Social Commerce: What it is & How to Use it Effectively

Kelly Shelton

January 13, 2022

Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter—they’re not only a way we connect to the world and pass the time, they’re also part of an invaluable ecosystem that every brand in the world should be paying attention to right now: social commerce.

What is social commerce?

Social commerce is the use of social media platforms to buy and sell products or services. Think about platforms like Instagram or Facebook Shops that allow you to purchase products from a brand right in-feed—that is social commerce. A wider social commerce definition, for our purposes, is that social commerce is the use of social media to introduce products to consumers, increase brand awareness, improve customer experience, and market a brand.

When did social commerce start and why is it taking off now?

Social media has been a growing channel for brands for about a decade, but social commerce as we currently understand it began about three years ago. It has grown in popularity in part due to global changes in the way people shop.

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person shopping opportunities were severely limited as consumers felt unsafe to purchase products in stores. This, combined with increased traffic on social media apps, made social channels ripe for ecommerce development, and many brands took advantage of that.

In 2020, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest all launched updates to their social commerce tools that streamlined the purchasing process during the pandemic, making it easier than ever for consumers to research, engage with, and purchase products from brands.

How is social ecommerce different from other ecommerce or marketplaces?

When people go to marketplaces like Amazon or Walmart, they’re specifically looking to purchase products. When they go to apps like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, they’re not primarily there to shop. In fact, they’re not usually there to shop at all. They’re scrolling to connect with friends and family, to see what’s happening in the world, to browse and to be entertained.

While that means that conversion rates are typically much lower on social media platforms than on marketplaces, the opportunities to provide engaging customer experiences and raise brand awareness are higher. Social commerce is the new ecommerce content marketing.

Another notable difference between social commerce and other marketplaces is in how targeting works. A marketplace or website is limited in showing you what keywords and products customers are most interested in based on the searches they’re making. By design, social media platforms give brands far more personalized information about their customers, like what age range is most interested in a product, the kinds of products and activities they like, and the things they don’t like.

Why does social commerce matter for your brand?

Internet users are no longer turning to their computers first to access online content. Currently, over 50% of all Internet traffic comes from mobile devices, and the easiest applications to access on mobile devices are social media apps.

As of 2021, there are 4.48 billion people using social media worldwide, and 93.3% of those social media users are currently active on a social media platform. In addition to connecting with friends and browsing for fun, social media users are spending their time seeing and engaging with brands on these platforms, and in many cases, making purchases based on the products showing up in their feed.

Therefore, social media has become one of the most consistent places for brands to connect with a large swath of their consumer base and reach new shoppers, too.

The benefits social commerce

Virality: The viral nature of social media means there are plentiful opportunities to grow a brand. Today, a brand can get a product into the hands of the right influencer on apps like TikTok and Instagram and watch sales for that product skyrocket as consumers see, engage with, and share that influencer’s post. The more engagement a brand gets on social media—likes, reshares, comments, follows, etc.—the more exposure they can receive from new customers, essentially creating digital foot traffic to their business.

Social proof: Another benefit of social commerce is that you can provide your customers with more social proof that your product does what you say it does. Social commerce builds on the importance of reviews because it gives users another avenue to share their experiences with a product, either by posting about their experiences or leaving comments in your feed. A good 76% of people say they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends, and social media is a great place to share/incorporate those reviews to build trust in your brand.

Loyalty: Social commerce allows you to build a following, and once you have a core following of loyal fans, you can activate them as brand ambassadors, offer rewards, host giveaways, and get them involved in other activation experiences that can extend your brand reach even further.

Audience targeting: The targeting we mentioned earlier? That’s another one of the biggest pros about social commerce. Because data collected by social apps is so specific, a brand can know absolutely that they’re putting their ads in front of the right audience. It allows brands to exponentially grow by going to their customers rather than waiting for customers to come to them, and it isn’t very expensive. Brands can get very targeted with their paid ads and find success on a small scale. Plus the information available about audiences can help you create marketing specifically for the buyer.

Truthfully, there are very few downsides to improving your social commerce strategy. The biggest is that it can take a lot of work to create a solid and efficient strategy.

Tips on how to use social commerce to your advantage

Here are a few things we’d recommend at Pattern.

Use a mixture of paid ad and organic strategies

As you craft a solid strategy for social commerce, you’ll want to consider both a paid ad strategy that gets your product in front of the right audience and an organic strategy across different social channels.

Paid ads or sponsored posts can be a powerful way to promote and build your brand in social spaces. Meanwhile, a strong organic strategy can engage potential customers with interesting and relatable content that makes them want to follow your brand, and it doesn’t have to be spendy—you might send products to consumers to unbox and share, for example, or add a humorous flair to your copy that keeps people interested.

