This article is written by Mimrah Mahmood, APAC Enterprise Director of Meltwater.
The arena of social commerce is an untapped market and brands must seize that opportunity as quickly as possible. Speaking at the CMO Innovation Summit last week, my presentation covered the important points of planting the seeds of brand advocacy into the social fabric around the world where it would power the business of social commerce.
E-commerce is integral to many businesses out there, especially to the small and medium enterprises that use its ecosystem to promote their products, and it will continue to serve that purpose of providing a global platform for brands to launch and market their products on a stable and expansive commercial network.
On the other hand, social commerce is the new commercial landscape for brands. Comments, recommendations, feedback and ultimately – brand advocacy – come organically within the ecosystem of a social network which becomes a lead to consumer spending. However, the landscape needs a massive infrastructure and social buy-in from the consumers first. This though should not be a hurdle for established brands to venture into. The good news is smaller brands can grow within the social commerce ecosystem.
The Chinese Social Commerce Movement
In my opinion, the social commerce movement is very much part of everyday life in China. Currently, it is arguably the only country in the world where the integration between social networks and e-commerce has been so ingrained and widely accepted as a social norm. To be a social norm, there must be a sense of trustworthiness between users within the ecosystem, such that peer-generated content plays a salient role in purchase intent.
A great example of social commerce inq China is the advent of the Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) and Pinduoduo. The platform harvests user-generated content such as product feedback and consumer advice to push forward sales of products within its ecosystem. This content cycle is important to brands as the interaction between consumers within the platform are the drivers of their sales.
Users read notes of other users, they share their opinions to the benefit of others, communicate their experiences with the products and services and they also publish their reviews which are accessible to anyone in the community. All of these complete the cycle of events with the purchase of their products.
This social commerce movement also creates a spin-off effect where little subcultures or niche markets are housed within the communities and platforms. Analytical insights can be gathered from this user-generated content and the platform developers can build frameworks for digital marketers and sales leads can make better decisions based on the consumer base they are focusing on.
The New ‘E-state’ of Facebook
Outside of China, the world’s biggest social platform Facebook is making a move into the social commerce arena. It recently published a White Paper on introducing its own currency called Libra. A form of cryptocurrency or digital currency (a great, digestible analysis by The Verge’s Elizabeth Lopatto) looks to incorporate the world of social commerce to the next level where everyday life, virtual human connections and commercial brands become one community governed by Facebook.
If this is pulled off by Mark Zuckerberg and his collaborators such as Uber and MasterCard it could possibly be a greater feat than Little Red Book as it crosses international boundaries and legislations and competes directly with the financial and banking industry. Imagine a world of social commerce in a global community of almost 2.4 billion users and coupling it with the insights pulled from user-generated content – it is a marketing dream. And by introducing Libra, Facebook ultimately becomes the world’s first international estate or more aptly ‘e-state’.
However, there are detractors of this movement. Senators and policymakers around the world are more wary of Facebook’s plans of world domination, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal as well as its much-publicised misuse of users’ data for its own benefits. This should not put off Facebook’s foray into social commerce and something that I have said before and suggest is that the decision-makers in Facebook must work closely with governments and policymakers to make social commerce safer for everyone and not an obstacle to technological development.
Remapping the Consumer Journey in Social Commerce
With organic interactions driving consumer decisions within the social commerce ecosystem, the consumer’s journey has changed from a linear one – researching, finding and purchasing a product – to one that is more “fluid”. What does this mean for marketers? The emphasis is now placed in the dynamic interactions found within the social platform. Marketers must align their focus on those social actions between the consumers and that is where the user-generated content becomes useful in developing new campaigns.
This sociability between the buyers redefines their journey and marketers must tap into this new form of “word-of-mouth”. When there is a bond built between consumers, there is no greater form of brand advocacy. This is where marketers can jump into the mix and generate success for their brands. By implementing a strategy early within the social commerce context, it will bring about positive advocacy for the brands.