Lockdown has forced businesses to fast-track their social commerce strategies. Mango Communications’ Zoe Virtue, who judged the Effective Social Strategy category at the 2020 WARC Awards offers inspiration in s-commerce from this year’s winners.

Originally created as an entertainment and communication channel, social media has evolved into a news source, a mass communication channel, and the online equivalent of a shopping mall for younger generations.

Media is booked based on where the eyeballs are, and social media now has nearly half (3.8bn, according to We Are Social) of the world’s eyeballs, thereby earning its rightful place in most marketing plans.

Social media has provided an economical platform for brands to reach consumers, and programmatic media buying enables ad spend and creative to be optimised in real time. This ability to customise has carved out a place for social media in the marketing mix, with smart brands deploying it to reach, engage and convert. This has proven social to be a powerhouse at every stage of the sales funnel.

Mirror audience behaviour

However, while social platforms offer a diverse range of post formats designed to drive click-through, a user still needs to be primed before clicking to purchase. For brands, remembering why users are on that specific social platform in the first place is integral to success regardless of the marketing objective.

Brands who act natively to the platform and mirror audience behaviour will see the greatest success in engagement and conversion.

QSR: thinking further down the funnel

Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) brands have engaged customers on social media for many years, but the recent demand for online food ordering and delivery has forced them to think further down the funnel.

KFC Arabia saw a significant uptake in online food delivery from its Scroll-Thru campaign, which effectively engaged a millennial audience at all stages of the funnel, with Facebook content that entertained, engaged and then converted.

The key elements to the success of this campaign were:

A carefully crafted user experience: starting with clever ad formats that disrupted the newsfeed, the engaging content naturally linked to purchase, creating a seamless user experience within the app.

Clever use of shoppable ad formats: an interactive and intriguing post was used instead of a basic action-driving post. It caused the user to stop scrolling, have a play and then buy.

Smart programmatic targeting: it started with KFC’s key audiences, evolved into retargeting those who engaged but didn’t order the first time, and ended in a final direct sales layer with offers.

Use entertainment levers

The most successful social commerce initiatives create experiences and journeys that are native to a particular platform: well-crafted content and gamification are effective in pulling the entertainment levers for which people flock to social media. Amazon China used gamification to drive book sales, luring over two million users to play a personality-type game that resulted in a personalised book recommendation, with 14% of users clicking through to Amazon Prime Reading to download the book.

The outcome? A 69% increase in book sales. It worked because of the fun, interactive and personalised journey the user was taken on, as well as the seamless experience from social to the game and website.

The rise of contextual commerce

As Amazon shows, personalised experiences on social media are paving the way for the rise of the next e-commerce play: contextual commerce.

Contextual commerce enables the user to see the product or service in context and then integrates the full purchase process in their social feed, removing the requirement for the user to click away to complete the purchase. Checkout is Instagram’s contextual commerce feature. It launched in 2019 for a small group of global brands, enabling users to buy and ship products within the Instagram newsfeed. Facebook recently bolstered this offering with the launch of Facebook Shops, an e-commerce platform free for all businesses to set up a single online store accessible via Facebook and Instagram. These innovations by Facebook are revolutionising e-commerce and s-commerce, producing a marketplace that merges the ‘like’ economy and purchasing into one seamless interface.

The digital mall

Socialising combined with shopping via social media has quickly become the new equivalent of going to the mall with friends. With people around the world in lockdown, it has pushed behind-the-times businesses to launch e-commerce platforms and use social media beyond a visual brochure or basic customer communications channel.

With the global adoption of e-commerce, the online user experience has never been more important, and no other digital channel can drive customers so seamlessly through the purchase funnel as social media.

As consumer behaviour evolves, so too must brands. The only certainty from here is that when it comes to e-commerce, social media will continue to be one of the most important channels.

This is an extract from WARC’s Effective Social Strategy Report, published July 15.