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Why you’re going to buy a car on social media in 5 years

By Allie Wassum, Vice president group director, social strategy

March 25, 2021 | 6 min read

You’re going to buy a car on social media by 2025. Allie Wassum from Digitas swears this isn’t just a catchy headline to grab your attention, but rather a real possibility based on recent technological advancements and pandemic-induced changes in consumer behavior.

Guy with phone

Social media platforms provide the shortest pathway from inspiration to purchase. The big players have already worked to make sure purchases are not only frictionless but also safe, reliable and predictable. With these parameters in place, there really is nothing stopping it from becoming so commonplace that, yes, you could realistically use social to purchase your next car. Here’s why.

During the pandemic, our consumption of social media has dramatically increased – a lot. And social commerce increased by nearly 40% in 2020, compared with an average of 1-2% growth in previous years, per eMarketer. This shift in user behavior cannot be ignored or dismissed as a pandemic-only phenomenon.

We’re never not shopping

With the escalation of time spent on these platforms and increase in shopping, it’s safe to say that people are never not shopping.

Brands that will win in social commerce are those that develop a strategy that focuses on enabling consumers to move through the funnel with as little friction as possible.

To do that, it’s important to think about why people go to social platforms to begin with – to be inspired. People are constantly browsing their feeds. Some visit social with a specific purpose in mind, like finding the next hot vacation spot, but most scroll to connect with friends and uncover things they didn’t even know existed, like baked feta pasta and rainbow bagels. And how do they find these random phenomena? Influencers.

Consumers today have undeniably strong relationships with influencers – so much so that people trust influencers 94% more than friends and family when making shopping decisions. Publicis Media research also points to the fact that social discovery is on par with ads seen on TV, with 27% of people saying they discovered new brands on social platforms. Combine that with Warc reporting that more than half of marketers are increasing their Instagram investment by 2021, and all of this points to the fact that social media’s reputation as a discovery destination is set to grow even more.

Choose the correct creator... or else

Choosing the right creator, the right channel and the right technology will result in social commerce purchases large and small. No matter which creator you work with, it’s important to trust their intuition. Creators have influence because they understand their audience and create content their audiences love. So the smart thing to do is let them create the content they know their audience will love and let them run with it.

This will lead to content that works within the often unwritten rules of why people go to their favorite social platforms in the first place. Marketers will be able to sidestep some of the mistakes made in the early days of social media, where it was seen as a place to broadcast messages rather than truly connect with an audience.

The next step will be to incentivize creators monetarily via tags on their posts that lead to purchase. Why is this important? Creators won’t make paid partnership deals unless they’re confident that they appeal to the audience and drive sales. So no more beauty influencers touting their ’favorite’ banking app. Partnerships like this are developed with reach in mind, but are unlikely to drive actual sales.

This gives creators the ability and creative freedom to really be a part of the entire purchase journey – not just at the beginning with awareness, but all the way to the bottom of the funnel and back around again.

The social commerce barriers have been lowered

Behind the scenes, the technology supporting this shift is already in place on most platforms. As with any new payment method, our research found that consumers have been hesitant to share their credit card information directly with social platforms, and trust was the number one barrier to initial social commerce take-up for some. But new partnerships are changing the current structure. Facebook and Instagram recently announced a partnership with Shopify called ShopPay, which allows fast and secure payments without requiring users to share their financial information.

While it might still seem like a slightly shocking sentiment, people will buy cars on social media in the next five years. Automakers are already changing the shopping game; take a look at players such as Goodyear, with its ’Roll’ concept targeting millennial women, or General Motors, which is transforming the car buying experience through its ’Shop, Click, Drive’ platform, which allows customers to select their vehicle, create the deal and schedule delivery all online. Buying a car on social really isn’t that far behind.

The momentum behind social commerce has surpassed the initial hurdle of behavior change and is almost second nature. From Apple Pay to Amazon, there were once those who doubted making digital purchases, but those same people are now the ones who rely heavily on this ’can’t live without’ element of our daily lives.

Allie Wassum is vice-president and group director of social strategy at Digitas.

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