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Jun 8, 2023 | 5 minute read

“Hacking” The Social Commerce Experience With Edge Checkout

written by Bryan House

Like many tech trends that originate in China, social commerce seems promising for U.S. brands. However, given the economic pressures of late 2022 and 2023, some social giants like Meta have dialed back their investments in native social commerce channels. Even so, the growth of this medium is far from over. According to eMarketer, social commerce sales grew 34.4% in 2022, with a projected growth of 20% (to more than $107 billion) by 2025.

With the addition of new data privacy changes from Google and Apple, many marketers have been hesitant to depend on third-party customer acquisition channels, doubling down on building and nurturing their own customer databases. The growth of social commerce may seem at odds with the need for commerce brands to capture more first-party customer data. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. 

It is possible to experiment with social commerce channels, without giving up control of your customer data. But first, it’s important to understand how U.S. consumers are using social commerce. The short version: many are browsing instead of buying in-channel. That leaves plenty of room to improve the social commerce experience and acquire long-term customers.

How U.S. Consumers Use Social Commerce Today

Most U.S. consumers use social commerce for discovery, and then complete the transaction on the merchant’s website. Surprisingly, almost three-quarters prefer to check out on the brand site. A major reason why customers aren’t converting on social media is trust. 

According to Accenture, 49% of non-social buyers are concerned about purchase protections and returns, while 41% don’t trust the social platforms themselves with their data. Similar data shows that even one bad experience prevents shoppers from making repeat purchases: 66% were unlikely to make another purchase on social media because of the difficult return process. 

If you drill down into how consumers act on specific channels, you’ll notice a lot of engagement across the board. These signals show us that social commerce continues to be a strong brand building and engagement tool for merchants, even if customers don’t convert directly in-channel. According to Comscore, in 2022 consumers had 153% more engagement on retailer and brand-sponsored content on Facebook and 175% increase on Instagram. 

Other platforms outside the Meta umbrella are getting in on the action. TikTok saw an explosive growth in views, which were up 407% from 2020 to 2022 for U.S. retail and consumer packaged goods brands. A majority of these TikTok users (86%) also visit Amazon, explaining Amazon’s growth as both an ad platform and search engine. Pinterest introduced a shopping API for merchants to sync catalogs to the platform, personalization advancements to surface more relevant results for users, a hosted checkout feature, and more.

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How To Play In Social Commerce Without Giving Up Customer Data

All of this activity goes to show that social commerce isn’t going away, especially as an awareness channel. With that said, nobody wants a repeat of social advertising 1.0, which nearly wiped out many D2C brands with its excessive customer acquisition costs. Brands were originally willing to trade off customer data for the transaction. While customer acquisition costs were low, you could build a business that way. But unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.

Let’s look on the bright side. It is possible to “hack” most social commerce experiences and still hold onto your customer data. More importantly, doing so improves the customer experience by reducing friction at the point of purchase, so customers don’t have to take the action of coming to your website after gaining awareness of your product on social.

Let’s look at how this could work. Shoppable links and landing pages embedded into your brand’s profile, posts or ad units are one approach. These direct the customer to the exact item and variation they’re browsing, removing friction. Or, if the item they’re browsing is out of stock, edge checkout enables you to send an opt-in SMS or email directly to the customer, maximizing conversions once the item becomes available again.

Ultimately, owning your own customer data and maintaining control of the digital experience is a good thing for privacy and customer trust, as well. Remember how customers don’t exactly trust social shopping? Brands that establish trust with customers — whether that’s through compliant opt-in marketing, making good on their fulfillment, returns and exchanges, or maintaining excellent customer support — stand to benefit most. 

Trust is the beginning of any great relationship. From there, your brand has a better chance of getting to know your customer and serving them better, more personalized recommendations based on their preferences.

To sum up, it is possible to use a flexible, API-first commerce approach to experiment with social commerce platforms, while keeping interactions within the four walls of your brand. We looked at shoppable landing pages and edge checkout experiences as two examples, but the possibilities are truly endless. The ultimate goal is to remove friction between the customer and the merchant. Doing so creates a better experience across the entire customer lifecycle — from order, to fulfillment, to returns/exchanges, to loyal repeat buyers.

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