The Future of Social Commerce and Marketplaces: eConsultancy Report

September 21, 2020

Marketplaces Laura Lane By Laura Lane

As paths to purchase change rapidly in e-commerce, one constant endures: Consumers remain ready to buy. And their confidence in online retail is continuing to grow

In the wake of lockdowns and pandemic-propelled adjustments to everyday life, online purchasing activity remains high, as does consumer interest across all corners of the internet, from shoppable social media content to searches on global marketplaces. More shoppers than ever have been driven online, and their newly adopted habits are increasingly likely to become a permanent part of their daily lives, adding to the ripple effect that will continue for retail long after the pandemic has subsided. 

Now, 56% of consumers research more online than they did before the pandemic, regardless of whether they purchased in physical stores or online. Marketers must stand ready to meet the seemingly insatiable demand for content, to spark ideas and provoke consumer action and, ultimately, to provide frictionless transactions for immediate decisions.

Yet, some brands are still struggling to rise to the heavy challenge of creating curated content and engaging consumers across multiple platforms. The solution lies in generating content that buyers can identify with and act upon rather than distribute ads that are drowned out by the noise within consumers’ social media feeds and marketplace search results.  

ChannelAdvisor recently collaborated with eConsultancy to review data, trends and strategies to inform brands’ investment in focused campaigns that generate robust results. We wanted to learn more about the distinctions and manoeuvres brands need to know to sell through social channels and marketplaces as well as the benefits these platforms offer. 

We’re sharing the full, in-depth report with you. However, if you only have time to absorb a few high-level points right now, here are a few of the key takeaways: 

BE PRESENT

It’s no secret that a key linchpin to e-commerce success is finding the right consumers, in the right place, at the right time. It’s a mantra ChannelAdvisor lives by and a concept around which we continue to build and improve our platform.

However, as the lines between marketing and commerce continue to blur, the exercise of being present with purchase-ready opportunities has begun to look a little different. 

Social networks are surging as conversion and direct response channels. When stores closed or limited their hours during the lockdown phases of the pandemic, social commerce rose in relevance as consumers’ time scrolling through social media feeds significantly increased. These habits continue to provide an opportunity for brands to cultivate influential activity on social platforms, particularly in the areas of dynamic ads and retargeting ads for shoppers with abandoned baskets. 

Selling on Amazon, an attractive option for many buyers also requires sophisticated advertising methodology. Because of its extensive range of items, Amazon is now a top “first-stop” location for shoppers searching for a product. Amazon offers choices to build a multi-pronged approach for brand engagement within its ecosystem, from individual webstores for brands to showcase their products to videos that target viewers on its Fire TV platform. 

ENHANCE SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT

Originally meant to drive traffic to brand and retailer sites through a series of click-throughs, social media posts now inspire with content that reflects shoppers’ desires for lifestyle upgrades. Consumers increasingly expect to view shoppable content in their feeds, and marketers should respond in kind as boundaries within distinct channels continue to dissolve.

Extending the choice for the consumer to purchase via a ‘Buy Now’ button while viewing content turns social media into an effective direct-to-consumer proposition. And social posts now have so much more to offer beyond content and images. Content created for specific platforms and intentionally directed to target consumers boosts visibility and engagement. With enhanced shoppability, each post works harder for your brand in your effort to find and connect with your buyers.

One clothing and homeware retailer’s approach to dynamic ads across Facebook, Instagram and audience network was tailored to show products that previous website visitors had considered but had not purchased — leading to a 59% increase in conversions

GO GLOBAL 

Although the pandemic affected physical cross-border traffic, opportunities in cross-border trade via marketplaces remain wide open. The appeal to sellers to find buyers outside home locations and build a global customer base is increasing. Although sellers often start by focusing on Amazon and eBay, the category advantages and various buyer preferences in global marketplaces offer connections to consumers that otherwise wouldn’t be captured.

One UK-based footwear brand began using the ChannelAdvisor platform to expand its marketplace activity beyond manually listing products on Amazon UK — and in doing so, not only broadened its reach through Amazon, but also opened channels to commerce on multiple marketplaces in four additional countries. 

In a similar manner, brands must branch into placing content on social platforms where their customers visit. But how do you find the right channels for your target audience? First, you must find out who your buyers are, the media they tend to consume and what social networks they’re most likely plugged into. Then, ask these six key questions to narrow down your choices to the options that will give you the greatest impact and reach the largest target audiences for your products.

CURATE CONTENT FOR CONVENIENCE

If being at the right place at the right time is a key linchpin to capture consumers, convenience and accessibility are the wheels that keep sales moving. 

Eighty-three percent of consumers claim convenience is more important than it was five years ago. And although the inclusion of a ‘Buy Now’ button is a crucial tool to implement convenience, it doesn’t define the experience for shoppers.   

What does convenience mean to shoppers today? It doesn’t necessarily mean the fewest clicks. It is represented by faster checkout, ease of discoverability and passive inspiration — all based on authentic content that meets the consumer where they’re at in their life journey. Curated content ultimately provides solutions for the consumer’s individual lifestyle and comfortably prompts action — and follows through with seamless interaction throughout the purchase.  

IDENTIFY AND ADDRESS CONSUMER NEEDS

Brands struggle to manage consumers’ complex content needs. Finding the most successful and efficient means to reach consumers ready to purchase is a problem without a simple or static answer. But filling the gap for consumers and influencing them within their lifestyle journey yields clear pathways to further brand engagement in the future.

This challenge is not unusual. Nearly half (48%) of brands find it somewhat or very difficult to adequately address the volume of content needed across multiple products and personas.

Campaigns can contain many different variants of copy, images or video that need to be designed around the device and platform on which they will be delivered. Designing and managing these campaigns can be complex and time-consuming — but worth it to achieve results with specific products, audiences and platforms. 

Want to know more about the potential to drive post-pandemic recovery and growth through social commerce and marketplaces?

Click to read the full report.