Brands Killing It with Social Commerce

Brands Killing It with Social Commerce

Social media

As we’ve blogged, social commerce is gaining traction as a way to bring attention, and sales, to brands. Although social commerce is still in the early stages of real growth, businesses are already embracing its elements in increasingly interesting ways. Read on to learn about companies who are doing a great job in this arena and making the most of the opportunities social shopping affords:

Creating Community

So you’ve got a Facebook page set up for your brand? Don’t stop there: according to growcode.com, “[s]ome companies attribute as much as 50% of their sales to Facebook groups!” But it’s not just sales that drive these groups; it’s the opportunity for discussion that draws users in the first place.

Consider how Mokosh, a Polish natural cosmetics brand, positioned its Facebook group called MOKOSH Lovers. Customers join the group to ask for skincare advice; they also share their own experiences with the brand and suggest improvements. A meaningful exchange takes place between user and brand. And during an era still defined by the limitations of Covid, the group is also a way for users to connect and “belong” to a cohort of people who share their interests and tastes.

Some brands underline the value inherent in belonging by offering special perks to Facebook group members. The ZigZag Stripe, an online women’s clothing boutique, distributes special offers. Group members are introduced to new arrivals 24 hours before other shoppers, and they have access to exclusive products and live sales.

Engaging Shoppers from Afar

Chatbots can also create some interesting opportunities in the realm of customer engagement on social. Avon, for example, makes it possible for shoppers to “try on” different lipstick shades on camera, using Messenger. Thanks to the messenger chatbot, a special plugin, and camera filters, users can get a sense of whether a color suits them before ordering. Chatbots can also be used to share newsletters or distribute promo codes.

Wooing Youth Culture

Meanwhile, American Eagle Outfitters has pushed the social shopping envelope by partnering with Snapchat in an augmented reality experiment that focuses on denim. As reported in Yahoo! Finance, the clothing and accessories retailer worked with Snapchat to come up with a campaign that centers on American Eagle’s biggest category: jeans. Thanks to the AE x Snapchat 3D Shoppable Jeans Guide, Snapchat users can peruse different AE jeans styles and silhouettes. They might view different washes, learn styling tips, and even see 3D views of how a pair of jeans looks on different body types—by “twisting the world-facing camera on their mobile devices.”

The campaign, which features Chase Stokes and Madison Bailey, stars from the Netflix show “Outer Banks,” targets Gen Z. “Gen Z is clearly looking for new ways to shop,” notes Craig Brommers, American Eagle’s chief marketing officer, who notes that approximately 50 percent of Gen Zers use Snapchat every day. “And wherever Gen Z wants to shop is where you need to go, because if you aren’t innovative, you’ll be left behind.” To that end, shoppers can make American Eagle purchases directly through the app, and share reactions to styles with Snapchat friends.

Generating Buzz

Instagram is also a powerful social commerce channel. As reported in growcode.com, a recent Yotpo study reveals that a whopping 72 percent of respondents say that seeing a product depicted on Instagram increases the chances they’ll buy it; almost 40 percent claim they frequently buy products they see on Insta. The app’s dedicated social selling features, like the “tap to shop” function, definitely give brands a way to take advantage of these tendencies. And companies like Sephora use product tagging to make it easy for shoppers to directly access the brand’s online store. Anything a user sees in a given image, be it brow pencil or blusher, can be purchased in only a couple of taps. The process is easy and seamless, increasing the chances Sephora will earn sales from the initial buzz generated by Insta posts.

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How can your brand capitalize on the new opportunities social commerce affords? Contact us. We can help.

Social Commerce Is on the Rise

Social Commerce Is on the Rise

Advertising

Social commerce is on the rise. According to a new report from eMarketer, the pandemic has fueled a surge in e-commerce across the board, and social commerce in the U.S. has benefitted from that acceleration. By all accounts, it will continue to do so: the prediction is that social commerce will gain even more traction as platforms boost their checkout and shopping functions. What does this news mean for your brand? Read on to learn more.

The Market Is Growing

Social commerce is certainly enjoying a banner year already. eMarketer predicts that in 2021, U.S. retail social commerce sales will rise to $36.09 billion — a whopping 34.8 percent leap that would represent a 4.3 percent piece of the retail ecommerce sales pie. The prediction comes on the heels of a revised 2020 social commerce forecast: from 19.8 percent growth to 37.9 percent growth.

