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How to increase social commerce product discovery this holiday season

Illustration of gift boxes and social media icons.

Less than a decade ago, holiday shopping meant heading to your local shopping mall or browsing around the legacy department stores. But product discovery in the era of social commerce couldn’t be more different.

Where brick-and-mortar storefronts were once the starting point in the customer journey, we’re experiencing a major pivot towards digital channels as the chief source of gifting inspo.

As product discovery moves online, social media-savvy brands have a valuable opportunity to entice new and existing customers. Instead of trying to drag prospective customers into your physical shop or e-commerce store, you can bring the most relevant products to where so many people already searching for gift ideas – your social media channels.

In this post, we’re going to cover 5 actionable strategies to increase social commerce product discovery this holiday season.

What is product discovery in e-commerce and social commerce?

Product discovery is a measure of how easily shoppers can find and browse product selections either in-store, on-site, or via social media channels.

Because it marks the beginning of a customer journey that will hopefully result in a sale, enhancing product discovery opportunities is vital to become a successful brand. However, what product discovery looks like is rapidly changing as consumers migrate to new shopping channels.

It’s well-known that consumers have been gravitating from storefronts in favor of online searches to explore and compare products. But there’s a new kid on the block that’s rapidly changing how product discovery takes place: Social commerce.

Being able to search, browse, and buy products entirely within social media apps like Instagram and TikTok has changed the game when it comes to product discovery. Consumers no longer want to move to Google when they’re looking to purchase something; they want to stay right where they are.

While we can attribute this to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased reliance on online shopping, surveys also show that this preference for social commerce platforms is generational in scope.

According to Mckinsey’s 2021 holiday shopping study, 58% of consumers say that social media will influence their holiday buying decisions this year – a figure that rises to 83% and 87% for Millennial and Gen Z consumers, respectively.

Moreover, 54% of Millennials and Gen Zers surveyed by Statista stated that social media platforms are a better place for discovering new products and brands than online search, a channel that behemoths like Amazon and Walmart have traditionally dominated.

So, what does this shift mean for emerging brands and retailers who are fighting to gain more visibility during the holiday season?

Why does product discovery matter during the holiday season?

Still not convinced by the numbers? Here are a few reasons why increasing product discovery opportunities in your social commerce strategy is a smart move this holiday season:

Consumers are more open than ever to trying new brands.

We’ve heard it all before. Brand loyalty is dead, right?

Not exactly.

It’s true that consumers are flitting from brand to brand much more than they did in the past. Over half of consumers (54%) made purchases from a brand that was new to them during 2020. But the reasons for this are much more complex than shoppers simply wanting to try something new.

Thanks to ongoing supply chain challenges and inflation pushing up product prices, many consumers have been forced from necessity to purchase from different vendors than normal. According to a report from Numerator, private label products are making up a growing share of sales at retailers including Whole Foods, Target and Walmart as shoppers try to save precious dollars and cents.

In sum, tighter spending and concerns over product availability are forcing consumers to search for alternative options this holiday season – and this is your advantage.

Digital is leading the way this holiday season.

Brick-and-mortar is mounting a strong recovery from the pandemic, but online holiday shopping is still the go-to for many consumers. According to a holiday survey by influencer shopping app LTK, 72% of consumers say their purchases originate from social shopping channels like social media, while more shoppers purchased gifts via LTK creators than any other year.

This means that the visibility of your brand and products on social platforms is crucial to encourage shoppers to patronize you over competitors. As social commerce takes precedence over online search, your content creation efforts will take center stage.

Social proof is the key to e-commerce conversions.

Most of us have made a purchase online that turned out to be a lemon. While this is annoying for everyday purchases, we want to avoid it at all costs when buying gifts for loved ones during the holiday season.

This is why online reviews and recommendations carry so much weight in e-commerce and on social platforms.

Did you know that almost a quarter of millennials and Gen Z say that a large volume of likes or positive comments on social media would make them more likely to buy a product? This is because social media platforms act as one giant engine for generating social proof. If shoppers see a product.

By matching product discovery opportunities with consumer feedback, consumers are much more likely to trust your brand and initiate sales.

How do I plan product discovery for my followers?

Because we often think of product discover as an organic process, it can seem difficult to ‘stage’ these opportunities online for potential customers without coming across as salesy or inauthentic.

But social media shopping, just like the rest of e-commerce, relies on brands being able to cut through the noise and curate attractive offerings for their customers. If you do this successfully, you can remove friction from the gift-buying process and boost your share of social commerce sales.

Put simply, if your content on social platforms is valuable and relevant to consumer’s needs at this time of year, you stand to seriously increase the number of product discovery opportunities available to potential customers.

Let’s take a look at some ways that e-commerce brands can enhance social commerce product discovery during the holidays.

