From Relationships to RelationSHOPS: Social Media & eCommerce

Long before TikTok was even a Ke$ha song, let alone a social media community, I was one of the first digital community managers trying to convince brand marketers to set up shop and build relationships with consumers on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and even privately-owned/hosted. But “set up shop” has taken on an entirely different meaning over the past 15 years, and even more so over the past few months.

With the introduction of commerce engines within Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, businesses, large and small, have no choice but to adapt to ever-changing consumer needs and expectations. You’ve heard the data and seen the reports: 

  • Nearly half of all digital users have spent more time on social media during COVID lockdowns. 
  • 75% of people globally say they are spending more time on their smartphone. 
  • 65% of U.S. adults are NOT comfortable in person. 41% of current online grocery shoppers were not buying digitally prior to the pandemic. 
  • Nearly half of ALL consumers expect to maintain (or increase) digital shopping behaviors post-pandemic (whenever that happens).

Bigger brands and businesses may have an advantage in advertising budgets on social and digital platforms, though Shopping tools may be the next great equalizer for everyone else. With the retail market in a state of inconsistent disarray, small and mid-size businesses must adapt quickly. Here’s how:

Change Your Mindset

Easier said than done, right? But nearly 80% of time spent visiting retail sites takes place on mobile and social channels (according to Comscore), yet only 1/3 of all ecommerce sales are happening via a mobile experience. Brands can be just as effective operating online by shifting focus, time and resources. Digital strategies must evolve as platforms evolve, especially for those traditional brick-and-mortar stores who rely on in-person shopping experiences to drive conversion. Changing your marketing mindset requires envisioning customers’ shopping experiences through a more holistic lens. This may include taking a more omnichannel approach that blends and introduces shoppers to seamless experiences across all platforms, including setting up shops on social media, e-commerce websites, and brick-and-mortar stores. 

Learn the Tools

One of the (many) byproducts of COVID is that social platforms have accelerated their commerce product timelines. With new launches happening faster than any of us expected, we can meet the demands of digital shoppers in real-time. The net benefit of product development has been a significant reduction in the number of steps and clicks required to complete the checkout process, which can now happen without ever leaving Instagram or Facebook. As marketers, we understand that the attention spans of our audience are limited, especially when they are engaging with so many pieces of content on their social feeds. Learning which tools will help create engaging content that retains this focus, then offering an efficient checkout experience is critical for driving conversion before the customer leaps back to their social feeds. 

Understand the Consumer Journey

Just as you might invest in ensuring a great shopping experience for consumers on your website, proper set-up of social shops can make all the difference. This is truly where and how you can take your relationship to the next level. By establishing a presence now, brands can capitalize on the excitement and newness of social shopping, as well as bring back some positivity to the overall retail ecosystem. 

Curate Your Collections

Just as they always have, social shopping environments require the right balance of content to be successful, but nowhere has the integration of lifestyle and lifecycle content ever been easier and more efficient. Shop owners have a seamless, templatized canvas to truly showcase creativity in ways that they can recreate an in-store experience. This includes the ability to build rich, detailed product pages with varieties, colors and accessorized options directly adjacent to video and imagery. Showing how these products come to life in the real-world has never been easier, but it does require your content to make-up for what a shopper is lacking in a traditional brick and mortar experience.

It is important to understand that your digital shoppers will not have the ability to physically touch a product in which they may be interested. They cannot simply walk over to a sales associate to get some face-to-face guidance in any part of their decision-making process. Effective content that bridges the gap between digital and traditional brick-and-mortar shopping will offer reassurances to those shoppers that prefer a more tangible, tactile approach to shopping, but are beginning to partake in other digital forms of shopping.

Be Discoverable

The entire marketing funnel can now take place within three or four clicks – from awareness to conversion. Once brands have set up the shop, discovery becomes the next challenge. Promotion via the social channels can happen somewhat organically (don’t forget about stories, too!), but we know targeted ads are still critical for success (regardless of the channel). This is where understanding who your audience is becomes critical. Before executing your targeted ad strategy, you need to know who your target audience is on a personal level. You need to understand which traits and characteristics they share, including geography, hobbies and interests, age and other socio-demo categories. Understanding exactly who you are going to target with data is the first step in not only becoming discoverable, but letting the right people discover and naturally come to you.

Take Instagram as an example, which is promoting Shops in their Explore tab. While sponsorship opportunities are still limited, this will also become an increasingly prevalent tool in marketers’ toolkit.  


Maintenance of social platform shopping experiences is easy, and getting easier. While specific asset dimensions and size/ratios may be slightly different, scaling to multiple channels and giving consumers multiple paths to purchase doesn’t require a significantly greater investment. Websites, retail channels, and social channels can all work for you, but having a coordinated digital architecture remains important. 

Go Live

My great aunt Myra is probably looking down from above with a mix of chagrin and excitement, but the woman who bought everything that QVC and HSN had to offer in the last 20 years of her life would LOVE what Instagram Live Shopping offers both, marketers and consumers. Live video requires both preparation and some courage, but collaborations between influencers, celebrities and brands might be a gamechanger for all of us… especially when including links to purchase products and check out directly on the platform, itself. 

The primary benefits of these influencer and celebrity collaborations range from brand awareness to cultural relevance, but also building trust with a base of followers that share similar interests. If you are a smaller company looking to maximize reach and build a following (especially if you are niche), tapping into influencers who share a similar following is essential. 

Yes, we’ve teased and talked about social platform shopping features in this space over the past few months, but getting to see and experience them in action provides marketers with an entirely new, innovative set of tactics.  Sharing this excitement with your customers will also help bring even more of them into the mix and show them how these new experiences work. Platforms are accelerating their rollout of new features and products at a daunting pace, but remaining adaptable and flexible, while continuing to listen to the consumer, investing in content and marketing will ensure that the second half of 2020 is far more successful than the first half.


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