Social Commerce Hot Spots

Because of their focus on images, Instagram and Pinterest have a leg up on displaying merchandise; it’s probably no coincidence, then, that both platforms, as eMarketer points out, “provide the most relevant social commerce experiences for brands today.” Instagram and Pinterest have also been enjoying exceptionally strong growth. And both sites have been very proactive about developing business tools that make it easier to sell products and services online.

For example, Pinterest offers tools such as:

  • Product Pins, through which a business can connect its product catalog to Pinterest, filter and organize inventory, create shopping ads, and measure results.
  • Promoted Pins, which appear in search results and home feed as regular pins do, but are targeted and boosted to deliver more reach. Users can pin them to boards, comment on them, and share them. Note that after a Promoted Pin is shared once by a Pinner, the “Promoted” label disappears, with repins considered “earned media.”
  • Promoted Carousels, which feature two to five swipeable images. This can be a useful format for brands wishing to showcase multiple products or features.

But it’s Instagram that has really rocked social commerce by continuously offering tools that make it easier for brands to use the platform for sales. Consider features such as:

  • Instagram checkout, which facilitates simple, convenient, and secure purchases made directly from Instagram. As we’ve blogged, shopping from Instagram means protected payment information is kept in one place. So Instagrammers can shop multiple favorite brands without having to log in and enter intel multiple times.
  • Instagram Live, which allows checkout-enabled businesses to sell products through “live shopping.” In live shopping, consumers might be inspired by a creator or brand’s live video content and subsequently buy promoted products in real-time.

Platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok are also making moves to stay competitive. As we’ve blogged, TikTok has been doubling down on social commerce, especially in the arena of livestreaming. Consider the site’s recent collaboration with Walmart, in which shoppers could check out Walmart’s TikTok profile to see fashions highlighted by TikTok creators like Michael Le (it’s worth noting that categories like apparel/accessories really lend themselves to social commerce). Using mobile checkout, consumers could then buy the same products they saw in the livestream.

What You Should Do

Eager to incorporate social commerce into your marketing plan? We recommend that you:

  • Do your homework on your audience. Not all social commerce platforms are the same. Pinterest tends to appeal to Millennial women, TikTok to Gen Z and Millennials as a whole. Ask yourself: what demographics am I trying to reach?
  • Learn how to use the tools available to you. Each platform will have its own requirements for creating content. In addition, all of these popular sites will require a strong understanding of how to use visuals — it behooves you to make creating powerful imagery a strength. Finally, if you choose to get into live commerce, you’ll need to get really savvy about using livestreaming effectively.
  • Make sure you are set up for success. As we discussed on our blog in January, many businesses are struggling to manage the surge in demand that happens when they attract more shoppers with an intent to buy. Make sure your online fulfillment can handle the demand.

Contact True Interactive

How might social commerce fit into your brand’s digital marketing plan? Contact us. We can help. Read about our expertise in online shopping here.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Live Commerce: Advertiser Q&A

Live Commerce: Advertiser Q&A

Marketing

Twenty years ago, online shopping transformed retail; today, live streaming is poised to shape e-commerce. “Live commerce” is a term applied to the partnering of streaming video and shopping. Read on to learn more about the concept dubbed “QVC for the digital age.”

What Is Live Commerce?

The QVC analogy is an apt one. Back in the 1980s, home shopping network QVC expanded shopper reach by connecting with consumers in their homes. Television was the medium; suddenly, shoppers could browse and buy in the middle of the night, from the comfort of a favorite living room chair. With live commerce, consumers can still make purchases from their homes, but the fusing of online retail with live streaming brings shoppers even closer to the energy of an in-person experience. Live commerce can take different forms:

  • Online marketplaces. Marketplaces like eBay have traditionally allowed users to buy and sell online. These same marketplaces are now responding to consumer behavior by incorporating live streaming into their platforms. The real-time interactivity replaces static exchanges with the energy and experience of actually “being” in a marketplace.
  • Live auctions. Live video streaming gives auction houses an opportunity to bring bidders from all around the world into the saleroom. The benefit? An institution like Sotheby’s can reach a broader audience with widely varied interests.
  • Influencer streaming. Using live streaming, influencers can leverage their personal brand to promote their favorite products in an interactive format. While influencer streaming got its start on social media, the practice is now common across e-commerce sites, as well. (Brands targeting Gen Z take note: influencers especially resonate with the Gen Z generation. According to Wowza, 44 percent of that demographic make purchase decisions based on social influencers’ recommendations.)
  • Live events. Events like product launches, limited edition drops, and retail holidays such as Black Friday are well suited to shoppable live broadcasts.

Why Is Live Commerce Popular Now?

