunities for driving social sales. This in turn will help deliver measurable return on investment and of course, greater justification for strengthening marketing spend on social.

For more on social commerce, watch Cult LDN’s webinar with The Drum Network here.