The Rise in Social Commerce; A Focus on the South African Market

Few can deny the boom we’ve seen in ecommerce and digital spending over the past two years – significant global growth that shows absolutely no signs of slowing. 2020 alone saw a 66% increase in total online retail sales (mainly due to the pandemic), and this has only grown fourfold in the last 12 months – leading to a significant rise in alternate methods of ecomm, such as Social Commerce.

Maxine Hartzenburg & Emma Huson

With approximately 38.2 million people in South Africa engaging in online activity (specifically social media) we’re beginning to see a shift in user behaviour as consumers get more comfortable purchasing directly via social platforms, as opposed to ecommerce sites or physical stores. Amongst many, Facebook is certainly the favourite, driving the most commerce activity in South Africa across all social channels. Instagram isn’t far behind and once TikTok ZA launches it’s ecommerce feature, we’ll likely see a colossal increase in traffic and spend due to its 9 million+ followers. 

With platforms such as TikTok testing the social commerce waters, there is no doubt we’ll begin to see more investments in ecommerce capabilities in the coming years. Especially considering the significant widening of the online demographic as a result of Covid-19. 

Social Commerce v Ecommerce

Fifteen years ago, social media barely existed past Facebook and Twitter, yet come 2022 it is almost an extension of our day to day existence. Social media and digital has become integral to normality – be it entertainment, news updates or networking, the average consumer spends approximately 3.5 hours online every day. With a significant chunk of that time being spent on social media. 

As such, we’ve seen a massive increase in social commerce and the ways in which consumers shop online. That’s not to say that eCommerce is redundant. In fact, a significant number of users prefer using eCommerce as their main method of shopping; due to its familiarity, ease and trust. Clearly online privacy and security is still top of mind when it comes to online shopping.

When it comes to social commerce versus ecommerce the key is to consider the complete customer journey – integrating the two channels to optimize, and maximize return.

Building a Social Commerce Strategy

Social platforms are adapting or having to adapt to a new way of shopping. Ecommerce functionality is fast becoming a necessity to support customer convenience and ensure growth. With social commerce here to stay, the focus needs to be on strategy and implementation.

Brands need to first consider their media investment in relation to their marketing mix. If budget allows, brands should diversify their investment across as many platforms as possible in the early stages, then, using data and analytics tools in conjunction with a strong testing strategy plan, tailor and refine their media strategy. 

Here’s some top tips to help you build a winning Social Commerce Strategy:

Leverage Brand and Performance Marketing

In order to make a stronger impact and improve incrementality, it’s important that brands formulate a full-funnel strategy. Use brand marketing to enhance credibility and establish the building blocks for building relationships with your consumers and potential customers, and performance marketing to focus return, growth and incrementality. 

Content is an integral part of building the synergy between brand and performance marketing, especially in an ever-increasing competitive market where personalization and building relationships with your consumers is crucial. Thus, tailored messaging and the right content-mix for each stage of the funnel is key. 

Optimizing for Mobile

The highest volume of social activity takes place via mobile devices, meaning most purchasing decisions are also made on a mobile phone. As such, it’s hugely important to keep mobile user experience top of mind when building your social commerce strategy. Avoid long paragraphs of text, keep your designs simple, use responsive themes and mobile-friendly menus. A mobile-first approach will really take your social commerce strategy to the next level.

Customer Care and Seamless Checkout

Tied into building trust with your consumers and building retention is great customer care. There are a host of tools to consider when creating a sound customer care solution, such as chatbots and help centres. For example, Messenger by Meta allows you to connect and build relationships with your customers in three powerful ways; leveraging structured flows or automated responses to provide immediate answers to your customers’ most common questions, live agent support and seamless transitions between automated messaging and live agent support. Naturally, your customer care solution will vary depending on the size of your business.

It’s also important to provide consumers with a great shopping experience – making products easily discoverable and shoppable, and providing a hassle free checkout process will encourage your consumers to repurchase.

Measurement, Analytics and Testing:

To gain a better understanding of not only your social commerce efforts, but your channel marketing mix as a whole, a well-constructed measurement plan is of paramount importance to achieving your business goals. 

Understanding the consumers’ path to purchase is vital, and a well-designed measurement plan will allow for easier data collection, segmentation and analysis to refine your strategy for continued growth and long-term success. 

Tied into this is ensuring you have built out a well thought out test and learn plan – testing is one of the most effective ways to make better data-driven decisions. Don’t be afraid to play around with your content, run AB tests, and use historical data (if you have any) to give you a clear view of your performance, and where you might have gaps in your strategy.

With the prevalence of social commerce here to stay – there’s no better time to leverage your ecommerce strategy and drive real growth for your business. There are many exciting social commerce tools being rolled out that we strongly suggest brands should start getting familiar with, such as TikTok Shopping, IG Checkout and more recently, augmented reality shopping with Pinterest

Want to learn more? Access the recording for our most recent event ‘Successful Strategies for a New Era of Ecommerce’ where we took a deep dive into the ecommerce landscape, identifying what global shoppers really want from online merchants, how brands can build a winning ecommerce strategy, and how to make the most of Incubeta’s extensive digital commerce offering

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