Before 2020, online commerce was already gaining traction. Then the pandemic hit. According to IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, COVID-19 hastened the shift from shopping at brick-and-mortar stores to digital shopping by approximately five years. And home shopping channels like QVC, which had already started exploring on-demand video shopping prior to 2020, enjoyed a surge of popularity with Americans staying home because of COVID-19. Econsultancy reports that between March and May of 2020, viewership for networks like Home Shopping Network and QVC rose 10 percent.

The interactive nature of live commerce has made it particularly resonant during the pandemic. People are social beasts. They crave connection. During COVID-19 lockdowns, when social interaction has been limited, being able to ask questions about a product or directly interact with an influencer online helps fill that need to connect.

Who Is Embracing Live Commerce?

Live commerce is a huge market in China; according to a survey by AlixPartners, reported in November 2020, two-thirds of Chinese consumers say they made purchases via livestreaming in the previous 12 months. But United States brands are also getting on board:

  • An early adopter of livestream shopping in the US, Levi Strauss reached out to consumers afraid to visit brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic. Shoppers could ask questions—and make purchases—during 30-minute to one-hour sessions devoted to featured products and tips.
  • Walmart and TikTok recently worked together on a livestreamed shopping event. During the “Holiday Shop-Along Spectacular,” TikTok creators like Michael Le showed off their favorite Walmart fashions on Walmart’s TikTok profile, and shoppers could buy the same products using mobile checkout.

How Should Brands Be Involved?

Live commerce can help brands connect with consumers in meaningful ways, even when physical contact is limited. Interested in experimenting with what live commerce can do for you? We recommend that you:

  • Do your research before working with an influencer. Find the right match for your brand. Does it make sense to work with a superstar? It can be more economical to work with micro-influencers who draw a strong following from a geographical region or niche industry relevant to your brand. (According to Econsultancy, micro-influencers can also generate higher levels of trust and authenticity.)
  • Pay attention to the “commerce” part of live commerce. Does your checkout process run seamlessly? Make sure it does before unrolling a live commerce campaign.
  • Continue to make customer experience a priority, even after checkout, even from afar. Live commerce can never exactly re-create the in-store shopping experience, but taking shoppers’ needs into consideration goes a long way towards building customer satisfaction—and brand loyalty. Zappos, an early e-commerce adopter, is an instructive example. By encouraging customers to order multiple sizes of an item, then making it not only easy, but free to return anything that didn’t fit, Zappos built satisfaction and encouraged return visits.

Contact True Interactive

Want to learn more about live commerce—and how digital can elevate your brand? Contact us. We can help.

Three Reasons Why Snapchat Is Back

Three Reasons Why Snapchat Is Back

Social media

Snapchat has come roaring back. Its parent company, Snap Inc., was once on the verge of collapse, but recently it posted stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings: according to a FactSet poll, while analysts had estimated revenues around $557 million, Snap’s quarterly revenue in fact enjoyed a 52 percent rise to $678.7 million. And its stock value is soaring, with shares gaining 74 percent this year through the October 20 close.

Why is Snapchat rebounding?

Reasons for the Rebound

Understanding Snapchat’s renaissance means understanding the factors in play during a complicated year:

  • Snapchat’s user base has grown. According to Adweek, the social media company has seen 249 million daily users in the third quarter of 2020: that’s an 18 percent increase from the 210 million users noted for the same period last year, and 11 million more new daily users since last quarter. Notably, the growth is not restricted to the United States: in India, for example, daily active users in the third quarter are up almost 150 percent from the same time in 2019. The growth makes sense: as The New York Times reported earlier this year, “Stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic . . . Americans have been spending more of their lives online.” That online phenomenon has been repeating itself again and again around the globe during this year of COVID-19, and at least some of those users are gravitating to Snapchat.
  • Advertisers are spending money on Snapchat. The July ad boycott of Facebook, which protested the company’s policies on hate speech, may have helped Snap in terms of where advertisers are channeling their dollars. TikTok’s troubles, both domestically (attempts by the Trump administration to ban it) and abroad (India’s successful TikTok ban) also likely gave advertisers pause. While Snap has declined to draw a direct line between other companies’ struggles and its own resurgence, Chief Business Officer Jeremi Gorman said in a prepared statement, “As brands and other organizations used this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to evaluate their advertising spend, we saw many brands look to align their marketing efforts with platforms who share their corporate values.”