Work with an influencer

A single influencer can change your business. By working with engaging social media influencers in your vertical—whether that be home goods, beauty products, appliances, or any other type of product—you can introduce potentially thousands of new customers to your brand and brand story. It doesn’t have to be expensive, either—brands are finding more success with micro influencers than with macro influencers.

You can learn more about how to use influencers in your social commerce through our Influencer Marketing Report.

Incorporate reviews and how tos

Similar to an Amazon listing, a social channel can be a great space to introduce your consumers to how a product works and what they can expect if they make a purchase. Sharing customer reviews and experiences on social media is one great way to do that.

Get to know your followers

Social media followers are your best source for feedback to improve your customer experience, and there are so many things you can do to build and maintain a relationship with them on social. In addition to sharing their experiences with your brand, engage with them in comments and provide them with a memorable customer service experience so they know you care about them.

Be authentic and focus on quality

Likes and follows aren’t the end all be all to a successful social strategy. You also want your brand to be authentic and provide quality content that customers find value in. Be a little funny, find creative ways to tell your brand story (video is one space where brands are seeing significant opportunities for growth), and publish worthwhile content your followers will find value in and want to share. The key is to be who you are and don’t over-promote.

The future of social commerce

Social commerce isn’t going away soon, but it does face certain challenges. While the use of social media to market content has grown exponentially, direct payment through social apps has been slower to stick. Customers still prefer purchasing through D2C websites or Amazon, but options like Facebook Pay are gaining momentum.

One big obstacle facing social commerce are regulations that impact social platforms’ tracking capabilities. The iOS 14 update on Apple alone, which allows users to opt out of having their data tracked, has had a significant negative impact on ad targeting and thus performance across Facebook and Instagram. In the future, we anticipate more and more companies will have privacy policies that limit the targeting, tracking, and retargeting functionality that’s delivered such outstanding results for businesses in the past. Social apps and brands may have to adapt and reinvent how they collect information to get similar results.

That said, the future looks exciting. With Facebook—and parent company Meta’s—emphasis on virtual reality, we could see VR incorporated into the buying experience 3-5 years from now, revolutionizing social commerce even further.

How Pattern can help you with your social commerce

Pattern makes a great partner for brands looking to either build their social presence from the ground up or just excel on the social channels they’re already on. Our team can help you grow your following, enhance your customer experience, build dynamic creative content and ads that engage your fans, connect you with influencers, and much more. To learn more, contact us today.

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MAP Pricing vs MSRP: What's the Difference? (blog header)
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MAP Pricing vs. MSRP: What's the Difference?

“MAP” and “MSRP” are two of hundreds of acronyms floating around in the world of ecommerce, and they’re two of the easiest to confuse and misunderstand. While MAP and MSRP do play similar roles, they also have key differences that can work in tandem to support and protect your brand on marketplaces.

So what are MAP and MSRP and why do they matter? Here’s what you should know: 

What is MAP?

MAP (or minimum advertised price) is the minimum amount that a manufacturer or wholesaler recommends resellers advertise their products for. MAP pricing policy is essentially a one-way boundary you set to protect your brand, protect the margins of your resellers, and maintain fair competition across all of your distribution channels.

When setting a MAP policy strategy, remember the important things you’ll want your MAP policy to do are:

  1. Protect the interests of your brick-and-mortar resellers, giving them the margins they need to display and carry your product as well as sell it.

  2. Stay small enough that it discourages resellers from heavily discounting your products and keeps competition fair.

  3. Accurately reflects on the brand image and value you want to reflect.

“Advertising” and “recommends” are the key terms here. MAP policies should only recommend the price that is advertised online or in-store for a product, not attempt to fix the actual selling price of the product—that’s illegal—or recommend the actual selling price. That’s MSRP’s job.

Benefits of MAP

MAP not only keeps competition fair, but allows you to control your brand identity and promote consumer trust of your product and brand. Here are some of the benefits of having MAP policies:

  • Better brand protection and control

  • Creates a level playing field for retailers

  • Reduces bad customer experiences

  • Provides an accurate performance analysis

How Can Brands Effectively Enforce MAP?

It’s critical that MAP policies are structured in such a way that a brand avoids violating anti-trust laws. One way brands can effectively enforce MAP is by simply monitoring online product prices across digital channels to identify fluctuations in the market. 

At Pattern, we help brands not only develop a MAP policy, but also enforce it. Enforcing MAP policies and gaining marketplace control includes finding unauthorized sellers, which Pattern’s data finds. Once Pattern finds the unauthorized sellers, Vorys eControls (Pattern’s legal partner) steps in and handles the takedowns of unauthorized sellers, continuous enforcement of brand management, and reseller policy enforcements.

What is MSRP?

