Nobody can claim to not have given in to the temptation of an impulse buy at some point or another. Whether you’re strolling through an aisle or standing at a checkout line, you’ve picked up that pack of socks, or some new snack that your favorite grocery store is promoting, and added it to your basket. Now that we spend so much of our waking hours online, it was only a matter of time before the tendency was paralleled in our digital experiences. Yes, I’m talking about social commerce and the race to introduce “Buy” buttons on social networks. Over the past year, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram have all shown the inclination and started testing and rolling out “Buy” buttons on their networks.
On a high level, this means that every product ad that you see in your feed or on a brand or retailer’s page will soon be easily purchasable. Once you make an initial purchase, your information will be stored making future purchases smoother and quicker. Social networks let you buy stuff before as well but you were sent off to the respective retailer’s website to complete the transaction. Now you can stay within the network and go back to your social activity in no time.
A few years ago, we probably wouldn’t have believed that we would be using social networks to do anything other than staying in touch with friends and stalking them for the latest gossip story. It was only a matter of time before this massive captive audience was monetized. A new generation of digital impulse buys is born. When it’s right there in your news feed, it’s hard to resist the temptation of buying that pair of black pumps from Macy’s.
There are advantages for both retailers and consumers here. By selling through a platform like Facebook or Twitter, retailers will gain a lot of insight into their consumers – what are they buying, which products are resonating more, what do they like, what are they not clicking on at all, what time do they shop. It will eventually lead to more personalized and targeted offers embedded in context. This is testament to the idea that commerce is becoming increasingly pervasive. You can buy from anywhere, at any time. Consider this: if an influencer on any social network shares a product link saying how much they like it, others can quickly buy the product with confidence as well. Also, this will be an especially effective experience on mobile, where entering personal details can be quite irksome. The one-tap process would encourage more conversions, adding a whole new dimension to the product discovery process.
With the advantages, there are certain core challenges as well on the retailer’s end. The primary challenge is that of keeping product information in sync with the social channels – especially inventory data. Retailers have to ensure that their product catalog is updated regularly and is integrated with the social network’s system. Recently, Facebook announced that it would let some Shopify merchants test the “Buy” button. Having a consumer click on an offer to find that it is out of stock would be a very negative user experience. The solution is to have reliable product data at the core that then feeds into other systems.
Social commerce presents tremendous potential for businesses. They can test different ads to find out which products are resonating more with consumers and work more to promote those and similar items. Pinterest’s announcement of a “Buy” button earlier this month is very exciting. It is perhaps the channel that lends itself most to ecommerce. With its scrapbook like layout and enticing imagery, the inspiration to buy the things you see is only natural. To be inspired by a decorating idea and have the ability to immediately buy all the required materials instead of having to source them one by one, is a powerful shopping experience.
Times are changing. Every surface is becoming shoppable and products are being brought to you where you are. The time of the true omnichannel experience is here and “Buy” buttons on social networks will help usher in the new frontier.