In another example of innovation, Snap Inc. worked with Headspace to mark World Mental Health Day on October 10, releasing two new meditations in Snapchat’s Headspace Mini. During a year when Snapchatters in the U.S. are feeling significant stress — a survey by independent research company GroupSolver indicates that COVID-19, finances, politics, and school are leading sources of that stress —the meditations, called Snap Minis, are “bite-sized utilities” that require no installation and are accessible via chat and search. Headspace director of meditation Eve Lewis guides the meditations, which run approximately six minutes each and focus on practicing kindness and navigating uncertainty during the school year.

What Should Advertisers Do?

What does this news about Snapchat mean for brands? We recommend that advertisers:

  • Consider Snapchat if you are interested in the Millennial and Gen Z markets. As we’ve blogged, the app appeals to these demographics. Meet your desired audience where they are at—and right now, these powerful demographics can be found on Snapchat.
  • Consider Snapchat to be a complement to your advertising with Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Snapchat is not going to challenge the Big Three. But if you are interested in experimenting with technologies such as augmented reality, Snapchat is a good platform to try.

Contact True Interactive

Should Snapchat be part of your digital plan? Contact us. We can help.

Facebook Lifts “20 Percent Rule” with Ads – but Should You?

Facebook Lifts “20 Percent Rule” with Ads – but Should You?

Facebook

Many marketers had reason to rejoice recently when Facebook lifted a longstanding requirement that Facebook ad images contain no more than 20 percent text. But at True Interactive, we believe marketers need to tread carefully. Just because you can pack more texts into your ads, it doesn’t mean you should.

What Is the 20 Percent Rule?

The “20 percent rule” means that ad images on Facebook can contain no more than 20 percent text. Advertisers who run afoul of the requirement have had their ads penalized or blocked on Facebook. But recently, Facebook began letting advertisers know it was eliminating the rule:

Search Engine Journal confirmed the accuracy of this update.

Why Facebook Is Lifting the 20 Percent Rule

Why is Facebook changing course? As an agency that creates ads for many clients on Facebook, we believe the COVID-19 pandemic has made the Facebook staffed overburdened as it has for Google. Reviewing and flagging advertisements requires human intervention. We have noticed that since COVID-19, the platform was mis-flagging quite a few ads we’ve created that should have been acceptable. Lifting the requirement is probably Facebook’s way of reducing the amount of work on their end.

What Advertisers Should Do

We believe lifting the 20 percent rule is good because advertisers have more flexibility. There are times when a banner ad on Facebook would be better off containing a bit more text than Facebook has allowed. At the same time, advertisers should be very careful about increasing text size. Facebook notes that ads with more images perform better, which should surprise no one. We’re living in a visual age, and advertising is no different. People are more likely to pause their news feed and explore your ad when you lead with visually arresting content.

So, we recommend to our clients that they consider using more text only if they have to. We suggest performing A/B tests, as well: run one image with minimal text against an image with more text and see how it serves on the platform. Let the performance numbers be your guide.

In addition, lifting the restriction might be signs of Facebook relaxing creative constraints in other ways, too, depending on how long the pandemic affects the company’s operations. Stay tuned.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

Why Changes to Apple Maps Matter to Online Advertising

Why Changes to Apple Maps Matter to Online Advertising

Advertising

Businesses, keep your eyes on Apple Maps. The increasingly popular wayfinding app is making some big changes with the roll-out of iOS 14 this fall. As widely reported, Apple will:

Empower Visual Storytellers

People who visit businesses may upload photos of those businesses on their Apple Maps listings, just like they can do on Google Maps. The next time someone wants to post a photo of their stay at your hotel, they can do just that on your Apple Maps listing. Or if they want to depict the quality and safety of their dining experience at your restaurant, you can expect them to do so on your listing.

Rate Your Business

For the first time, people can rate their experience at your location by giving you a simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down. Now, this is a pretty basic change. On Google Maps, people can actually write reviews, not just ratings. But even still, allowing for ratings is probably going to move Apple Maps closer to being a full-fledged site for reviews and ratings. This development means businesses will need to pay more serious attention to Apple Maps as a source of reputation building. Customer ratings and reviews are increasingly important. Nine out of 10 people read them.

Why the News about Apple Maps Matters to Online Advertising

So why should businesses that advertise online care about these changes? Well, for one thing, anytime Apple changes its products, businesses need to pay attention. Apple is a bellwether brand with a wide-ranging influence across the business landscape. When Apple acts, the world is affected. We believe that the Apple Maps changes mean a few things:

Mind Your Own Visual Storytelling

Businesses need to strengthen their ability to create compelling visual content, including images and video, in their online advertising. Apple is responding to the reality that in the age of Instagram, visual content creates lasting impact. Apple is appealing to the same consumer who follows sites like Instagram closely. The question for any business: how powerful is your visual content? How well do you capitalize on visually appealing ad formats on sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat to connect with customers?

