Consumer purchasing behaviour has changed, and as a result, businesses’ strategies for providing personalised customer experiences have shifted. With changing consumer buying behaviour, in-store and online purchasing experiences are merging, and more companies are exploring social commerce, and including it as a key strategy in their commerce plans.
According to the fourth edition of Salesforce’s Connected Customers Report, 25% of shopping will occur outside of a retailer or brand’s website, app, or physical store by 2023. During the 2021 Christmas season, social media apps accounted for 4% of global mobile digital sales, while individuals browsing social media accounted for 10% of mobile traffic.
Are South African businesses and consumers prepared for social commerce and the metaverse, and is this a necessary strategy for success in 2022? In this article we speak with industry experts and ask them to share their thoughts.
1. Consumers spend their time on social media during micro-moments
Over the past 15 years, commerce has been moving toward new and disruptive digital channels with increasing speed. This all accelerated further when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Seemingly overnight, every business had to operate digitally — immediately and effectively, and digital transformation became a matter of survival.
“One of these new channels for shoppers in both a B2C and B2B world is social media because that is where shoppers are spending their time,” says Robbie Kearns, Senior Regional Vice President at Salesforce. “In addition, social media is usually the first place people go when they pick up their mobile device during the ‘micro-moments’ that they have between their own daily routines, and it’s easy to anticipate this across the social networks.”
According to Kearns, Salesforce Commerce Cloud customers reported a staggering 66% increase in visitor traffic to their digital sites shortly after COVID hit, which resulted in a 127 % increase in cart size. “This ultimately resulted in a staggering 146 percent rise in year-over-year revenue,” Kearns says.
2. Social commerce brings brands up close and personal with customers
Reagen Kok, Hoorah Digital CEO, believes that the brands that ignore the impact and influence of social commerce today do so at their peril. “It’s well understood that social media has revolutionised the way businesses connect with their customers and now social commerce elevates that interaction into a transactional one that offers both parties great value. Social commerce brings the product to the customer at the exact point where it piques their interest – see it, shop it right there! On the other hand, social commerce also provides brands with useful data on things like customer preferences and their social habits more generally,” says Kok.
Significantly, social commerce allows brands access to data such as customer’s social profiles (with their consent, of course), adding to the dataset that enables brands to craft more personalised online experiences for their audiences.
Kok explains, “It’s the manifestation of the seamless, platform-neutral shopping experience that we’ve been anticipating for years now. And it’s happening in a way that’s creative, relevant, entertaining and set to ultimately revolutionise how we shop online.”
3. A multi-channel approach is key to ecommerce success
Ross Sibbald, Commercial Director of Striata Africa, however, warns businesses that although the metaverse may be the latest and greatest shiny ‘thing’ it is crucial that businesses focus on developing a relationship and loyalty with their clients. Sibbald says that, “A multi-channel approach is still incredibly useful now and in the future.”
“It is extremely likely that an increasing number of shoppers would abandon traditional brick and mortar stores in favour of alternate channels where the experience is less obtrusive, more smooth, and ultimately more convenient for the shopper, but it is also important to not force new technologies on to customers,” says Sibbald.
Rather than that, we must establish how and where they wish to connect and communicate. “eCommerce and email are really coming into their stride and are already widely used and welcomed by shoppers, and I don’t see that going anytime soon,” Sibbald adds.
Consumers are open to new methods
As retailers crop up in the metaverse, it’s apparent that consumers are prepared to make transactions through novel methods. Retailers are witnessing the emergence of a new business model in which physical and digital realities coexist and stores remain open 24 hours a day.