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What Is Social Commerce? A Guide for DTC Brands

Social media has evolved from a way to connect with friends into an integral part of people’s lives, including how and where they shop.

Social commerce integrates shopping directly into the social experience, meeting modern consumers where they already are. For DTC brands, getting in on social commerce now means building momentum for the future.

Let’s explore what social commerce means for consumers and brands, which platforms to consider, and key strategies to drive sales in 2024.

What Is Social Commerce?

Social commerce is the integration of e-commerce and social media channels. While retailers have relied on social networks as a valuable promotion channel for years, there is growing demand for seamless and instant shopping experiences via social channels.

As the world of online shopping becomes increasingly headless, DTCs are empowered to bring the brand experience straight to the consumer, no matter where in the digital world they are.
Let’s explore some of the key reasons brands are actively investing in social commerce and explore some of the top social shopping strategies for 2024 and beyond.

Social Commerce vs. E-commerce

Social commerce reflects a fundamental shift in the buyer’s journey compared to traditional e-commerce marketplaces like Walmart and Amazon.

At its core, the difference is about the consumer’s intention. Users visit an e-commerce site with one intention: to buy. On the other hand, social media users are there for a variety of reasons — to connect, be entertained, and shop.

At a more granular level, this dynamic leads to differences in:

  • Discovery: Happens via referrals and in communities rather than search
  • Buying decisions: Recommendations and influencers shape decisions more than ads and product descriptions
  • Content formats: Video demos, shoppable posts, digital collections vs. straightforward product images
  • Customer data: Social commerce paints a multidimensional picture of customers
  • Checkout: Shopping natively may lower the barriers to checkout with fewer steps to purchase products

While classic e-commerce remains vital, social commerce is an ecosystem intertwined with modern consumer habits and technology. Most DTC brands will continue to find a place for both in their future selling strategies.

Why Growing DTCs Are Prioritizing Social Commerce

In the US, social buyers increased from almost 97 million in 2021 to an estimated 118 million by 2027.

The appeal is no mystery, especially for DTC brands. Social commerce is all about meeting consumers where they already spend time. Today, buyers feel “at home” on social media. It’s where they go to consume content from influencers and other communities they know and trust.

For brands, it’s the perfect environment to provide a convenient purchase opportunity.

From quizzes to help shoppers find the perfect lipstick shade to collaborative influencer livestreams, social commerce trends are always evolving to engage shoppers in a way that feels fun.

The Benefits of Social Commerce

With plenty of benefits for both shoppers and brands, social commerce is only going to grow.

Here are some of the top benefits for modern consumers, and the brands that sell directly to them.

What’s In It For Shoppers?

For many shoppers, the appeal of social commerce is obvious. Which do you find more trustworthy — an ad or a recommendation from a friend?

  • Trustworthiness: Research from Matter Communications revealed that 69% of consumers trust recommendations from friends, family, and influencers more than information coming directly from a brand. Discovery and recommendations from people and personalities on social media channels generate quality leads that ad budgets just can’t buy.
  • Convenience: Once leads start your curated customer journey, they appreciate the convenience of payment and shipping integrated into the social platform they’re already using.
  • Personalization: Consumers also enjoy personalized product suggestions based on their activity.

Benefits for Brands

There’s a lot to love about social commerce for brands. Here are some of the top benefits for growing DTCs.

  • Conversion rates: Social commerce conversion rates can be up to ten times higher than those on a conventional e-commerce platform.
  • Expanded reach: Native shopping experiences and collaborations expand brand awareness beyond your owned channels.
  • Rich customer data: Not just from transactions. You also get insights into shopper interests, behavior, and interactions with your brand and competitors.
  • Word-of-mouth and virality: Buzz can spread easily through shares, tags, and trending content.
  • New product feedback: Shoppable content is a great, low-risk way to get fast feedback from your target audience.

The Top Social Commerce Platforms

Where should you prioritize your social commerce efforts? It all depends on your audience and goals. Remember, just because a platform worked for one brand does not mean it will work for another. Here are some of the top platforms to consider.

TikTok Shopping

TikTok may still be the new kid on the social media block, but it offers a wide range of monetization options for creators and brands alike. From shoppable video ads to its Creator Marketplace, TikTok has something for you.

