Here are the five top issues giving consumers pause for thought before handing over hard-earned dollars to social networks.
If you believed all the hype surrounding social commerce currently, you might think that social commerce will remove the need for an e-commerce platform completely. The reality though is e-commerce platforms aren't going away. However, shopping has shifted to the edge. The edge is where consumers increasingly discover products away from the brand's e-commerce store. Of these edge touch points, social is a very important channel for helping customers to discover your brand's products — but much less important when it comes to actually buying them.
The state of social commerce
In a February 2021 study of 501 social shoppers by SimplicityDX, 71% of online shoppers prefer to check out on the brand site rather than directly on the social network. By comparison, only 13% prefer to check out on the social network, while 16% have no preference.
This is helpful in understanding how the majority of consumers want to use social media as part of their shopping journey. What the data tells us is that social is a great place to discover new products, but consumers want the safety and security of shopping on the brand site.
Let's drill down a bit more to understand why and what is motivating consumers. There are five big issues which give consumers pause for thought before handing over their hard-earned dollars to social networks:
No. 1: Trust
More than half of online shoppers are nervous about sharing personal data with social networks, fearing that it might be misused. A series of missteps by social media companies on consumer privacy issues in the past means that many online shoppers are wary of sharing personal data with social networks. The same is true when it comes to sharing credit card data with social networks.
No. 2: Inventory
Product availability is a big problem post COVID-19, with almost all online shoppers experiencing product availability issues when social shopping. It's clear there is a disconnect between the inventory that's available to promise (ATP) in the commerce platform and what's showing as available on social. In the example on the right, a purchase was canceled by Instagram some days after the initial order because Instagram had sold a product that was out of stock. While fast-moving items with low stock are particularly susceptible to this problem, customers will quickly learn that they are much better off simply purchasing on the brand site where this doesn't typically happen. Until social platforms are making real-time ATP calls, this problem will persist.
No. 3: Shopping experience
In the more than 30 years of e-commerce, consumers have become familiar with the standard ways of shopping on e-commerce sites. Due to the immaturity of social platforms, many of these familiar constructs do not exist, such as searching and filtering products.
Brands often do not upload their full product catalog onto social platforms for a combination of reasons, and consumers may want to shop more broadly that individual specific items. Brands sites also often have additional product information and rich media which help customers to reach buying decisions, making the brand site a better place to buy.
No. 4: Product returns
Our research also shows that 85% of online shoppers are unsure how to return products that are purchased directly on social networks. The majority believe (incorrectly) that contacting the brand directly is the right path, but this is not the case. When the transaction originates on a social network, the social network is the merchant of record and therefore responsible for returns and refunds. Brands would be very unwise to support customers directly outside of this structure.
No. 5: Product authenticity
Shopping on marketplaces is not without its risks — it's the home of scams and fake goods. Some brands, such as Birkenstock, have withdrawn their products from marketplaces because of the large number of fake products being passed off as authentic. Many customers know this and want the reassurance that they are buying the genuine article. For others, the full brand experience is a key part of the motivation for buying in the first place.
While consumer trends may change over time, currently most social shoppers clearly prefer the brand experience and do not want to check out on a social platform.
This suggests that redirecting traffic to the brand site should be the preferred option for the majority of brands.