5 strategies to improve product discovery in social commerce

1. Put your holiday gift guide on social media

According to Google, 66% of all holiday shopping that takes place planned and researched before the purchase took place. This is why holiday gift guides are the perfect tool to assist customers with finding the perfect gift.

But it’s your product discovery strategy that separates an average gift guide from one that truly provides value to your customer.

If your gift guide is only housed on your website or in the form of a print catalog, this relies on potential customers walking into your store or finding your website. While this approach may work for your existing customers, it does little to attract those who aren’t already familiar with your brand or online search.

Making your holiday gift guide social commerce friendly enables your followers to share it with friends and family, as well as enabling holiday shopping on the go.

Nordstrom Instagram post for the best gifts under 25 dollars.

Nordstrom shares a variety of holiday-themed gift guides to Instagram, offering shoppers extensive visual search options. The well-curated carousel posts target a variety of audience segments, from pet owners to beauty lovers. This makes it convenient and appealing for shoppers to flick through, boosting engagement across social platforms and driving holiday spending.

2. Include as many product tags as you can

The key reason for the growing popularity of social commerce is that it removes friction from the online shopping journey for mobile-first consumers. They no longer have to be redirected from social media profiles to ecommerce sites to complete a purchase, which saves valuable leads from falling out of your sales funnel in the transition.

Remember that holiday gift guide we just talked about? Imagine if every featured product was tagged within your carousel so that customers could switch seamlessly to viewing product details inside the social media app.

When a purchase can be made with just a few taps on a mobile device, this makes it easier than ever for customers to close the deal.

Roots’ Instagram shop.

See how apparel brand Roots uses product tags to promote this holiday season PJ range via its Instagram shop, making it easy for shoppers to browse items directly within the app.

3. Use discovery-based hashtags

There’s a common misconception that consumers find hashtags annoying or distracting. In fact, the introduction of the humble hashtag totally changed the game for social media users.

Hashtags are what allow us to filter through the noise and find relevant topics on social platforms; without them, social commerce simply wouldn’t exist. Despite this, hashtags remain a massively underutilized tool by retailers to drive product discovery on social platforms. Common mistakes include:

  • Using too many hashtags.
  • Using generic hashtags which don’t describe the content.
  • Not using hashtags at all.

Instead, think carefully about what your target audience is likely to be searching for this holiday season. You’ll want to use a mixture of seasonal and branded hashtags, in addition to product-specific hashtags that accurately describe the content of your posts.

Clarins holiday gift Instagram post.

Makeup brand Clarins drives product discovery on Instagram during the holidays by using just three well-targeted hashtags on their post. #GiftSet and #MakeupGifts help to drive shoppers to their feed that are actively looking for these gift categories, while #ChristmaswithClarins is a great drawcard for their loyal customers.

4. Push cross-selling / product bundling opportunities

Cross-selling and product bundling are invaluable tactics to boost conversions and AOV during the holiday season. Presenting related or complementary products together helps to turbo-charge product discovery, streamlining the purchasing journey.

Social commerce makes it possible for your business to get creative with cross-selling activities by moving away from the stale ‘people who bought X also bought X’ website recommendations that Amazon first pioneered.

Product bundling/cross-selling efforts shouldn’t look like blatant product ads, but come across as genuinely inspiring content that aids the customer journey and sparks fresh gift ideas.

John Lewis bakeware Instagram post.

John Lewis has done a great job of curating attractive room set-ups on social media that promote new products within its holiday collection. By grouping together products that complement each other within the same post, consumers are more likely to buy multiple items.

5. Turn social commerce into a customer service channel

With more consumers now choosing to browse and shop directly via social media channels, it makes little sense to drive a shopper off their chosen social platforms in search of customer service help. For one, it’s not convenient for your customer. Moreover, you already have a perfectly good customer support tool right at your fingertips: social media.

Greater digital connectivity means that customers expect brands to interact with them across all channels – and this includes social commerce. In fact, 40% of holiday shoppers say that they’re more likely to buy from a brand they can message directly from inside a social media platform.

Social media customer service isn’t just about providing great customer care; it’s also about fanning interest in your products. Securing a sale means striking while the iron is hot, and the immediacy of social media can assist you in closing the deal.

So, what exactly does customer service in social commerce look like?

  • Using DMs and comments to answer customer queries.
  • Setting up a specific social media handle for customer inquiries.
  • Adding a Highlight reel on your profile that answers important FAQs.
  • Regularly posting content to your feed that covers common queries e.g. holiday shipping cut-off dates.

A well-honed product discovery strategy is important at any time of the year, but especially during the holiday season when consumers are more willing to seek out new brands and gift ideas. By making the effort to curate engaging, creative holiday content in your social commerce strategy, you can drive greater brand awareness and conversions.

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