Social commerce is a solution that provides higher levels of trust and accountability for today’s e-commerce shoppers. It’s been popular in China for years, with high proportions of e-commerce shoppers in China tuning in to interactive live shopping experiences.
However, the market in the US is also catching on to this trend. According to McKinsey reports, 79.6% of all e-commerce retail sales in the United States will result from social commerce sales by 2025.
So what exactly is social commerce—or social selling—and how will it affect customer service?
In this article, we will take a deep dive into just what social commerce is, including current market trends and predictions.
Then, we will explore the challenges and benefits of social commerce for customer service, providing a thorough understanding of the impact social commerce will have on customer service across industries.
What is Social Commerce?
Social commerce refers to an e-commerce shopping process in which the entire customer journey, from discovering the brand and browsing the products to buying and receiving support after the purchase.
While social media has long been used for promotion and marketing, social commerce requires something more.
For example, today’s tools serve multiple functions for a brand: engaging Instagram reels are no longer just a good promotional tool; they are also a direct funnel straight into your in-platform shop, where customers can browse and buy without leaving Instagram.
The same applies to social commerce shops on TikTok, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Snapchat, where brands advertise and display their products and services. Brands are expected to be available for round-the-clock in-app customer support across all their social media digital shopfronts.
Examples of Social Commerce
While social commerce is technically e-commerce through social media, it’s comprised of particular tactics and use cases, depending on your platform. This includes:
- Facebook Marketplace: Allows users to buy and sell items on the platform. Businesses can also advertise products here.
- Instagram Shoppable Posts: Businesses tag products in their images or stories, which lets users click directly on the product and purchase it without leaving the app.
- Pinterest Buyable Pins: These are regular Pins with a “Buy” button that lets users purchase items without leaving Pinterest.
- Twitter Buy Button: A now-defunct feature, it allowed users to make in-tweet purchases. Although it didn’t catch on, it was an early attempt at social commerce.
- TikTok Shopping Tab: A feature that lets brands showcase their products for direct in-app purchases.
- WeChat Mini Programs: In China, WeChat’s built-in e-commerce capabilities are extensive, including storefronts, payments, and advertising options.
- Snapchat Dynamic Ads: Allows businesses to run shoppable ads tailored to user behavior, with direct links to purchase.
Benefits of Social Commerce for Customer Service
Although seemingly complex at first, social commerce is straightforward to execute and provides plenty of benefits, such as:
Today’s customers prefer personalized interactions that allow them to feel seen and heard and affirm that their retail needs are being met.
One of the main benefits of social commerce is that it provides brands with an easy, accessible way to provide intimate, one-on-one customer support for individual customers.
Private conversations across social media apps are the closest retailers can get to providing the comfort and familiarity of an in-store shopping experience, where customers can directly engage with a staff member.
Social commerce offers an avenue for continuous connection with customers, which can also promote customer loyalty and ongoing engagement.
Real-time conversations and intimate engagement are the hallmarks of social commerce and can create trust and authentic connections between customers and retailers.
According to research, social commerce can reduce seller uncertainty by encouraging customers to reach out, directly addressing customer feedback, answering customer concerns, and providing immediate care.
No matter how advanced your AI chatbot is or how many FAQs you have on your website, those are still extra steps your customers must take.
With social commerce, you’re benefiting from everyone having Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok. This lets you widen your target audience and retain them through an accessible UX on all channels.
Challenges of Social Commerce for Customer Service
Social commerce offers plenty of benefits for retailers, but it comes with certain obstacles every business must overcome:
A Necessity for Everyone
While it might seem natural for some online retailers to complete transactions using social media platforms, the desire for social commerce affects every industry. So it’s not just clothing brands and pet food suppliers offering in-app shopfronts.
Even the more unlikely professions, such as home services, aren’t impervious to the effects of social commerce. Thankfully, there are solutions for pretty much everything. Take roofing software as an example. Before, a roofing professional could just answer direct appointment requests and messages. To fulfill the expectations of the social commerce retail landscape, roofing pros have a dashboard for social media integration, scheduled posting, and overall more efficient channel management.
This allows for easier order fulfillment and better interaction with customers who purchase through social media. The same goes for healthcare providers, construction companies, financial advisors, lawyers, and tax consultants.
The shift towards social commerce requires a significant adjustment in the approach to marketing and order fulfillment for some of these non-traditional online companies.
Expectations from customers are a challenge as audiences increase in size. The larger the audience, the higher the expectations become, as customers have easy access to social media platforms 24/7. Brands will need to find strategic ways to satisfy these expectations.
Automated chatbot systems equipped with AI can prove extremely useful since they can address fundamental problems and provide a friendly response.
Social commerce also presents a more fragmented customer journey, making it challenging to track customers’ needs and experiences. With a unified website, there are various metrics that businesses can track and get reports on, allowing them to track customer behavior, feedback, requests for support, and optimize business operations.
When customers interact with the brand on several social media channels, that tracking capability spreads across many other platforms. This can only affect livestream viewership if you funnel customers to the proper channels at the right time.
Social commerce presents a potential opportunity for retailers across all industries to provide superior customer service. Immediate responses, friendly interactions, and broad availability will lead to positive reviews, likes, shares, and loyal customers for your brand.
While there are challenges that companies and industries face, such as fragmented customer journeys and the tendency to come off as spammy to customers, applying social commerce principles is a no-brainer.
Given that social commerce is on the rise and showing no signs of slowing down, businesses in every sector should adjust their customer service and online retail to meet these new requirements and take advantage of these new opportunities to connect with customers.
About the author:
Magnus Eriksen is a copywriter and eCommerce SEO specialist with a Marketing and Brand Management degree. Before he became a copywriter, he worked as a content writer for digital marketing companies like Synlighet AS and Omega Media, where he learned how to do both on-page and technical SEO.