Over the years, social media has grown to become an essential part of the online experience for millions and even billions of people around the world. From staying in touch with friends and family, to finding new brands, and following your favorite influencers and creators. It has also become essential for brands, offering them not only a channel to engage with their customers, but to find new ones and bring them over to their online store.
Social media and ecommerce go hand in hand for many people. And that intertwined relationship means it’s likely that what they experience on social media will influence their experience with a brand even when they’re off-platform.
Let’s discuss that relationship, and see how social media might be impacting your customer experience.
The rise of social media and commerce
Social media has been an important part of how we engage with the internet for decades. From old school forum boards to MySpace, Facebook, TikTok and beyond, it has become a staple way for people to connect online. In recent years, this has grown to include how we create and consume content, and the role that plays in ecommerce.
The relationship between social media and ecommerce started with brands having a presence on social media, using these platforms as a way to share brand news and engage with their audiences. Eventually this extended into advertising, and soon platforms recognized the value of online shopping. They started developing tools that would enable audiences to have a more complete experience on their platform involving shopping.
Facebook now has its customer-to-customer Marketplace as well as the ability to add products to brand pages. Instagram has virtual storefront tools making it easier to shop on-platform. And of course over on TikTok, they have the TikTok Shop feature where anyone can link to products for brands to sell them. Equally, we now have tools where brands can make it easier to shop from social media such as shoppable feed apps. All of these social commerce tools bring together two of the most popular activities online - shopping and social media. It blurs the boundaries between the two, and makes the experience easier for social media platforms, brands, and users/customers alike.
It makes sense why social media and social commerce has grown. People use social media these days to find new brands, they see people using products and want to know where to get them. That inevitably leads to ecommerce. By providing a smoother connection between seeing something on social media, and being able to buy it, it creates a better experience and keeps both users and brands on platforms.
How social media can influence the customer experience
Customers these days don’t really see a separation between social media and ecommerce. To them, it’s all part of the same experience. That means what happens on social media inevitably influences their purchasing decisions even when they leave whatever platform they’re on. One basic example would be seeing an ad on Instagram, then clicking through only to find the product is out of stock - this will impact their experience with your brand. Another example would be finding your brand, then seeing a video from a creator they like on TikTok giving a positive review of your brand. This may influence them to make a purchase - 72% of those who took an off-platform action did so after seeing reviews from creators they trust on TikTok. Therefore, what they experience on social media can directly influence their experience with your brand.
According to one survey, 66% of consumers have been inspired to make a purchase from a new brand after seeing social media content from fellow consumers. In another survey, half of those aged 16-24 say they use social media to research new brands and potential purchases. This goes beyond classic social proof like reviews - the influence that fellow users and creators have on ecommerce can have a huge impact.
It’s also worth considering how social media impacts customer support. 40% of consumers expect brands to be able to solve their issues via social media, and 67% have used platforms like Facebook or Twitter to contact brands. Therefore it isn’t just about how you engage with comments and other interactions, your social media channels are an extension of your support channels.
In short, the primary ways that social media can shape your customer experience is through the expectation of omnichannel, customer support, and the content they engage with influencing their purchasing decisions.
The importance of omnichannel experiences
An omnichannel experience is one where all the different channels and touchpoints seamlessly integrate with and flow into each other to feel like one complete experience. This is opposed to multichannel marketing where each channel is treated as its own self-contained experience. For example, an omnichannel experience may be the following:
- A customer sees a brand on TikTok in a review
- They use Google to do a little more research
- After some research, they see an ad for the brand on Instagram
- That ad leads them to the brand website
- They place an order, and receive emails about that order
- After placing their order, they have a question about it and reach out via Facebook
There are already six different channels involved, but it’s just one experience. The customer doesn’t see each of these six channels as their own individual experience, they see it as all part of the same brand interaction.
As the brand you can’t control social media channels in the same way you do your website or email marketing. However it’s still valuable to do as much as you can to make those interactions with social media feel like they’re a positive part of your brand experience.
So what might that involve?
Decide if each social media platform will be available as a support channel. If not, use those channels to redirect customers to the correct channels. Where you do use social media as support, ensure these feed into a customer support platform so any interactions customers have with your brand are considered in any future interactions.
- Engage with influencers on short-form video platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels. These platforms are growing in influence when it comes to brands and products, and have also seen the reemergence of the micro-influencer. It can be as simple as engaging with content creators, or as complex as having a full influencer strategy.
Make it easy for users to become customers. Provide a streamlined way to browse your products, which may involve using the tools available through each platform for example TikTok Shop or Instagram storefronts. This gives users a simple way to see some of your products and then make a purchase.
- Use your store data to really tailor your advertising strategy. Ads which are relevant will have a better chance of converting than generic. You have a lot of data about potential customers, so using it can keep things hyper personalized.
One of the best ways to improve the customer experience is to meet them on the channels they’re already engaging with. By using the tools available to you on different platforms, you can not only engage your customers but enhance the experience they have with your brand across channels.
When you spend so much time and effort on your social media presence and your on-site customer experience, it makes sense to find ways to combine the two. The inter-flowing relationship between social media and ecommerce is one which continues to evolve as new platforms and new ways of buying and selling emerge. Understanding how channels interact with each other will give your customers a smoother experience that stands above your competitors.