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Social Commerce in a COVID-19 World

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

In recent weeks, the world has shifted—and with that, the digital landscape has shifted as well. At its core, social media is a reflection of what is happening in the world today. COVID-19 has altered nearly every aspect of daily life, and the social commerce landscape is no exception. Shoppers have been inundated with coronavirus updates via traditional media, social platforms, and word of mouth (from a minimum distance of six feet, of course). Information has been constant, evolving unpredictably every day.

Because of this constant information overflow, it comes as no surprise that COVID-19 is “having a drastic impact on consumer outlook, perceptions. and behaviors.” So much so that 25% of users in the U.S. are checking social media more frequently. The rise in usage stems not only from consumers wanting to be entertained during their isolation (e.g., Tiger King memes and TikTok challenges), but with more than 55% of U.S. adults getting some coronavirus information on social media, consumers also have a strong desire for information and connection during this time.

With a changing economic market, the question remains: What does the combination of rising social media use and the influx of information mean for social commerce? 

In times of crisis, each industry faces varied concerns. Due to preventive lockdown measures, many businesses have closed brick-and-mortar locations in varying capacities across the globe. As a result, 85% of shoppers are adjusting their shopping habits amid COVID-19 concerns, and one-third of American shoppers are avoiding physical store locations completely, turning to online retailers to purchase all of their needs. Much of the world has been confined to their own devices and social commerce is up and running. 

For many businesses, leveraging social commerce has been the only consistent point of purchase during this time, which demonstrates a mutually beneficial relationship for both brands and their audiences. Brands are able to meet shoppers where they are (on their couch) and provide essential products; and conversely shoppers are able to meet both essential and nonessential needs without ever leaving self-isolation.

Vic Drabicky, founder of January Digital, notes that “for some, splurging on a nonessential purchase provides a much-needed break from the stress and anxiety they feel. So while nonessential purchases might not be the most important thing, they still play a role in many people’s lives.”

However, this is not a free pass to flood social media users with promotional content and capitalize on their newfound availability. If content is not executed correctly, brands run the risk of pandering, fearmongering, and alienating potential future shoppers. Additionally, recent global economic instability has dramatically changed predictions regarding just how much shoppers are likely to spend on eCommerce purchases

A McKinsey & Company survey shows that about 70% of respondents believe that their finances will be impacted for more than two months due to coronavirus. So, while the opportunity to drive digital conversion exists, there are a few considerations at play in order to do so successfully. 

Because this virus and how we react to it is ever-evolving, it’s increasingly necessary to track the pulse of shopper sentiment. For example, at the height of hoarding, it would not have been an ideal time for a toilet paper brand to leverage a “get it while supplies last” style execution. With social media feeds already flooded with updates, reports, and everything in between, brands need to be conscious of the entire social landscape in which they’re sharing messages more than ever before. 

As shoppers’ buying habits shift from needs to wants over the course of coronavirus, it’s imperative for brands to meet social shoppers where they are mentally. The brands most likely to navigate through the crisis successfully are those who are able to put action behind their words. While many brands are offering donations for frontline helpers, free shipping or discounted products when purchased directly from their website, the most important action a brand can take in communicating to potential shoppers via social media is transparency.

Within the social space, marketers are reaching some shoppers who have lost their sole source of income, some who are petrified at the state of the world, and others who have contracted COVID-19. One certainty is that the actions, and reactions, among all shoppers is changing continuously. As humankind collectively navigates these shifts, brands that take these shifts into account will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Contributed By: Terrance Coleman, Social Media Manager, Integer Denver
Image Source: Unsplash

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