Why the smartest retailers are benefiting from social commerce (and how you can too)

Social commerce is the latest trend in the industry, where the entire shopping transaction – from browsing to checkout – takes place through a social media platform. In March of this year, Twitter announced the arrival of Twitter stores, to make it clear that there is no ‘retweeting’ from social commerce. Twitter’s latest feature is one in a long line of social commerce expansions, with Instagram expanding its horizons with an in-app checkout interface and TikTok teaming up with Shopify to create what Gen Z’ers’ ShopTok ‘ would call.

Social commerce enables businesses to meet customers where they are – right at the intersection of digital commerce and social media, borrowing traffic from both burgeoning realms. It creates the opportunity to organically capture the interest of a customer who has never seen your brand before and maintain it right through to the purchase.

This is the stuff of marketers’ fantasies. So why isn’t every retailer taking the opportunity to get social? Well, to put it simply, many are simply not agile enough.

The scale of the app ortunity.

Those who are agile enough will see massive growth in sales through social media platforms. One way they do this is by integrating the ‘swipe up’ and ‘buy now’ links into their existing social media ads. They also take advantage of special shopping features on platforms like Instagram, essentially transporting their digital storefront to other apps. And with live streamers and influencers promoting products through their own channels, the market is increasingly under the influence of a social revolution.

It’s not hard to see the appeal for businesses: social commerce gives them the potential to surpass Amazon. Two of China’s best live streamers sold in just one day in 2021 $3 billion value of products. That’s about three times Amazon’s average daily revenue. The global social market was worth it $492 billion in 2021, and it is expected to grow by a quarter (26 percent) annually over the next few years– nearly three times faster than traditional trade.

Social commerce is taking power away from Amazon and other big technology brands and giving it back to the innovators and newcomers on the scene. Fifty-nine percent of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a small business when shopping through social commerce than online. And, 44 percent rather buy from a brand they have never come across before.

So the market is booming, and it’s all to play for. But some players – even established online companies – haven’t even got on the field yet. They’re miles away, slowed down by a rigid, outdated, inflexible tech stack.

Drawing up a social strategy.

With the rise of social commerce and the talk of the retail metaverse, your brand should be able to keep up with the new – with social commerce being the latest trend in the market. But this is impossible if you’re stuck with a technological infrastructure that belongs in the dinosaur age.

For example, many digital commerce companies still rely on monolithic solutions such as SAP. The problem with this approach is that monolithic platforms don’t lend themselves to customization, speed, or innovation. Updating a monolithic platform to add customizations to your online store requires developers to change both the underlying database code and the front-end platform. By the time your organization has gone through the DevOps cycle, you’ve already missed the boat and your competitor has gained a head start because customers have moved elsewhere or sought an alternative channel.

Maybe SAP worked for your company 20 years ago – in a world where “Instagram” was a nonsense word and “Twitter” was just a sound made by birds. But the market has changed since then and your tech stack has to change with it. No single monolithic platform will work for every business. A composite trading strategy allows your company to select the best technology from a variety of vendors — from payments to search to shipping — rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all package.

In addition, a “headless” approach decouples the front-end of your website from the back-end. This means you can make changes — like integrating a new social shopping feature or changing your digital storefront — without downtime. Your business can easily adapt to new channels and customer touchpoints and meet your customers where they are.

Keep following or lose followers.

Social commerce puts power in the hands of the innovator, with tech-savvy firms gaining the upper hand and new firms taking market share. The rise of social commerce is a boon for businesses of all sizes, but only if their technology allows them to take advantage of it. To offer store integrations and drive social selling, businesses need a headless and composable approach that allows them to build a responsive and flexible tech stack. Innovators will win in the social commerce revolution, while brands that respond slowly will lose followers.

The opinions expressed here by businesstraverse.com columnists are their own, not businesstraverse.com’s.