Social media is taking a piece of Amazon’s pie.
At least it’s trying to. In the last few years, we have seen a rise in the prominence of eCommerce on social media platforms. Instagram added a designated shopping tab to it’s home screen. There have been ads, links to products, sponsored content and plugs from influencers on Instagram for years, but never before have they made such a concerted effort to get users to go to their platform specifically to shop.
That kind of overt product promotion and retail just wasn’t what users commonly associated with the platform. Look at Instagram’s parent company, Facebook: it launched the mobile-first Facebook Shops in May 2020 and hasn’t looked back. Their latest F8 conference heavily focused on their push toward expanded eCommerce and other business tools.
But Amazon remains established as the shopping center of the universe; is it really possible for a contender, or several diversified contenders, to enter their space? Well, where’s the one virtual place where consumers spend more time than they do browsing Amazon?
What should brands do?
Could this new push from platforms and these new features really be the future of internet shopping? Possibly. But as with every flashy, new feature on one of these platforms, brands should be cautious about putting all of their eggs in a brand new basket. You don’t want to wait too long and be behind the times but you also don’t want to go all-in right at the outset. Test it out: see how a few products perform on the Instagram shopping tab; if they’re a success, try a few more but if not, then pull back a bit. Give it time. See if these new features are a fit for your brand and products.
According to Facebook, 90% of Instagram users follow at least one business, so there is already some level of relationship between consumers and brands on social media. These new features will help businesses bring their messages to consumers in a streamlined fashion. Just look at the soon-to-be available Facebook Login Connect, which will help businesses speak directly with their customers on the platform. It’s becoming clear that more and more of these kinds of features will be emerging over the next several years, in an attempt to create a seamless dialogue between business and consumer. They likely won’t all be a fit for your business so, again, it’s best to dip your toes in the water before diving in.
What to do with influencers…
Influencer messaging has, without a doubt, been the lingua franca of the last several years. Nearly everyone on social media knows who they are and what they do. their job is to push brand-sponsored content your way, in hopes of getting you to make a purchase, follow them or the brand and generally become more aware of the brand’s overall image. This cements the influencer as an asset to the brand and feedback on influencer posts and campaigns give the brand better insight into who their target demographic is.
Now that platforms are rolling out these much more direct, streamlined advertisements to users, will brands still have such an imperative need to partner with influencers? As was mentioned earlier, it’s not a good idea to completely ditch the current, working model of business in favor of the new one. You can explore the new opportunities but keep in mind that users are always slow to acclimate to big changes on social media. In fact, they often initially reject them, in favor of keeping things the way they used to be. Think about Facebook updates in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s: as soon as the interface changed, the first thing you would see were status updates from frustrated users who cursed the new layout, yearning for the old one.
It’s also important to remember where influencers differ from direct ads or product listings hosted in social media apps. People are accustomed to ignoring ads.s. Even though we’re just as familiar with many sponsored content tactics these days, the best influencer plugs are subtler. Seeing a person you admire using the product in action is much more likely to catch your attention than most other forms of advertising. You have a virtual relationship with this person. You trust their opinion; they wouldn’t lead you astray.
So do these evolvingg eCommerce tools “de-power” influencers? Not really. They are capable of adapting their tactics too and their deft persuasion of users will always be useful for brands.
Taking a piece of Amazon’s pie is a good thing
Many have said over the last few years how Amazon is becoming too powerful. So, someone stepping up to diversify the eCommerce space is a good thing, even if that “someone” is a collection of massive social media conglomerates. An oligopoly might not be the most ideal situation, but it’s still preferred over a monopoly.
There are some positive intentions at play: Google’s latest partnership with Shopify will not just exist to compete with Amazon but it will also help highlight smaller, possibly struggling companies that don’t have the budget for a flashy website shopping interface to make their products and services known to online shoppers.
Innovation is good. Competition is good. Brands just need to figure out where they fit into this new eCommerce landscape. Take time to integrate your business into these new algorithms and interfaces before diving in head-first. Liaise with your influencers; find out where their platform can be more advantageous than direct ads or where you could put spend behind one of their posts with a boost or repost. New features arrive on social media platforms all the time but then are quickly done away with after negative reception so be sure to tread lightly and don’t always dive in, headfirst on every new feature you see.