Why hello again Social Commerce… how you’ve changed.

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Nearly a year ago today, we provided you with the latest and greatest about all things social commerce. In case you’ve forgotten, though, a quick recap: social commerce allows users to purchase products directly from their social media platform of choice, whether that be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or even Snapchat.

For so many reasons, social commerce, which was predominantly happening via ‘buy buttons’ embedded within social media platforms, was a stellar idea. After all, which merchant didn’t want to make more sales? Beyond that, all the stats were there…we were spending more time than ever using social media, and we trusted it, so why wouldn’t we want to buy, right there and then?

What we discovered, though, was that buy buttons weren’t as magical as they first appeared. There were a few things that weren’t quite right.

Less than a year on though, it seems like things have changed. With blazing headlines such as ‘Will social commerce save Snapchat?’, are we on the cusp of social commerce takeover?

So where did we leave things?

Where exactly was social commerce, and more specifically, the buy button at last time we visited it?

It was most certainly more than a passing fad, that’s for sure. Facebook started the trend over 4 years ago, kicking off its button in early 2014. Then it was Twitter’s turn later that year, shortly followed by Pinterest in mid-2015 with their version, a ‘buyable pin.’

And for a while, everything looked so positive. By sending consumers straight to checkout after they’d viewed something they like, they were far less likely to fall out of the sales funnel, meaning that something – finally – could be done about the woeful 15% mobile conversion rate that costs retailers billions. So, it’s fair to say that merchants loved the idea.

Users were also liking the buy button…or were they? On the surface, it seemed exactly like what users wanted: the ability to see a picture of their dream pair of sneakers and then instantaneously buy them. But there were problems. Firstly, experts contended that just because someone could buy something now, it didn’t mean that they would want to. Basically, they said, purchasing behaviour typically involves ‘interest and awareness’ followed by ‘consideration and comparison’ and then finally ‘purchase’, so trying to circumvent that just wouldn’t work.

Then secondly, and this was a big one, there was the technology side of things. For the buttons to function, merchants needed to integrate them into their website – something that many were unwilling (or couldn’t afford) to do.

Without integration, the button would merely be a redirect. This meant that many of the issues involved with mobile shopping, for example, the excruciating pain of filling out a mobile checkout form, remained just as problematic as ever. This rendered the buttons good in theory but not in practice, many mused.

And this started to show in how the social media platforms treated them. Facebook’s buy button was (and still is) restricted to retailers who work with the ecommerce provider Shopify, demonstrating that it may not (yet?) have been huge success that the brand hoped for. And Twitter’s button hasn’t only failed to succeed at scale, it’s failed to succeed at all – Twitter decommissioned it in early 2017.

So less than a year later, could things really be that different?

New players, new hope

The answer is that it is not only possible, but likely, that the entrance of some new, very successful players into the social commerce field has entirely changed the landscape…and that our shopping behaviour is beginning to shift with it.  

The seemingly lacklustre success of previous buy buttons doesn’t seem to have deterred other players from having a go. Earlier this year Instagram launched their ‘Shop Now’ button, and many large retailers are already jumping onboard, including Marks and Spencer and Miss Selfridge.

And over at Snapchat, social commerce isn’t just a nice addition, but it’s their saviour, apparently. Snapchat’s new feature, called Shoppable AR (augmented reality), allows advertisers to pay to attach buttons to camera-lens features which then redirects the users to a company website, promotional video or app installation. And so far, so good. The feature has variously been described as ‘game-changing’ and Snapchat’s ‘most important feature yet.’

So it turns out we do want to buy it now

Interestingly, it was less than a year ago that experts said that social media platforms dare not break our purchasing funnel with quick-buy options as it just wasn’t what we wanted. But oh, how quickly things can change.

This year, it turns out that we do want to buy things, and quickly. Apparently, we just want to look for them and then buy them straight away, according to a study by Internet Retailing,

And it was on this very behaviour that Instagram (and most likely Snapchat) based their decisions to proceed with buy buttons. According to the same study, Google searches via mobile for ‘Where can I buy…’ have increased an incredible 85% in the past year, so there’s literally proof that we know what we want and we want it now…exactly the behaviour that buy buttons are looking to capture.

The evidence is so compelling, in fact, that Google has also taken advantage of it, launching the Google Shopping Action Programme earlier this year.

On top of that, our enthusiastic consumption of ‘shoppable’ images via social media is something that retailers simply can’t continue to ignore. According to a study from Bazaarvoice, visual content shared via social on a mobile produces a 111% uplift in conversion and can generate a 180% boost in revenue per visitor to any given website. In fact, two-thirds of UK consumers go to purchase products from social media, so much so that 81% of ecommerce businesses now say that integrating social media and online shopping is a priority for their business.

In sum: we’re looking on social media for things to buy. We’re ready to buy them there. And straight away. Could it really be buy buttons’ time to shine?

No one is solving the tech side of things (yet)

It seems that buy buttons have certainly lined up all their ducks…that is, except for the tech side of things. Which is more than a small problem, given that Forrester says that it is the tech that in the end will prevent any buttons from launching at scale.

Yet just like a year ago, the solution is simple: integrate a highly-accurate autofill into the hosting social media app and just like that, many of the problems with the buy buttons will disappear.

The crux of the problem (from a tech perspective) is that the experience of buying something now via a buy button doesn’t actually mean you can ‘buy it now.’ As you’re directed to the retailer’s website via the native browser in your social media app, the website can’t capture any of your details (bar the basics of your social media profile, and even then, integration is required).  This means that by the time you arrive to buy the thing you so wanted ‘now’ you’re still forced to fill out all of your details, even if you happen to be a repeat purchaser on that particular site.

And everyone knows just how hard it is to have to type on a mobile. Unsurprisingly, research shows that 27% of all shopping cart abandonments occur as we just don’t have the time to fill out our details, and another 27% occur as we don’t feel comfortable typing them onto our mobile. So without autofill, a buy button is more of a ‘buy with effort’ button – not ideal.

But autofill can change all this. Intelligent autofill means that we’ll be able to get through the checkout up to 536% faster – so we’ll actually be able to buy now, as the button suggests.

And now what?

Last year we delivered the verdict that buy buttons had predominantly failed to deliver on their promises.

But this year? Not so much. It seems like the future is looking brighter by the day, and if autofill comes to the party, their successful future may well be sealed.

Fillr has developed ‘Autofill as a Service’, the world’s most intelligent and accurate autofill that seamlessly integrates into your social or shopping app.  Contact us today to find out how our technology can help your customers to transact faster and more effectively across millions of merchants sites, boosting your conversions and revenue.