Selling on social media: how retailers can reach their customers on Facebook and Co.

First the customers stopped going to stores, now they disdain the online shops. That is why retailers want to reach them where they are anyway: on social media. An overview of the shopping opportunities on Facebook , Instagram and Pinterest.

Mobile shopping is becoming more and more natural, especially for the younger generation. Social channels such as Instagram and Pinterest are playing an increasingly important role as sales platforms. One in five online customers who shop on their mobile device does so via their social media channels.

This type of online sales is called social commerce. The big social media companies offer ever more extensive options to enable shopping on their platforms. Ideally, users no longer leave the platforms to shop because they are suggested the products that interest them via the product recommendations of their social media friends. Only payment via the channels is not yet possible. For Facebook, Pinterest and Co., the advantages are obvious: They keep users on their pages for as long as possible, so they can offer more advertising, collect data on buying behavior and skim off a sales commission.

For retailers, social commerce offers the opportunity to reach more customers. Products that sell particularly well through pictures – clothing, accessories or furniture – are particularly suitable for selling on social media. One possibility is to market the products through influencers. Many online shop operators have already recognized the potential.

She has now reached 85 percent of her customers via Instagram, says Marlena Wester from the decoration shop Wild Daisy. “The platform is extremely relevant for our business.” Above all, it relies on Instagram stories and their features: 45 percent of their customers reached their online shop via tags or swipe-ups.

Mail order company Otto is also convinced of social commerce and is testing the implementation of its product catalog with Pinterest, which is very extensive with over a million items. “Pinterest is a very exciting channel for us,” says Marc Opelt, Head of Marketing at Otto. “We are reaching our target group in a completely new environment. Where the user likes to be inspired and is open to new ideas. “

However, if you rely on sales via social media, you should also be aware of possible disadvantages: A lot of customer data goes to the platform instead of to your own shop. Online retailers lose the opportunities for brand marketing and also lose track of the traffic on their own website.

In an international comparison, Germans are still relatively skeptical of the large platform operators. But because younger users in particular willingly share their financial information via the channels, social commerce is a trade with a future that shop operators have to grapple with.

On the retailer pages on Facebook there is the option of creating a shop to which products can be added. As soon as the shop contains at least one product, it appears as a section of the page and can be accessed via the corresponding tab. The products can consist of pictures, videos and a product description as posts. The posts are always organic. With the button “Buy via the website”, interested parties are redirected to the product detail page in the provider’s external shop in order to complete the purchase there. The posts reach a higher reach if users like, comment, share or save them. Shop owners can organically promote individual products by sharing them on their own pages or in groups. In the so-called “collections” within the shops, categories such as “bestsellers”, “offers” or certain product types can be created. Collections that should get more attention can be placed first in the shop and also on the page.

Shop operators can either maintain their products on Facebook directly on their page or use the Facebook Business Manager for this. A tool that also takes on the administration of the shop page, i.e. manages the orders, contacts the customers or displays the shipping status.

On the Facebook shop pagesonly physical products may be sold. In addition, the offer must comply with Facebook’s trading guidelines, which for example prohibit the sale of tobacco, alcohol, weapons, prescription drugs and animals. Facebook says it checks the new products within 24 hours. And Facebook decides whether the offers can stay in the shop or not – sometimes apparently arbitrarily. For example, Facebook allows condoms to be sold, but not menstrual cups. Why, that is not made clear, and so the dealers can only speculate. A fish spice called “Pistol Fish Rub” is not allowed to be sold. Because of the word “pistol”? Another sauce that was rejected contains the word “pork”, Facebook probably suspects a live animal behind it.

Sell ​​on Instagram

The user can access the shop area via the shop tab on the Instagram page. Shopping posts are organic image or video posts in which up to five products and their prices can be indicated. People and products can also be marked in the same post. The user recognizes the shopping posts by a shopping bag symbol in the top right corner of the posting. A click on the product marking leads to the product in the shop area, where it can be presented with additional pictures. The “View on website” button takes you to the dealer’s external shop, where you can then complete your purchase. Product markings can also be added later.

Instagram is likely to offer paid shopping posts in addition to organic shopping posts later this year. Retailers can then mark their products not only on pictures but also in the stories. However, only one marking per story is possible here. Using the product launch stickers in the stories, users can set a reminder for products that interest them. You will then receive a push notification as soon as the announced product can be purchased.

Instagram shopping is only available for company accounts and only works with a link to a Facebook account. The products must already be created in a Facebook catalog for e-commerce items. This catalog is a kind of product shelf for the various Facebook applications: With it, retailers can, for example, place dynamic ads, expand sales on Instagram or set up a shop on the company page of Facebook. Like Facebook, trading on Instagram is subject to the company’s trading guidelines.

Sell ​​on Pinterest

On Pinterest, the organic product pins contain the image of the product, the price, a description and a link to the product page for payment in the external online shop. Because even with Pinterest it is not yet possible to pay directly on the platform. The product pins are among the so-called “rich pins”, which offer additional details about pins. The Product Pins are automatically created from external product catalogs and update with the websites they came from. They appear in the Shopping tab on the Pinterest page. They can also be used to create paid ads. Pinterest is currently testing the catalog function in Germany with selected partners such as Home24, Fossil and Otto. Via the shop-the-look pins,

So you can buy individual elements of an outfit or an interior. Merchants who want to offer products on Pinterest need a Pinterest business profile. In order to automatically generate product pins from the catalog pages of the external shop, you must insert the specified OpenGraph or markings in the HTML code area on each page. With the rich pin validator provided by Pinterest, retailers can check whether the integration was successful.

Pinterest uses the Pinterest Lens search technology to perform a visual search for each pin to find similar objects or products. In this way, users can search for certain objects – be it a couch, a vase or a wardrobe – that they have photographed with their own camera. With the help of Pinterest Lens, this product will be found if it is available through the shop. The search can also be restricted to just one image section. According to Pinterest, the search engine is able to recognize more than 2.5 billion objects in the “Home” and “Fashion” categories. With the search technology, the company wants to make browsing and shopping as easy as possible for customers so that they can shop even more through the Pinterest shop.

Trends from China

For trends in social commerce, it is worth taking a look at China. There, all-purpose messengers like the Chinese Wechat dominate the market, which enable mobile communication, gaming, shopping and payment in a single app. The active 1.1 billion Wechat users no longer need an official fast food app to order their burger. The menu is called up via the app and then ordered directly. Users who have uploaded more than ten videos to Douyin, known in this country as Tiktok, can post shoppable posts. They are either linked to the Taobao marketplace or to their own store. On Pinduoduo, with its more than 340 million active users, users gather to buy together in order to benefit from group discounts.

Under the keyword “Retailtainment” (Retail + Entertainment), many Chinese platforms ensure that users are entertained as well as possible while shopping: With short videos, cute mascots, mini-games, the free play of vouchers and extensive functions for sharing the shopping experience with his social media contacts. Western social media platforms are now emulating the Chinese apps and trying to establish e-commerce and payment systems in order to make them palatable to consumers. What is successful in Asia could soon establish itself in Germany.

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