MSRP (or manufacturer’s suggested retail price) is how manufacturers standardize pricing across their resale channel and determine what price is fair for their product. The key difference between MSRP and MAP is that MSRP is the actual price manufacturers set and recommend retailers charge for their goods while MAP is the advertised price. 

MSRP doesn’t necessarily have to be the final price of a product—it’s most often a starting price—but it is determined by taking into account all of the costs associated with the distribution and manufacturing process for a product and the margin amount resellers need in order to make a profit. MSRP also establishes value. For example, if a brand wants to build a premium brand, the MSRP can reflect the actual or perceived value of their product.

Benefits of MSRP

Setting up an MSRP for your product includes the following benefits:

  • Maintains brand equity

  • Establishes brand and product value

  • Standardizes costs across marketplaces

How Can Brands Effectively Enforce MSRP?

Like MAP pricing, MSRP has to be set up as a one-way policy and not an agreement between a manufacturer and a reseller to avoid landing a manufacturer on the wrong side of the law. It’s a recommendation, not a contractual bind. As mentioned for MAP policy, Pattern helps brands effectively enforce MSRP with our proprietary data and expertise to protect their brand. 

How Do MAP and MSRP Work Together?

MAP and MSRP have different applications that may prove useful in different scenarios. For example, MAP policies are typically more useful in marketplaces where competition is fierce and price erosion happens easily if sellers are left unchecked. Ideally, however, MAP and MSRP are a dynamic duo that work together to serve the interests of your brand, support your resale channels, and protect your resellers.

Setting an MSRP establishes value for your product and lets your resellers know you’re serious about controlling channel conflict, maintaining pricing equity, and protecting their margins so they’re more confident setting pricing at the MSRP level.

MAP is the second half of setting a pricing policy. Setting a MAP price for your product, in addition to an MSRP, further standardizes pricing across your resale channel and gives legitimate resellers a fair environment to compete in while setting boundaries against unauthorized sellers harming your brand.

MAP combined with MSRP creates a stronger level of brand protection, giving your brand more sustainable, profitable growth.

Maintain Brand Control With Pattern

MAP policies can be tricky to draft, because there are so many legal lines to tiptoe around and so much nuance that goes into pricing. They can also be tricky to enforce without the right tools. At Pattern, partnered with Vorys, we have the tools and resources to help you maintain brand control on all marketplaces. 

As an ecommerce accelerator, Pattern can help you identify MAP violators and regain control of your brand online so that your image and your resellers are protected. To learn more, contact us today.

Athlon Optics Walmart.com Launch Has Record Setting Sales within 3 Days
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Athlon Optics Walmart.com Launch Has Record Setting Sales within 3 Days

Athlon Optics sells scopes and other optical accessories like binoculars for anyone who may be hunting, shooting recreationally, or competing.  After achieving significant success on Amazon, the brand wanted to launch on Walmart. As a growing marketplace with huge growth forecasts, Athlon saw their competitors already staking claim on walmart.com and saw opportunities for increasing their sales.

As a prestigious brand in its category, with loyal consumers, Athlon does so much with very few resources. With less than twenty employees in the entire company, managing everything from customer service to product development, their ecommerce team needed support to scale to a new marketplace.  And, they needed a partner who had a relationship with and deep understanding of walmart.com to accelerate their growth. Pattern is a one-stop shop for Athlon, providing the resources and expertise, so Athlon could also save budget and stop outsourcing so many different aspects of their marketplace business.

Athlon Optics Prepares for a Seamless Launch

Sometimes brands who transition from 1P to 3P with Pattern have no proprietary sales, marketplace data or content such as product images, video, or optimized copy. These circumstances create a more hands on transition for Pattern and may interfere with launch expectations. 

But Athlon was the consummate partner and overly prepared to transition to 3P– buttoned up, organized, and ready to take on walmart.com’s list of launch needs. Athlon provided all the required assets on time and was very organized.  The images were shot, formatted, and categorized as A+ content that Pattern ported over.  This process dramatically reduced wait times and lag times within the platform.  Plus, since the content was optimized for marketplaces, all images, copy, and listing information uploaded in the first pass. 

Pattern’s Walmart Expertise Leads to Success

But the content worked because of Pattern’s resources and marketplace expertise.  Pattern provided Athlon with a very clear outline of needs and expectations for seamless launch and this process has become a playbook for other brands on walmart.com.  The team’s mutual partnership and Pattern’s diligent follow up with and detailed attention to Walmart processes and logistics prevented Athlon from getting lost in the weeds. 

Three Days is All it Takes

The successful, thorough, and quick transition to 3P with Pattern secured Athlon most likely the fastest ramp-up periods for any brand on Walmart.com.  

Together we achieved success such as:

  • 'Best in class' turnaround–98% faster onboarding than average brand on Walmart.

