Carmel Zein of e-commerce marketing platform Yotpo wonders whether shift away from Facebook and Instagram presents a rare opportunity for brands to capture disengaged, bored audiences with more stimulating, valuable content.
Social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram were key drivers of the e-commerce revolution that has shaped the way consumers shop and interact with brands over the last decade. Business pages, click-thru carousels and Facebook ad funnels were serving as the bread and butter for marketing ads and sales strategies, and pioneered the idea of hyper-targeting for online retailers. But more than a decade later, can retailers still depend on these platforms to support their online sales?
The social media giants hadn’t given retailers a reason to question their reliability and consistency. Until a few weeks ago.
The recent Facebook outage, which saw 3.5 billion users shut out from accessing its social media services, was a game changer for online retailers. And if that wasn’t enough to discourage retailers, recently unprecedented slumps in user figures were reported in Australia, indicating young people are ditching the platform.
Facebook’s second outage in less than two months serves as a warning that retailers simply cannot afford to rely solely on social media platforms as their key marketing and sales channel anymore. While outages and dwindling numbers on Instagram are a source of mistrust for retailers and their customers, they also present a unique opportunity for brands to get creative in taking control of their communications channels and tap into disengaged and sceptical audiences.
Time to invest in owned channels
With more shoppers embracing e-commerce and more competition coming online by the day, brands simply can’t afford to lose their hard-fought momentum. Now is the time to invest in owned channels that brands have control over, as opposed to effectively renting real estate from noisy social channels governed by algorithm-wielding landlords.
Owned channels refer to mediums such as your website, email lists or SMS subscribers – channels that have been getting less attention since the rise of social media. SMS in particular generally has a lower cost of acquisition than Facebook ads and presents fewer barriers to entry than other channels, with a whopping 98% open rate. SMS is trustworthy and can deliver actionable and targeted messaging, creating a great way to connect with your customers one-on-one.
Is this the end of social media?
It would be naive to think socials are going anywhere, but this could be a chance to future-proof and diversify the marketing platform of brands and make sure they’re sending the right messages across the right platforms. Social media will no doubt remain an important communications channel, particularly for the younger generations, but where we see the real opportunity for Facebook, Instagram and TikTok is through user-generated content (UGC) that shows real-life experiences and speaks directly to customers who are the heart of the brand.
When it comes to retail, gen Z consumers have expectations about value, choice and quality. They want convenience, and technology is only deemed valuable to them if it enhances their shopping experience or delivers content that speaks directly to them. It’s a hard truth, but to keep young Aussies (who are bombarded with content) engaged, brands need to shift their focus and rely less on casting far and wide to reach customers and pay attention to conversions and repeat buyers.
Disenfranchised Instagram users have told the press they want personalized, authentic experiences that are tailored to them. The best way to achieve this is through leveraging reviews and UGC on socials to truly understand the consumer and what they need, work on building a community, then filter them through owned communications channels to create loyalty and customer lifetime value.
Tackling the belief that email and SMS are spammy
Personalization is key here. Every online business now has an email marketing professional, and as per predictions, SMS strategists will also become a desired asset to brands. Consumers already prefer SMS for important information. Recent data shows 53% of global shoppers would sign up for SMS because they want to know immediately about promotions, offers and updates, and 49% say early access to sales or new releases is a primary motivator for opting in.
Research shows that for consumers opting in to brand communications, almost 50% of respondents would opt for SMS, or both SMS and email messaging. And customers are over 200% more likely to respond to SMS messages than on any other marketing channel.
Yet less than half of brands are using SMS to engage their audiences. As we approach Black Friday, is now the time to start?
Changing providers and implementing new technology so close to sales periods is no doubt daunting.
It’s important to understand how it ties into the overall strategy. Equally important is making sure that there is something good to say. Consumers are used to ignoring the sea of self-serving promotional posts on social, but they won’t be so forgiving if brands blow up their phones or spam their inboxes. If they’re going to leverage an owned channel, it would be important to understand who they are communicating with and tailoring the experience to them with something useful to say, in a tone that reflects the overall essence and persona of your business.
The next era of engagement will feel different for brands. Change can feel uncomfortable, and maybe awkward, but it isn’t necessarily bad.
If you’ve got an overly dependent relationship with a needy social media platform, breaking up but staying friends could be the opportunity you need to take control of your voice, invest in your own data and start exploring new kinds of relationships with your customers.
Carmel Zein is senior marketing manager, APAC, at e-commerce marketing platform Yotpo.