Social commerce is the future of online retail. By 2025, Accenture estimates social commerce to more than double to a $1.2 trillion market worldwide. Following the onset of COVID-19, consumers adopted social commerce behaviors, such as discovering, purchasing, and finding support directly on social media apps, at an accelerated rate. Now, brands are embracing these tools to deliver a personalized customer experience on whatever platform customers prefer.
Live shopping, for example, is a powerful way for brands to educate, engage with, and sell to customers in an interactive live stream event featuring brand representatives or influencers. The audience can comment live, ask questions, and even make purchases from links in the live stream. In 2021, the number of people who purchased products in a live stream event increased by 76% globally.
Social media platforms are innovating to meet this growing demand for social commerce. Twitter announced a new Twitter Shops feature that allows brands to showcase up to 50 products on their profiles. Similarly, TikTok is testing shopping features to help brands manage their e-commerce within a second TikTok app. Moving forward, e-commerce brands will have more tools at their disposal to sell directly on social media and provide increasingly seamless customer experiences.
Brands Leading in Social Commerce
As the popularity and accessibility of social commerce grows, these brands have jumped in with both feet to connect with customers where they are:
Charlotte Tilbury provides engaging, personalized interactions for its customers on several channels using the latest live stream and meta verse technologies. The cosmetics brand was one of the first to create a digital storefront using virtual reality (VR). In November 2020, the brand launched a 3D digital store where shoppers can explore, shop, and receive personalized recommendations from virtual store associates. Charlotte Tilbury also hosts live events including makeup and skincare tutorials within the digital store.
A new feature, “Shop with Friends,” allows customers to invite friends and family to join a video call and navigate the virtual store together. The technology, similar to that in multiplayer video games, mimics the in-person shopping experience. While in the VR store, customers can also play a game where they navigate the store to find and collect hidden keys.
In addition to this social shopping experience, Charlotte Tilbury holds live shopping events on TikTok. During these events, the brand partners with influencers to showcase and demonstrate its products and even offers exclusive discounts for those who purchase directly on TikTok UK.
Petco uses live streaming, influencer marketing, and social shops to provide innovative experiences for its customers. The brand partners with Facebook to engage pet lovers and pet parents in shoppable live stream events. Its first live shopping event combined a pet fashion show with a dog adoption drive hosted by actress and model Arielle Vandenberg. Petco and its charitable foundation donated $100,000 to the dog rescue organization that participated, while also building awareness of its pet apparel brands. The event was highly successful, reaching more than 900,000 people and increasing sales by double the cost of the event.
Following that initial success, Petco partnered with more influencers, including Olympian Gabby Douglas, to hold more live stream events. During its live shopping events, Petco dedicated a team to interact with audience members in real time and promote relevant products on the screen. Remote and on-site employees work together to provide shoppable and engaging events.
The brand has also worked with Facebook and Instagram to establish social shops directly on the social media platforms. Additionally, Petco leveraged its existing influencer partnerships to launch a TikTok campaign that reached over 28 million impressions for its pet apparel brand.
KitKat introduced the first Facebook Live shopping experience in Australia, “Live from the KitKat Chocolatory,” during the 2020 holiday shopping season. The event featured its chocolatiers demonstrating new products, interacting with special guests, and providing exclusive offers to the audience.
The innovative experience included a shopping feature for live stream viewers to purchase products by simply typing keywords. A viewer could type a prescribed keyword into the comment box, triggering a Messenger notification including a link to purchase the product online. Technologies like this keyword artificial intelligence (AI) tool are becoming more pervasive as social media companies experiment with new ways to purchase products directly on their platforms.
Zimba, a global teeth-whitening brand, quickly adopted the Facebook Shops platform to bring its products directly to its customers on the social media platform. With Facebook Shops, Zimba created a digital storefront where customers can discover and purchase products without leaving the app.
To provide seamless customer care, Zimba also enables its customers to contact the brand directly on Messenger and Instagram Direct Message (DM). Customers can ask product questions, get support, and track deliveries before, during, and after they make a purchase on social media. As a result, Zimba realized a 6.7% increase in average order value from buyers on social media compared to buyers on its website.
H&M was one of the first apparel brands to invest in closing the gap between social media and online shopping. The brand created its own mobile sites that would list apparel and accessories from images in its Tweets that linked directly to purchase the products online. Today, the brand uses Instagram Shopping to promote its latest styles directly on the mobile app and link to products featured in every post.
The brand’s next step is to launch “Shop Live” at its H&M HOME Concept store in Kuwait’s largest shopping mall, The Avenues. With technology powered by Go Instore, customers can access instant live consultations with staff in the store while browsing online. The new tool provides personalized experiences regardless of whether customers choose to shop in person or at home.
