This post is an installment of our partnership series where we invite our esteemed partners to write about trending topics and industry news that impacts our mutual clients.

Years ago, social commerce was nothing more than a thought. Very few people considered it a manageable and feasible business proposal, no matter the size of their company. However, within the last few years and in more recent months, there has been a steady roadmap forming that allows businesses to target new audiences and get them to purchase products directly on social platforms.

Social commerce allows targeted users and brand loyalists the opportunity to engage and purchase products and services within their social ecosystems. Originating with Facebook, this idea has expanded beyond that sole platform to include Instagram and others. Engaging users in this environment enables the full checkout and completion process without diversion of attention due to other posts, ads, or comments.

Here’s why social commerce is emerging as a force within the retail space:

     1. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram
Facebook took the reins of social commerce with the $1 billion acquisition of Instagram in 2012. This gave Facebook a smaller platform of only 30 million users to test, adapt, and formulate new technology to push the edges of eCommerce into social commerce.

     2. The rise of influencers and dominance of micro-influencers
As Instagram’s user base started growing, influencers took hold as a viable option for big brands to build and promote their products. This was the first time we began to see organic posts by large influencers with the #ad or #sponsoredpost. Then, in a recent bold move, Instagram and Facebook opted to refocus organic and paid content to influencers with less than 100,000 followers due to their level of engagement. With this change, big brands scrambled to capture as many micro-influencers as possible. Brands should be focused on finding authentic influencers who can tell their unique brand story and reach their target market directly.

     3. Cross-platform social advertising
Advertising is always a major factor in sales, and with the ability to boost individual posts on Instagram or build full campaign launches in Facebook’s Ads Manager, an entirely new world of commerce was opened. Enter social commerce: social-based ad spend with integrated product-focused content that spanned not just paid content, but organic content as well. Knowing which social platform to use for advertisements is key – including focusing on B2B versus B2C channels.

     4. Shoppable Instagram
In yet another bold move, Instagram rolled out their one-click shopping feature. First limited to brands with a massive following or a significant amount of paid advertising, it then slowly rolled out to all of Instagram’s major business accounts. Now, with a specific product feed integration on Facebook, most platforms can produce shoppable Instagram content. In the same vein, shoppable Instagram content is achieved in several other ways, including through a link in your Instagram bio.

     5. Social UGC website integration
As companies became aware of the power that social media wielded, there was a prompt response to build integrated platform content that existed on both web and mobile spaces. Influencers, loyal fans, and casual users have their user-generated content cross-promoted on their own social pages as well as their website homepage and product pages. Curating this content and featuring it on a website is not an easy undertaking, but it provides a deeper level of connection with a brand’s user base.

     6. Payments, booking schedules, and more
Most recently, Instagram has rolled out (in Beta) a payment and booking portal so that fans can fully pay for products from start to finish without leaving their app platform. With this level of commitment by social platforms like Instagram, there is no doubt that social commerce is here and not going anywhere anytime soon. Keeping an eye out for updates like this is required to ensure your brand strategy is up to date and always evolving.

Social commerce is an ever-changing landscape that will reward those who anticipate future technological advancements and will continue to engage those who are brand loyalists. In the next few years, there will be a focus on user-generated content, augmented reality, and social ecosystems blending digital and traditional experiences. Staying up to date on the current changes in technology is important, but anticipating the future is even more of a necessity.

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