The best part about selling on TikTok is that it’s a highly creative and entertaining environment. 
The content is often quick, flashy, and offbeat. This dynamic differentiates it from the other platforms and makes it easy for brands to stand out and connect with shoppers, especially Gen Z, without feeling forced or inauthentic.

Facebook Shop

Even in 2024, we can’t talk about social without discussing Facebook. With its unrivaled active user base, it offers the broadest reach across demographics. Since Facebook has been in the monetization game a long time, it offers advanced target and retargeting to help brands focus on their best prospects.

When those prospects are ready to engage with your brand, you can funnel them right over to Messenger to provide seamless customer service without leaving the app.

Instagram Shopping

As a visual discovery platform, the Instagram experience is shoppable by design. DTC brands have the perfect opportunity to showcase beautiful photos and videos of their products, authentically championed by an expansive creator network.

Instagram’s highly-engaged community is actively looking to these creators for recommendations, setting you up for a home run.

YouTube

YouTube has many facets, one of which is a robust culture of reviews, unboxings, tutorials, and demonstrations perfect for highlighting new products. Many brands are still figuring out how to use this to their advantage as a social commerce tool.

Some of the most successful brands take a multi-faceted approach on YouTube, collaborating on influencer content and then staying top-of-mind with TrueView video ads targeting the same viewers.

Pinterest Product Pins

Interest in Pinterest is still alive and well with the right audiences. These folks use the platform as a visual search engine to get inspiration during the early stages of product discovery, and then save products for later.

To take part, brands can create shoppable pins and enable checkout directly from there.

7 Ways to Leverage Social Commerce in 2024

Ready to dive into these platforms and get started? Here are seven strategies to incorporate into your social commerce strategy this year.

1. Get Deeper Insights On Your Target Audience

You’ve likely already defined who your core customers are. But do you know exactly what motivates them? Find out through social listening and analytics. Mapping your audience’s full path to purchase across platforms helps you develop your content strategy and channel mix to meet them where they are.

2. Leverage User-Generated Content

Sourcing quality UGC is all about educating and incentivizing creators. Seek out win-win partnerships through affiliate programs or referral perks. Send partners early access kits to organically showcase new items, then incorporate that social proof into your content and community engagement strategy.

3. Go Niche With Influencer Marketing

Micro influencers often resonate more authentically for a highly-targeted audience. Collaborate with them to produce quality content focused on specific use cases. This kind of UGC with a compelling narrative can help improve your conversion rates.

4. Transform Employees Into Ambassadors

Smart DTC brands are leveraging the power of their people to champion their values and products across their personal networks. Whether it’s news of a product launch or a focused campaign, the key to successful employee ambassadorship is positive, authentic messages. Some of our favorite ideas to get the ball rolling: hashtag challenges and fun giveaways.

Proceed with caution here. Forced employee participation on personal social media accounts is not always of interest. 

5. Take an Omnichannel Approach

A consistent brand experience builds authority and trust. Meet your audience wherever they shop with a unified visual identity and a seamless backend experience across platforms. To really nail the omnichannel strategy, implement retargeting strategies where possible to encourage customers to complete buying journeys started elsewhere.

6. Use Custom Visual Storefronts

Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest all offer visual storefronts allowing shoppers to click on and shop from the images and videos they’re consuming in the apps. It’s a great way to showcase your product catalog in beautiful, clearly organized, themed galleries. Don’t forget to include clear calls to action.

7. Launch Virtual Goods For Gen Z Shoppers

Bringing the worlds of gaming and branding together, the rise of virtual goods is becoming a revolutionary trend for DTC brands looking to grab a slice of the growing Gen Z market share. Market research is crucial to discover what kinds of virtual experiences and products Gen Zers in their niche value most. Experiment with virtual offerings like digital collectibles, NFTs, and status symbols.

Double Down on Social Commerce

Social commerce should be an essential component of every DTC brand’s marketing strategy. Personalized, convenient, and interactive shopping experiences give you access to target communities, and endless ways to attract potential customers.

A thoughtful social commerce strategy, backed by creative content, strategic influencer partnerships, and a relentless focus on the consumer, will continue winning mind and market share for decades to come.

When you’re ready to make the leap into omnichannel, we can help. Browse SellersFi’s suite of e-commerce funding solutions to learn more.

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