2022: The Golden Age of Social Commerce

graphic with hand holding phone and shopping icons

By Jay Kulkarni, Founder and CEO, Theorem

It’s obvious to marketers by now that social media is here to stay. In fact, at the beginning of the COVID-19 quarantine, an extreme spike was seen in online activity — demonstrating that consumers flocked to the internet for entertainment purposes but more importantly to converse, connect and even to regain a sense of normalcy.

People used social media platforms — such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit and TikTok to find a sense of community and an escape from the overwhelming anxiety brought on by the pandemic.

Many D2C brands capitalized on this surge of COVID-induced internet activity through the creation of engaging content, inspiring new influencers and offering interactive challenges and stories for audiences.

Creating increasingly engaging and interactive content is essential for brands to stand out amongst the consistent onslaught of innovative content thrown at social media viewers 24/7.

During quarantine, D2C brands were successful at interacting with consumers, which in turn created genuine and personal connections between brands and their audiences. D2C brands’ posts, stories and ads provided a sense of reassurance and empathy for followers establishing deeper loyalty with customers and proving that brands aren’t afraid to try innovative approaches to connect with audiences. Successful D2C brands created content that swayed audiences to embrace a new way of shopping on social media, which is what I refer to as the golden age of social commerce.

The Golden Age of Social Commerce

It’s worth noting that social commerce is nothing new. For nearly a decade, Chinese shoppers used social platforms to keep up with trends and the latest influencer picks for style, products and brand inspiration. Social commerce in the US is now mirroring this e-commerce trend of monetizing social media strategies.

Additionally, Gen Z consumers are also chiefly responsible for normalizing the evolution of social commerce because of this younger generation’s comfort level online and high expectations of brand excellence to genuinely connect with followers.

As a direct result of the pandemic, consumers fast-tracked the growth of social commerce, rapidly changing social media’s impact on the retail and D2C commerce trends, virtually overnight. D2C brands must throw out old marketing practices and prioritize the rise of social commerce to achieve a successful consumer experience and engagement across all social media strategies.

From empowering customers to shop directly in marketers’ feeds to recruiting creators that feature brands in fresh and buzzy ways, there is a bevy of ways to leverage the rise of social commerce in the new year.

Establishing In-App Purchasing Opportunities and Curating Shoppable Content Within Social Media Feeds

Emerging new technologies such as the metaverse and TikTok are fastly becoming the new-normal phenomenon to consumers — leaving it up to marketers to act fast. Brands must approach the new digital ecospheres with strong, stylized content that has a consistent brand theme across social platforms. Marketers’ first step for success in 2022 will be familiarizing themselves with each platforms’ social commerce features.

Every app has a social commerce feature specifically designed to monetize posts, stories, videos and more so be sure to do some research on specific steps for optimizing each platforms’ features. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok all offer shopping features for consumer in-app purchase opportunities that can even be stylized to your brand’s theme.

Successful brand marketing must curate shoppable content across different social platforms that not only demonstrate a brands’ unique design but also establish a strong brand theme that’s simple to shop and buy any product or service. Brands must empower their customers, no matter their age group or type, to shop directly in-feed by keeping shoppable content concise and simple.

Instagram’s Shopping Tags are a great example of offering shoppable content that all audiences can access. The simplicity of the detailed tags popping up when a follower initially scrolls over a post and again when the viewer taps the picture for more information makes purchasing products in the app easier than ever before. Tags link directly to the product pages or to the brands’ in-app catalog, which takes users who engage with the post image directly to the checkout page seamlessly.

Lean on Video to Engage Shoppers and Encourage & Promote User-Generated Content

Brand marketers should use this endemic period to take risks with their D2C social media strategies — or they may suffer the worst fate of all: being a forgettable brand. Newcomer social platform, TikTok is now one of the most popular apps, with an average of 1.1 billion users daily.

Leveraging TikTok is a fantastic opportunity for D2C brands to offer bite-sized product demos, user testimonials, product reviews, and entertaining sneak peeks for upcoming product drops.

Millennials and Gen Zers make up most of the TikTok population, so implementing strategies for this platform offers a smooth way for brands to interact with these digitally savvy age groups when and where they spend their time. Video is the number one-way brands can stay relevant in this digitally-focused world.

Brands that aren’t prioritizing video content within their marketing strategies are falling short as video is projected to make up more than 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic in the year ahead.

Creative and innovative brands are already using TikTok to highlight video content about products or services which offer the potential to go viral across their top target audiences. Successful brands to watch out for on TikTok include RyanAir, Zara and Netflix.

Netflix encourages and promotes user-generated content from its followers to highlight on its page, which in turn increases user engagement and brings in more followers.

But, for brands to actually stand out and aim for viral status, they must offer content that provides mutually beneficial partnerships with relevant content creators, viewers and their brand, in order to offer genuine messaging that both resonates with audiences and encourages them to buy products or services.

TikTok audiences actually strive to be part of a brands’ messaging, especially if that consumer has intense feelings about the product or service. Search the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt trending hashtag to see an example of how many people want to be part of the user-generated/influencer content fad.

Keep in mind that a consumer’s intense feeling about a brands’ product or service could be positive or negative, which will either create positive or negative user-generated content for a brand.

While it’s tempting to declare that social commerce is the future, the truth is, social commerce is trending now, growing at a rapid rate that requires brands to not just plan for its prevalence but to dive in today.

The most important thing to remember when navigating the landscape of social commerce is that followers are looking to D2C brands for inspiration, entertainment, connection and empathy.

Building a social commerce strategy with a full understanding of this consumer need will ensure success for marketing teams today, through 2022 and far beyond.