The rise and influence of e-commerce has been a powerful reality for the 21st century retail industry. With the percentage of total retail purchases made online reaching 20%, any store without an online presence has been rendered relatively obsolete. While the majority of retailers have made extensive efforts to adapt to the effects of e-commerce and remain relevant to the modern-day shopper, a new digital method of buying and selling has emerged: social commerce. What is this new trend, and what does it mean for the brick-and-mortar store?
First, what is social commerce?
Social commerce, or s-commerce, is the ability to view and purchase products directly through social media platforms. Though social media already has a large influence on purchases, some platforms are now taking it a step further by adding features to buy products directly - without ever leaving the app. Social media giants are quickly catching on, with Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram all in the process of implementing in-app checkout capabilities.
Is s-commerce the next big thing?
Well...maybe. What is certain is that social media usage is continuing to rise. Worldwide, social media users have tripled over the last decade to 3 billion, and since 2015, daily time spent on social media has increased by 30%. However, despite the growth of its platform, s-commerce has yet to take the world by storm as some have predicted - only 10% of internet users currently purchase directly through social media (compared to the 75% who make online purchases). Additionally, 35% of internet users claim that they have no interest at all in making purchases through social media in the future.
If social media is so pervasive, why isn’t s-commerce a bigger “thing”? When asked, the majority of online consumers have cited security and privacy issues as their main reasons for remaining hesitant to make purchases through social media. It seems that despite the trust that people have in online security, they have not extended that trust to social media. This is somewhat surprising considering the mass amount of information and content that most social media users will upload on their profile. However, this is not to say that s-commerce doesn’t have a chance to become more widespread. If social media platforms are able to educate users and gain their trust, it is entirely feasible that direct social media purchases could become a mainstream purchasing method. Once security and privacy issues are addressed, it is probable that the question of an s-commerce boom will become “when,” rather than “if.”
All this talk about digital - is this the end for brick-and-mortar stores?
Simply put - no. Though everyone loves to talk about the revolution of digital commerce, in-store purchases still make up 80% of total global retail sales. Though purchasing products online (or through social media) can offer a wealth of conveniences, there are some desirable elements that digital shopping simply cannot provide. When we look at the reasons that people choose to shop in-store, this becomes clear: The ability to see, touch, or try on products, the ability take products home immediately, and the in-store experience itself are all listed by shoppers as primary reasons for choosing to purchase beyond the screen. These motivations make it evident that despite apocalyptic claims, brick-and-mortar isn’t going anywhere. Additionally, the preferences of rising generations seem to point in favor of brick-and-mortar as well. A recent survey revealed that more than half of Millennials frequent stores (not including grocery or convenience stores) at least once a week, compared to 27% of Baby Boomers and 44% of Gen Xers. And what about the most technologically-inundated generation of them all - Gen Z? Despite their digital nature, Gen Z still favors shopping in-store over online. The catch? Their shopping journey is driven by technology, and they want a store that will seamlessly connect all aspects of their buying experience. A new digital age in retail may be rising, but it’s not leaving brick-and-mortar stores behind...if they can adapt fast enough.
So, what should brick-and-mortar stores do?
Here at Mercaux, we love this question. Why? Because the solutions we provide help retailers across the world adapt to the digital age and provide seamless online and in-store experiences for their customers. Our solutions don’t only help stores keep up with the digital age - they allow retailers to remain steps ahead, remaining adaptable to unpredictable technology trends, and satisfying shoppers’ demands before they even realise what it is that they want from their shopping experience.
Whether or not s-commerce explodes into the next “it” thing, there are still some simple steps that stores can take to stay ahead of and benefit from the existence of this trend.
Educated Sales Assistants: What happens when the use of social media continues to increase and platforms increase the focus on s-commerce, yet consumers are still deterred by privacy issues? They are drawn even more to the in-store experience. Due to the proliferation of e-commerce and social media, customers enter the store with more product knowledge and more specific demands than ever before. This means that salespeople must not only be educated with product information, but also with the ability to provide guidance and knowledge that is not available to the customer elsewhere. With Mercaux, Sales Assistants can have instant access to merchandise data, size checks, alternative product suggestions, or even a list of additional items to complete an entire “look.” When shopping, customers don’t want to be the smartest people in the room. With Mercaux, the salesperson is always the expert.
Visual Search: It has always been common for shoppers to enter a store already having a specific purchase in mind. Now, customers have the ability to easily screenshot posts such as friends’ outfits, influencers’ styles, or advertised apparel, that depict exactly what they are looking for. Instead of relying on a Sales Assistant’s memory of current inventory to select comparable products, Mercaux’s visual search gives the ability to scan any picture or physical outfit/item and pull up all similar products in the store. As social media usage continues to expand and influencers skyrocket in popularity (especially among younger generations), the ability to effortlessly replicate any look is invaluable.
Bring social media in-store: As previously stated, the modern-day customer is seeking a seamless shopping experience. What better way to facilitate this than bringing social media directly into the store? Through Mercaux’s integration with Instagram, shoppers can view user-generated content and easily access social media content of celebrities and influencers. By making Instagram “shoppable,” retailers can allow customers to receive the benefits of both s-commerce and the in-store experience, all in one!
To hear more about Mercaux’s solutions, or to learn how Mercaux can help create a seamless experience for your customers, contact us here.