By Charlie Carmichael

This year has seen Instagram – once merely a social hub for the snap-happy – transform itself into a vibrant hotbed of ecommerce activity. The platform’s addition of shoppable posts has revolutionized consumer purchase intent, and made all online businesses sit up and take note. This is hardly a new phenomenon, though.

Facebook and Pinterest have allowed ecommerce functionality for a while, but harnessing social commerce’s power has never been a cakewalk. Some simply lack the fundamental knowledge to capitalize on such an opportunity. Others believe their time is better invested elsewhere.

Preaching the benefits of social commerce is half the battle, however, implementing a social commerce strategy is where the war is truly won or lost. Below we’ll walk through not only how social commerce can help you, but give you practical advice so you can put this into practice. Teach a man to fish and all that.

1. Understand and Engage

It’s important to know your customers. Follow them. Interact with them. Social media is one of the most powerful forms of market research you can undertake. Twitter is a great platform for this. Research your competitors – what are their customers saying about products? Are there pain points your company can address? This is a great opportunity to brainstorm and problem solve.

More obvious perhaps, is your ability to tap into new markets. The social world is your oyster, make use of it. If you sell mattresses, search hashtags for people who complain about sleep. It’s basic supply and demand. It sounds rudimentary, but there’s a big client pool out there, you just have to cast your net properly.

2. Native Purchasing

Instagram has over 800 million active users and drives more engagement than any other social channel. It also has one of the highest purchase intents. So making use of Instagram’s shoppable posts is a no-brainer, right? Not quite. Consider your target demographic. Instagram may be one of the most profitable social channels but 90% of its users are aged 35 or under – hardly the place to advertise hearing aids.

Once you’ve settled on a suitable platform, it’s vital you integrate it with your online store. Users want to purchase products there and then, not get linked out to a website. Connecting the two makes your products natively consumable on that platform. The less effort customers have to go to purchase products, the more likely they’ll be to purchase them. Simple.

3. Dynamic Advertising

How many times have you heard someone rave about abandoned cart recovery? There’s no denying its importance, but through dynamic advertising, you can take things one step further. Using website plugins like Facebook Pixel lets you retarget your site’s visitors via social media, whether they got to the cart or not.

This is an essential marketing tool that can get customers off the fence and into your checkout. Advertising on social media often leads to a lot of guesswork. Don’t go in blind. Use dynamic advertising to retarget potential consumers who have a pre-existing purchase intent.

4. Promoting Blogs/Infographics

It goes without saying that exposure on social media can help drive traffic to your site, but what should be the carrot on the end of the stick? Blogs are a fantastic way to create social interaction and get people through the door (figuratively). Rather than going straight for the hard sell, take the time to curate something of interest to your audience.

Bear in mind visual content is over 40 times more likely to be shared, so accompanying your posts with imagery or better, an infographic, is a the perfect way to reach a wider readership. Infiltrate Facebook groups in similar spheres or post content with relevant hashtags. It’s important your posts are seen by users most likely to click through to your website and buy.

5. Chatbots

AI is popping up everywhere these days and changing lives – artificial live chat is no different. Take the stress out of managing your customer’s queries by integrating social chatbots. It can be programed to offer discounts, solve problems and even give personalized recommendations. The more emotionally intelligent chatbots get, the less of your time is consumed by customer issues. Time that could be spent focussing on the other four points in this article.

Social commerce shouldn’t be your only sales avenue, but with its ever increasing impact on ecommerce, it can’t be ignored. Identify your target audience, hone in on specific social networks, and refine your plan of action. Put the above points into practice and you’ll have a solid social strategy in place for your ecommerce business.