If you were to look back 10 years at the early days of social media, today's most popular platforms would appear quite different. Some of them wouldn't even have been created yet.
Instead of disappearing photo apps and live-streaming videos, you'd find what now seem like rather rudimentary designs. You might see a few clunky posts, 140-word political rant, and the occasional emotional over-share. Photo sharing had barely come into vogue, and most people hadn't even heard of a smartphone.
And mobile payments? Well, those were a good decade in the future.
Today, the landscape has changed radically. Social media has transformed from a place to chat with friends into a cultural phenomenon, and it holds very real implications for e-commerce businesses. Social media optimization enables e-commerce merchants to connect with consumers throughout the day without interrupting the flow of their digital routines.
Social Media's Crossover Act
When online shopping first became available, inputting credit card numbers and security codes hardly seemed like a nuisance. What's 30 seconds spent on checkout when you're saving an hour or more by not shopping in a brick-and-mortar store?
But technology evolves rapidly, and people's preferences grow more sophisticated along with it. Filling out payment forms feels more and more like a chore when mobile wallets and digital payment apps enable consumers to check out with a single click, swipe or voice command. Fortunately, popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter now allow e-commerce retailers to sell goods directly through their pages.
For instance, you can sponsor a product ad on Twitter that includes a Buy Now button. Or, you can set up a friendly, engaging Facebook page, create text and video posts around your products, and capture your audience's business as they're engaging with your content. Snapchat even allows sellers to add product links to their posts. You simply direct viewers to swipe up to find a link to the products you're showcasing there. The goal is to control the buying journey, and social calls to action (CTAs) help get people to your checkout page or product link.
Not only do social payment integrations help reduce the time and number of steps needed for conversion, they also allow brands to become natural parts of consumers' everyday experiences. When there's no clear distinction between socializing, chatting and shopping, the barriers to purchase drop significantly.
The Personal Touch
Social media makes sense as a selling platform, and not just because of the convenience. Certainly, you want to reduce the number of steps between brand awareness and conversion. But the nature of social media is less formal and more interactive than traditional advertising.
People can be skeptical of brands that are constantly pushing products with little regard for their audiences' needs. New technologies allow consumers to evade invasive and annoying ads, and 11 percent of internet users around the world use ad blockers to reduce the number of aggravating promotions they see.1 Eleven percent may sound like a relatively low number, but that percentage covers about 600 million devices and use of ad blockers is on the rise.1 Consumers are pushing back against traditional advertising, and e-commerce businesses must find better ways to connect.
Social media offers more flexibility in how you engage consumers and educate them about your products. If your company regularly posts humorous, entertaining and emotionally evocative content — and responds to comments and feedback on that content — customers are increasingly likely to gravitate toward your pages.
As the brand-consumer relationship grows, those social spaces become natural conversion points. People can learn about your company, ask questions and voice concerns, and purchase products all in one place.
However, your social presence should not be explicitly sales-centric. The goal is to build an organic following and motivate people to buy through interesting conversations and content. The informality of social media enables you to be more playful or conversational than you might in traditional brand messaging. Don't be afraid to include colloquialisms, jokes and even emojis in your posts. Such language gets people to let their guards down and makes them more receptive to your articles, videos and messages.
Once they understand who you are and how your products will provide them value, you'll want to have a clear CTA through which they can buy. The buying process should be as quick and simple as possible. Integrating your payment system with popular mobile wallets and credit card platforms lets consumers pay on their own terms.
Social media has also given rise to influencer marketing, in which brands partner with an influential person to promote their products. People trust their favorite social media personalities more than they do for-profit brands, so influencer marketing is a way to overcome that obstacle.
If a credible Instagram star posts about a product and links to it in her bio, her followers are more inclined to give it a try than if they simply saw a sponsored brand post in their social media feeds. Influencer marketing has become incredibly popular, with 94 percent of marketers surveyed saying they find it to be an effective tactic.2
Again, the key is ease of transaction. An influencer who merely mentions a product without offering a path to follow-through raises brand awareness, but may not be effective at driving conversions. But one who shares a mobile-optimized link—and, ideally, a promotional code for extra incentive—guides followers seamlessly toward checkout.
If you plan to work with social media influencers, provide them with links, information about your product and content guidelines that motivate conversions. The content they create should come across as authentic and should not pressure audiences to buy. But it should include cues and clear steps for how to purchase when they're ready.
The Future of Payments and Social
The continued convergence of social posting and mobile payments seems inevitable when you observe recent trends. Chinese social media and messaging services—such as WeChat, Alipay and other fintech companies—have captured a massive slice of the payments space in their native country. Combined, these fintech companies have helped drive more than 97 billion mobile payment transactions in China in 2016, according to figures from the Payment and Clearing Association of China.3
Mobile payments in China is often seen as a potential glimpse into the future of mobile e-commerce, as the app allows people to message friends, pay bills, book taxis, and access coupons and promotions for their favorite brands for an all-in-one experience.
China’s social and payments services apps also present a case study in targeted marketing, as companies can use contextual behavioral data to serve ads based on users' activities. Meaning, if a user browses a particular product, advertisers can use that information to push ads and promotions to motivate them to buy.
You can also try using using real-time analytics platforms to understand your customers' browsing and buying patterns and to get to know their social media preferences. Knowing which platforms they frequent and how they engage there will inform your content and social strategies and can boost your purchase conversions.
Social media offers many opportunities for e-commerce businesses. By optimizing your mobile payments systems for social media, you can deliver better brand experiences and capture your audience's attention and business.
1 “2017 Global Adblock Report,” PageFair, February 2017.
2 “The State of Influencer Marketing 2017,” Linquia, 2016.
3 “2017 Mobile Payment Usage in China Report,” Ipsos, August 2017.
The information provided herein is sponsored by Discover Global Network. It is intended for informational purposes, and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.