Online shopping is big business, and stronger integration with social could further propel success.
It is not hard to love online shopping: it’s quick, convenient and infinitely more peaceful than braving a crowded mall. Indeed, online shoppers worldwide spent US$15trn in 2017, and that figure is set to grow further in 2018, according to the Hootsuite’s Digital in 2018 Trends report released earlier this year.
But online shopping is not always as seamless as it could be. Today, shopping inspiration has moved from runways and glossy magazine spreads to social media and influencers, but the shopping experience still needs to catch up. Research from Mintel found that in the US, for instance, social media ranks as the number one influencer of fashion shopping amongst women 18-24, and nearly 32% of women aged 18-34 are open to buying clothing directly from a social media platform.
Given consumers’ vociferous appetite for social media in Asia Pacific, it’s no surprise that there’s a similar shift in ecommerce happening in the region, too. Our research shows there are 1.77bn active users on social media across Asia, and 1.71bn of them are using mobile devices to connect, browse and discover. Last year the region represented six of the 15 top ecommerce spenders including Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and China
However, until recently, shopping on social media typically meant being redirected to a traditional e-commerce website, making what should be a straightforward online retail experience a complex one.
From the amount of money spent online – and time spent on social – it’s clear that shoppers are seeking more convenience-based offerings, and retailers must meet this demand by developing a smoother online shopping experience that is simple and secure.
To be sure, ads are already the new standard on major global social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. But how do businesses use social media to not only grow brand awareness, but drive real business results?
The rise of shoppable ads – which have been popularised by Youtube and Facebook – has been swift. By removing the amount of clicks needed for customers to purchase a product, shoppable ads have streamlined the online shopping process, which means that customers are more likely to complete a purchase. Today, the major trend in shoppable ads, which are being introduced on highly visual platforms like Instagram, is for brands to partner with relevant social media influencers. According to Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer, 85% of the public does not trust public institutions and instead are turning to peers – which includes bloggers, vloggers, and other relatable online personalities – for recommendations and advice. This type of partnership could likely create a boon for brands since influencers are already a trusted source for customers and provide an extra layer of engagement.
The ability to precisely reach the right audience used to be something marketers dreamed of. But with digital and social, that dream is now a reality. Audience targeting is one of the most enticing advertising tools social media offers, as it allows businesses to tailor their ads specifically for their target demographic, which helps them spend their money more efficiently and generate more sales. What’s more, consumers actually like personalised ads, as evidenced by an Adlucent study, which found 71% of consumers prefer them because they decrease the amount of irrelevant ads, helping them discover new products and make shopping easier. So use targeting tools responsibly in order to promote your business and reach new customers.
For consumers, the most practical innovation being adopted by ecommerce sites is social payment options through trusted, secure digital wallets like Alipay, Apple Pay, and PayPal. These allow customers to easily purchase a product without the hassle of manually typing in credit card information, and reassures customers that the ecommerce sites is not fraudulent – a belief about online shopping that’s still widespread in some Southeast Asian nations, particularly in Indonesia, that can be a major barrier to online retailers. By accepting these types of payments, ecommerce becomes a truly trusted, frictionless shopping experience.
Everyone can agree that a pleasant customer service experience that doesn’t require hours of waiting on the phone for a representative is the dream. With chatbots, that dream can become a reality, especially for customer service needs that arise outside of normal working hours. Available 24/7, these AI customer service reps are able to introduce products and boost brand messaging as well as answer customer questions and offer solutions, providing a quick solution for brands looking to improve or revamp their simple customer service interactions online. If an issue is too complex for a chatbot is to solve, though, don’t fret: that’s where your customer service representatives step in.
Providing a simple, efficient shopping experience is completely achievable for brands of all sizes and can be quickly implemented into social media thanks to the myriad tools that are already built into social media platforms. By launching this type of ecommerce, your customers will appreciate the ease of the shopping experience, which will boost their loyalty and, in turn, provide you with more qualified leads and sales.
Roger Graham is the senior director of marketing and growth in Asia Pacific at Hootsuite.