Over the last few months more social media platforms have jumped on the commerce bandwagon, leaving brands wondering how and when to try monetizing their audience so directly.  This year Instagram opened APIs to link to shopping sites directly from an image and Pinterest joined in with buyable pins, Facebook has had commerce capabilities for quite some time [Update Oct 2015: Facebook announces new shoppable ads within the feed] and tweet-to-buy on Amazon emerged last year. I am certain there are more to follow.

To date, there is an eerie silence when it comes to success stories for direct purchasing on social. Nordstrom’s and Macy’s are testing as are smaller brands using some of the SMB-commerce platforms – but they haven’t shared any stats (yet). That said, many valuable trends take time to gain adoption (and others fail) and it’s worth experimenting a bit now so that if and when these capabilities become a consumer preference, your brand is ready.

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Three Reasons to Test Buy on Social

  1. Attract NEW Buyers

You’ve already got a database full of names and emails of your existing customers, but there is a big world of unknown prospects out there. Social is one of the best ways to reach them before they have brand preference.

For example, I don’t shop at Title9 today, but I do shop at Athleta. If I think of buying a sporty dress, I go to Athleta. But if a friend’s social post came through a feed with a cute sporty dress for sale on it … and it happened to be Title9, I might just buy it. That just gave Title9 not only a sale, but access to me, my email address and the potential for a long term relationship. And if Title9 was smart about targeting lookalikes that are high lifetime value customers, then they may have just nabbed a very profitable customer. (If you aren’t planning campaigns around LTV yet, now is a good time to learn how to Connect LTV and Operational Metrics to Measure Digital Commerce Marketing Effectiveness.)

  1. Capitalize on Trends

Sometimes when breaking news hits, it’s hard to get your home page updated or your merchandising ‘order’ changed. So what happens next time a blue-black/white-gold dress phenomenon or the First Lady’s great new style is featured and you have the perfect product to meet consumer demand? Buy on social may be the optimal way to get your unique offer in front of an engaged audience on a trending topic.

  1. Reduce Friction

Let’s face it, most consumers are a bit lazy and easily distracted. We love seeing new styles, products or gadgets in use and then we want to get them for ourselves. As soon as we go off into the vortex of online search, it’s as likely that we’ll end up watching cat videos as buying the product we just thought was cool or useful. Creating shoppable social experiences with ‘buy now’ built in takes the friction out – with less steps from immersive, engaged experiences that spark our curiosity to laying down cold hard cash for your product.

Test, But Proceed with Caution

What’s so great about testing is that you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. You’ll set up processes and best practices so that you can scale when ready. But you’ll also want to engage the right team members in the run up to those tests. Work with merchandising and customer support to figure out which products might work best on social. You don’t want to promote things that have high consideration, lots of FAQs or high return rates – that could just create problems further down the customers’ journey. Be smart about testing one channel at a time, ideally starting with your largest, most engaged audience so you can most quickly start to see results and make improvements.

As with any new marketing tactic, it’s up to you to determine if it’s appropriate for your brand and audience. Testing now can give you the insights you need to smartly work buy on social into your strategy or decide, with data in hand, not to proceed.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with buy on social – why are you testing it today or why haven’t you gotten started?

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