Stepping into Social Commerce
Consumer demand has forced businesses to pivot online and social commerce has emerged as the sine qua non for brands looking to not only engage with consumers on social media, but convert them into customers. By leveraging the power of live shopping, digital storefronts, shoppable ads, and social shops brands are able to better meet customer expectations. However, according to a Forrester study, fewer than 30% of social commerce leaders are prioritizing customer engagement, failing to cultivate and nurture customer relationships throughout the social purchase journey, and putting their long-term social commerce growth at risk. One thing’s for sure, brands that don’t adopt social commerce now will fall far behind the competition, while the brands that embrace innovation will reach consumers eager for personalized and engaging experiences.
Finding the right social commerce solution to help you do this can be overwhelming. Download the Buyer’s Guide to Social Commerce Solutions to help guide you in finding the right fit for your brand.
TikTok Rolls Out Comment Downvotes to All Users
After testing them out in the live environment over the last six months, TikTok has today announced that it’s rolling out comment downvotes for all users, as a means to flag inappropriate responses to video clips.
As you can see in this example, TikTok’s ‘Thumbs Down’ comment downvote option will be displayed at the far right of each comment, providing a quick and easy way for users to tag such, in order to help TikTok identify negative behaviors in the app.
Which is the key focus – rather than being an audience response element, like downvotes on Reddit, TikTok’s approach is actually to use the indicator as a means to weed out negative behaviors.
As TikTok explained back in April:
“We’ve started testing a way to let individuals identify comments they believe to be irrelevant or inappropriate. This community feedback will add to the range of factors we already use to help keep the comment section consistently relevant and a place for genuine engagement. To avoid creating ill-feeling between community members or demoralize creators, only the person who registered a dislike on a comment will be able to see that they have done so.”
So dislike counts won’t be public, as they are on Reddit, with the purpose, again, being to help TikTok’s moderation team get on top of negative trends, as flagged by its users.
How it will likely work in this respect is that downvoted comments will be displayed to TikTok mods in ascending order, based on total downvote activity across the app, which will then enable them to them wade through the list and pick up on rising negative trends, providing another way to detect and address such in their process.
That could also help to limit the use of the feature for ‘brigading,’ or using it as a means to launch targeted attacks on people or opinions based on alternative motivations. You can imagine how, for example, people might try to use this feature as a means to downvote conflicting political opinions into oblivion, but as the downvotes themselves don’t impact public display, and are only an indicator for TikTok’s moderation team, that’s less likely to become an issue.
Which would be part of the reason why TikTok’s comfortable pushing ahead with a full launch – and it may well be a good way to help keep things more civil, and more positive in the app.
TikTok actually first began its comment downvote experiment back in 2020, with some researchers spotting the feature in early testing.
Both Facebook and Twitter have also been experimenting with comment downvotes for similar purpose, not as a means to better surface or hide user responses, but to help identify negative behaviors based on what users think is bad, which effectively then helps to improve automated algorithms to detect such in future.
Which could be a better use of the option – though it is worth noting that Reddit’s public downvote system does help the platform highlight more relevant conversations and topics, based on actual responses from humans, as opposed to algorithmically identified trends that are guided by clicks, Likes, dwell time, shares, etc.
The problem with algorithmic trends is that divisive, negative content is amplified via this process, because sparking an emotional response, like anger, drives more people to comment and share. The algorithm then takes as an indicator that more people might want to see it, based on engagement response. The system itself has no way of determining the intent of the content, it only goes on binary signals – which means that triggering more reactions, however you can, is the best way to maximize exposure.
That doesn’t happen on Reddit, because such posts are rapidly downvoted into the doldrums of the app.
Giving actual people the chance to drive exposure in this respect may be a more beneficial approach overall, but the bigger players will never go with it because it also makes users less likely to comment, likely because they’re also concerned about their own remarks being downvoted to the pit.
Previous analysis has suggested that more than 98% of Reddit’s monthly active users don’t ever post or comment in the app, which is likely a key consideration that would limit take-up of such in other apps.
So they go with automated algorithms instead, which also then enables them to wash their hands of any responsibility for whatever type of content gains traction and doesn’t across their networks.
Negative content drives more engagement, and thus, more reach in their apps? ‘We don’t know, it’s based on how users respond, factoring in all forms of engagement, so we’re not responsible for whatever that leads to’.
It does seem that a human-moderated process, via public downvotes, could improve the flow of information in this respect. But the impacts on engagement could also be significant.
In any event, TikTok’s comment downvotes are not designed to help guide the conversation, and could be a valuable supplementary measure to detect rising negative trends.
TikTok says that comment downvotes are being released globally in the app from today.
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