Think of Maps Apps as Brand-Building Tools

True, Apple Maps is not an advertising destination. But apps such as Google Maps and Waze evolved beyond consumer wayfinding a long time ago, as we have discussed on our own blog. And Google Maps is easily the most dominant map app. As Apple continues to position Apple Maps as the ad-free, pro-privacy alternative to Google Maps, businesses should expect Google to go in the opposite direction. Rather than allow Apple to define its brand, Google will roll out more advertising options for businesses on Google Maps. Watch for them and capitalize on them.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.

 

 

 

Why Snapchat Keeps Growing

Why Snapchat Keeps Growing

Social media

Snapchat has experienced its ups and downs in the past few years, but one undeniable truth prevails: the app continues to flourish. Snapchat is, in fact, exceeding growth expectations: eMarketer, for one, expects Snapchat to gain more than 63 millions users by the end of 2023, as contrasted to an original estimate of 52 million. In addition, according to The Street, Snapchat is on course to be profitable in the very near future, after years of losses: “Analysts expect Snapchat to soon reach its ‘break-even’ point in profits, most likely by 2022. A group of 34 technology analysts estimates the company will earn a profit of $48 million in 2022.”

Why the Growth?

Why is Snapchat continuing to grow despite increased competition from apps such as Instagram and TikTok? Some possible reasons include:

1 Continued Innovation

Snapchat’s owner, Snap, was just named Fast Company’s most innovative company in 2020, which speaks volumes about why Snapchat has rebounded from the brink. TechCrunch also reports that new products are bound to boost engagement with Snapchat and, crucially, ad views. Snapchat’s recent innovations include Cameos, which allow users to edit their own face onto an actor in an animated GIF. And Bitmoji TV features comical cartoons that star the consumer’s customizable Bitmoji avatar. For users who have always dreamed about being a secret agent, say, or a zombie president, Bitmoji TV brings those fantasies to life via episodes featuring a main story as well as shorter, single-gag clips. User avatars appear in the regularly scheduled adventures, which range from sit-coms to soap operas and infomercials. “It’s scripted but its personalized,” Bitmoji co-founder and CEO Ba Blackstock has said. “First and foremost, I hope that everyone who watches this has kind of a mind-blowing experience that they’ve never had before.”

2 Excellent Timing

Snapchat came along at the right time, as the Millennial and Gen Z population began to swell—and come of age. Launched in 2011, the app appeals to the Millennial and Gen Z populations with its promise of content that is both ephemeral and authentic. As co-founder Evan Spiegel noted in the company’s first blog post, “We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, honest or whatever you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap.” And the platform has captured a sizable demographic. As Statista notes, Millennials and Gen Z, together, now comprise about half the U.S. population.

3 International Expansion

Snapchat continues to expand effectively into international markets, one profound example being the uptake of Snapchat in India. As TechCrunch observes, “Snapchat’s user growth has been on [a] tear thanks to international penetration, especially in India, after it re-engineered its Android app for developing markets.”

The Challenges

It’s not all smooth sailing, of course. As 24/7 Wall St. points out, Snapchat’s features can be—and in fact have been—easily copied by competitors like Facebook. When Snapchat introduced Stories, which allows users to share snaps in a narrative style, it was making a successful bid to keep users engaged and coming back for more. Facebook’s response? Its own version of Stories on both Facebook and Instagram; and the release of Instagram Threads, a camera and messaging app for “close friends.”  As Wired notes, Facebook chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear to employees that doing what’s best for users might include replication: “Zuckerberg’s message became an informal slogan at Facebook: ‘Don’t be too proud to copy.’”

Furthermore, Snapchat lacks the reserves of cash that Facebook enjoys. 24/7 Wall St. opines, “While it’s still too soon to assess the impact of Instagram Threads on Snapchat, the salient point is that Instagram’s owner (Facebook) has a virtually unlimited war chest and a seemingly visceral need to stomp on Snapchat, if not to stamp it out entirely.”

Staying Viable

The key for Snapchat? Staying nimble and creative in the competitive and ever-evolving social landscape. In short, the app will continue to thrive if it keeps on generating features that both users and advertisers will love – especially advertisers, whose revenue Snapchat needs. One example of courting advertisers with more features: Snapchat’s Swipe Up to Call ads, which give users the opportunity to swipe up on their screen and immediately and directly call or text the advertiser.

Contact True Interactive

To succeed with online advertising in 2020, contact True Interactive. Read about some of our client work here.