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Social commerce: issues and challenges for brands in 2022

We interviewed Adrien Dufrene, director of retail, e-commerce, travel and cosmetics sales at Netino By Webhelp, an agency specialized in the “social user experience” and expert in content moderation on social networks and the web. He explains to us why social commerce is booming but also what are the consumers’ expectations and the consequences for brands.

What does the term “social commerce” mean in concrete terms?

In my opinion, social commerce is the extension of the one-to-one sales experience (the one in the real world with a salesperson and a customer) applied to the digital world. Unlike traditional commerce, the experience is enriched through the opinions of other consumers but also through access to discussions around the actual use of the product or service. The multiple possibilities of acquiring the same product from different retailers also creates a greater competitiveness around the offer. This is a great advance for the consumer!

How to explain the emergence and success of social commerce? What are the expectations of consumers on social networks?

It is a logical continuation of the evolution of the web service offer. Can you imagine a product that is not available for purchase online?

We have even seen this phenomenon in traditional retail for a few years now. Consumers who are in a physical store are going to check reviews on the web, and are comparing in-store prices with online prices via their phone. This forces traditional networks to align their physical offers with the digital one or to propose an additional service to justify the price gap.

Consumers on social media (in the broadest sense of the term, i.e. social networks, online communities, the participative web, etc.) expect greater transparency on the real capabilities of the product or on its selling price, with price comparisons in particular. It is this phenomenon that has contributed to “kill” traditional sales. A site like Dealabs is a perfect example.

The competition is sometimes so strong on certain product ranges, that a simple lack of information in a product sheet can lead the consumer (nomadic by nature) to go and buy from another e-retailer who will have better completed the information or who will have put forward opinions or questions from consumers.

In short, consumers are more demanding because there is more choice, they want to pay the right price, and they now have the weapons to compare. This was not the case 15 years ago, when a buyer was looking for a product in a store, he was limited by the offer of the retailer and the competence of the salesman he had in front of him. The immediate availability of the product is therefore also mandatory.

We also note the possibility for brands to complete the traditional offer of retailers with D2C (Direct to Consumer) which is another real evolution of the market. The brands of the L’Oréal group or Adidas are perfect examples, especially with the implementation of direct sales to consumers via Instagram or dedicated sites.

How are the major social platforms evolving in this regard? What features are being implemented to drive sales?

Social platforms have had to adapt to new market demands. As such, the lock-in period has accelerated the change by pushing a whole fringe of the population not initiated to this type of behavior to find an operation that must be intuitive.

We notice in particular that there are certain items that “boost” sales such as positive feedback from consumers available online, reviews, or photos/videos of these products in situation.

Platforms must offer a communication space accessible before the act of purchase to a public that is looking for feedback, but also communication spaces with the brand.

For brands, this is a challenge to position themselves between encouraging their community of influencers to communicate in a positive way and (sometimes risky) statements with modern codes.

Publishers of listening and engagement software offer real possibilities for brands that are coming to maturity on these subjects. Netino By Webhelp, for example, offers its expertise in social listening to help brands listen to their customers and better manage their e-reputation.

Are brands fully exploiting the levers of social commerce or is there still a lack of maturity in this field?

Everyone is playing with their own weapons, some players have a real desire to adapt to these new communication codes, because their core target is already very digitalized, while others are taking it more slowly.

For some, we can see that they are getting to grips with the new functionalities, both before and after purchase. Purchases (in 3 clicks) mainly via Instagram or Facebook, which is a major innovation and encourages impulse buying, as one would have done in front of a well laid out corner on an unplanned purchase. The fact of looking, answering and taking care of its opinions is also an important challenge for a brand because now everything is public.

We often hear that “retail is dead”, I think on the contrary that it is living a new golden age but in a digital way, and that we are witnessing a transformation of the buying act that mixes physical and digital. This reshuffles the cards and benefits the players (brands or retailers) who have the most innovative marketing services and are willing to take risks.

We must not forget that sometimes the infrastructure to be deployed is heavy and that some start from far away. The reluctance of some management committees to grasp these new sales methods, and more generally the digitalization of processes, plays a large part in the delay of some players. The catching up process starts from the top management for the brands, it is a political and strategic will, and most of the brands that have recruited very “digital” profiles for key positions do not regret it.

Has live shopping become a real trend?

The codes that we are starting to adopt in the western world are already very common in Asia, but we notice that the se

Live shopping sessions are already meeting their audience here. Once again, try (and possibly fail), and surround yourself with specialists if necessary. Note that Carrefour and the Seb Group have succeeded brilliantly in this exercise.

Social commerce: a winning strategy to seduce Gen Z?

It’s tempting to think that this only concerns Gen-Z, in fact they already have the codes so it’s obvious for them. But they are not yet the generation with the strongest purchasing power, so a sales strategy for “multigenerational” products must take this into account.

The objective is to be much broader and to offer an intuitive experience for the other generations, respecting their codes and needs while making sure that everyone finds their bearings.

In your opinion, what are the best practices to adopt to develop your business on social networks?

Among the best practices to adopt :

  • To take care of its image,
  • Offer recognition to your community of followers,
  • Take into account the opinions or comments that come back publicly from your audience,
  • Do not hesitate to try to innovate.

In addition, here are some basics that are important to remember:

  • Listen to your community of customers and followers, and try to communicate according to their expectations,
  • Respond to your customers and when a comment is negative, show that you take it into consideration,
  • Do the maximum to create contact before the act of purchase and highlight successful experiences with its products,
  • Use the codes of the new networks to speak as a brand, and opt for a maximum of personalization to answer your audience,
  • Consult specialists to save time.

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