Social factors—our attitudes, values, ethics, and lifestyles—influence what, how, where, and when people purchase products or services. However, they can be difficult to predict, define, and measure making the job of marketing more challenging. Social networks are changing that as customers are providing larges amounts of information about themselves and their preferences online for digital advertisers to mine and collect.
Online social networks provide a platform for people to connect with each other and share information. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok are all examples of online social networks that allow for the exchange of information. These platforms are valuable to the users, but can also be valuable for businesses. They provide insight into customer behaviour that can help direct business strategy, and also be used to market goods and services. According to Gartner, 74% of consumers rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions. 
This is referred to as social commerce where online social networks are utilized to promote the sale of goods and services. Social commerce provides a means for interactive shopping, including reviews, ratings, and social shopping websites where you can chat with merchant personnel or with friends while you are shopping.
Benefits of Social Commerce
Just like m-commerce, there are certain benefits that s-commerce has over traditional eCommerce. These include:
|Audience Growth||As of January 2017, over 2.7 billion people were on social media. This is more than a third of the global population. This number is also up over 20% from 2016. A tremendous growth, with little sign of slowing down.  One of the most important considerations for any e-commerce business is how to reach and sell to its target customer audience, and from these statistics it is safe to say that a large proportion of any brand’s market is on social media.|
|Higher Search Ranking||Using social media for s-commerce increases traffic to your website which will influence your ranking on search engine results. It also allows your audience to engage with a product, like or share it, and to reach an even larger audience.|
|Authentic Engagement||The most significant benefit of using social media for s-commerce is the engagement and reach that businesses can get whenever they share content. By appearing in followers’ updates or feeds on a regular basis, you’re participating in a powerful branding opportunity.
Operating on social media encourages users to connect with a business through two-way communication. This allows customers to not only engage with your business on a commercial level, but it also gives them the opportunity to use social media as an efficient customer service channel where it’s possible to solve problems. Social media word-of-mouth (sharing/ reposting) helps with audience building, as well as increased engagement and website traffic.
|Customer Loyalty||S-commerce is not purely focused on selling but uses the social platforms to help the business build relationships with potential and existing customers. Such relationships can deepen trust and loyalty between consumers and the brand. This in turn creates happy, satisfied customers, who will likely be customers who make repeat purchases, i.e. a loyal customer.|
|Analytics||Social media platforms make it easy to track, measure and evaluate conversions that happen through s-commerce. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn all offer built-in analytics tools for measuring traffic, clickthrough, fans/followers, likes, sentiment and actual conversions coming via the social platform. This is a huge benefit for monitoring your ROI.|
Social Media Marketing
As more and more people around the planet become connected through social media, the influence of these channels continues to grow. In response, organizations are allocating more of their promotion budgets to social media. This makes sense when social media strategies align with broader marketing strategies in support of corporate objectives.
When used effectively, social media marketing can generate a lot of buzz without a lot of expense. There are still costs associated with content creation, but the proliferation of online content creators and hungry media outlets means that on social media, content tends to be cheap. The 24-7 cycle of global social media requires eyes, brains and analytical tools to stay on top of everything happening, but never before has it been so easy to tap into, listen and learn from individuals and communities interacting with your product or brand. It is undoubtedly exciting for your brand to become a trending topic among these networks, but it is important to remember social media attention can easily veer into positive or negative territory. Absolute control of the message is virtually impossible with social media. Managing consumer perceptions requires attention and perseverance.
Because many people share immense amounts of information about themselves through social media, increasingly marketers can use this information to deliver highly targeted messages and offers. Navigational click-stream data from social media and other websites is another source of valuable information about consumer behavior, what makes them tick, and how they do or don’t choose to engage with your brand. At the same time, firms must be prepared to address increasingly complex challenges associated with cybersecurity and data privacy.
New Retail is a term that was coined by Alibaba’s Jack Ma which is defined as an “integrated retail delivery model where offline, online, logistics, and data, converge to enhance customer experience”. Essentially this means that the boundary between offline and online commerce disappears. A way that an online store can create a physical presence is through a pop-up shop, or creating a partnership with other retailers where physical displays are set up. Companies can digitize their supply chain by offering the ability to buy online and pick up in store. Some companies have also explored the options of using digital ordering within physical stores for products that customers would like to see and touch. New retail is really about leveraging technology to make the process of shopping seamless whether you are instore or online.
- Gartner UK Ltd Tamesis. (2010, July 26). Gartner says majority of consumers rely on social networks to guide purchase decisions. PresseBox. https://www.pressebox.com/pressrelease/gartner-uk-ltd/Gartner-Says-Majority-of-Consumers-Rely-on-Social-Networks-to-Guide-Purchase-Decisions/boxid/361969 ↵
- Chaffey, D. (2017). Global social media research summary 2017. [Online] Available at: www.smartinsights.com/social-...edia-research/ ↵
- Medium Predict. (2021, May 8). What is 'new retail' and why is it the future of retail?https://medium.com/predict/what-is-new-retail-and-why-is-it-the-future-of-retail-76a6ac07d6ac ↵