The promise of social shopping

For the last two years we’ve been seeing countless headlines positioning social shopping as the next big trend. Since shopping capabilities on social media have emerged, it has created buzz and excitement for both consumers and brands. Fast-forward and social shopping today has barely lifted off the ground and is stagnate.

We all know that social media has thrown a wrench in the wheel where consumers search for and discover content, ultimately disrupting the consumer journey. While this disruption isn’t new, it’s an area that many brands are still navigating when it comes to e-commerce.

Consumers are using social media to discover brands and products, then are going to other channels to purchase. While social media is informing the consumers’ purchase decision, it’s not where the action is taking place.

The social shopping experience has yet to be made seamless. A big factor is consumers’ concerns around security. The challenge for social media platforms is to cater to both the needs of consumers and brands.

Despite the promise of social commerce, the capabilities are not there yet. In order to deliver a more seamless experience, social platforms need to rethink their business model and the services they offer brands. Likewise, brands need to reconsider their approach to e-commerce and the notion that having a commerce website is most important.

The other part of the puzzle is the consumer mindset. The intent to purchase on social media is currently lacking. Although discovering a brand on Instagram may be a positive experience, consumers don’t currently go there ready to buy. Brands must work to lower this barrier by implementing social strategies that are specific to each social platform and the consumer behavior that takes place there.

Brands can also accelerate the integration of shopping on social by building mobile into their social business strategy. Mobile devices have changed the way consumers ingest content, creating an opportunity for users to respond here and now.

By leveraging the in-the-moment nature of mobile devices, social media could better align with key shopping moments, creating the perfect scenario for consumers to buy. Mobile has become an essential part of U.S. retail e-commerce. A recent report from comScore notes, “mobile accounted for 21 percent of total digital commerce dollars in Q4 2016.”

When it comes to tapping into shopping moments, we have yet to see the line that separates shopping and social media dissolve. The challenge is converting these two actions into one unified experience for the consumer. Brands that deliver this unified experience will realize the promise of social shopping.

It’s important to remember that social media platforms are not homologous. Each presents a unique opportunity for brands and serves a distinct consumer mindset. By identifying the right environment and leveraging the in-the-moment capabilities of mobile, therein lies the true social shopping opportunity for both brands and consumers. This is the power of social strategy at its finest.

Stephanie Steineck is a Digital and Social Media Strategist @ Brew: Creative Media in Minneapolis.