  • First sale within the first week of landing at Walmart. 

    • Unprecedented turnaround considering the ramp up usually needed to gain momentum and traction with reviews on Walmart. 

  • Exceeded initial first month growth projection by 34%.

Athlon was so impressed by the ease and simplicity of its launch and execution on Walmart that the brand wants to grow our 3P relationship with other marketplaces such as Amazon Canada and Target+.

And, in the meantime, look out for Athlon Optics in Walmart Deal Days in 2022.  A huge win for any brand tied to organic advertising and new traffic opportunities across all media.

Pattern Helps Brands Expand Marketplaces 

Pattern has the 3P partner experience and deep expertise on Walmart and other global marketplaces to help a brand expand their footprint to maintain sales momentum and a competitive edge. Pattern, an ecommerce accelerator, takes on the responsibility of your stock and provides the expert resources needed to successfully launch and continue to grow your revenue on global marketplaces. 

Learn more about Pattern’s expertise and partnership on Walmart.  Contact us today.

Amazon A+ Content
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Amazon A+ and Premium A+ Content: Pros and Cons Brands Need to Know

Long gone are the days when Amazon listings were limited to a simple product description, five bullet points, and eight pictures. As the platform, and number of sellers, has grown, sellers have had to be more and more strategic and eye-catching to increase traffic and conversions on their listings.

Brands on Amazon have plenty of attractive options available to design their Amazon storefront, which reside in two of Amazon’s content tools: A+ Content and Premium A+ Content (or  A++ Content).

Here’s the pros and cons of brands using A+ Content vs. Premium A+ Content:

What is Amazon A+ Content?

Amazon A+ Content is a standard feature available to all Amazon Sellers and free as one of the many benefits of Amazon Brand Registry. 

With A+ Content, a product listing can have more than a plain text description and standard photo reel–it can include high quality multimedia photos and videos alongside eye-catching information to share the product story, and not just the product appearance.

Some noteworthy features that Amazon A+ offers are:

  • Multiple, varied images of a product

  • Strategically concise introduction

  • Video

  • Bullet points

  • 360° product views

  • Matrix comparison charts

  • “What’s in the box” section

What is Amazon Premium A+ Content?

Amazon Premium A+ Content, or Amazon A++ Content, is a tool that goes a level beyond basic A+ Content, giving brands the ability to showcase their product’s most important features and benefits with a modern, visually appealing structure. 

In August 2022, Amazon announced Premium A+ would be available on Seller Central for free usage during a promotional period. Previously, Premium A+ content was available only by invite for brands using Vendor Central and could cost anywhere from $250K and $500K per product. 

With Premium A+ content, a brand visually communicates using imagery and video, and relies much less on text due to strict character limits for product descriptions. According to Amazon, implementing Premium A+ content can increase your sales by 20%.

For the first time ever, Premium A+ expands the usable real estate of the page, using the entire width of the screen for a sophisticated and modern feel.

Some noteworthy features that Premium A+ offers are:

  • Video

  • Full-width imagery

  • More space

  • Clickable Q&A

  • Interactive comparison charts

  • Carousel modules

  • Mobile-friendly and voice-friendly product pages

  • Testimonials

Pros and Cons of Amazon A+ vs. Premium A+ Content

Although their purposes are similar, there are some key differences between A+ Content and Premium A+ Content. Here are the pros and cons for each tool:

Basic Amazon A+ Content

Pros:

  • Free and unlimited use for all Vendors.

  • An effective tool to enhance customer experience and product listings.

Cons:

  • Less features than Premium A+.

  • It's not as visually appealing as Premium A+.

Premium A+ Content

Pros:

  • There are 16 extra modules to choose from that are media-rich and make an impact.

  • You have two more available module slots than Basic Amazon A+.

  • Overall, there are more possibilities for hyper-engaging content.

  • You can expect a sales rate increase of up to 20% with Premium A+, according to Amazon.

Cons:

  • Amazon has positioned Premium A+ content as more of an exclusive tool, requiring eligibility based on past content to qualify for Premium A+ content. 

  • Character limit restrictions are more strict than Basic Amazon A+.

Elevate Your Amazon Content with Pattern

Ultimately, both of these tools exist to help you and your brand provide customers the best online shopping experience possible. Although Premium A+ offers plenty of exciting new options for enhancing customers’ buying experience, it may not be for everyone. Optimizing your Amazon listing with A+ or Premium A+ Content can provide the best opportunity to build a strong reputation for better brand-recognition and customer affinity. 

Our creative and digital marketing experts at Pattern can help brands use A+ Content and Premium A+ Content to increase conversions and give buyers an amazing experience.

Learn how Pattern can help you increase conversions on Amazon. Contact us