Holiday Season Social Commerce: How to avoid the customer experience black hole

The latest predictions for holiday shopping 2022 spend in the U.S. are a more modest increase of 2.5% to $209.7 billion from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. A noticeable drop on the 8.6% year-over-year increase of 2021.

Of course, a lot changes in a year. And although there are still pressures, they are now slightly different from those seen in previous years. In a post-COVID world, people are happier to go to physical stores, but higher prices and inflation are top of mind for holiday shoppers this year. 

These pressures make for a less frenetic, more considered environment for shoppers and brands need to respond accordingly. Whilst needs like shipping and delivery options are still important, there is a renewed emphasis on customer experience, discounts, and promotions.

How can you optimize your site for a more considered shopper this holiday season? What is the customer experience danger of leading with promotions across multiple touchpoints?

Dig deeper > 3-minute read

Don’t Gamble with your Customer Experience this Holiday Season  

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest each hold a lot of revenue potential for brands this holiday season with SimplicityDX’s State of Social Commerce study revealing that 52% of shoppers made a purchase through social media in the last 90 days.

However, driving sales on social isn’t a case of ‘build it and they will come.’ In fact, ill-considered social commerce strategies do far more harm than good, costing brands billions in lost sales

Some of the main problems seen with social commerce shopping experiences include:

Promotions not mirrored on social

Many brands run special holiday season promotions on their own sites but do not mirror these onto their social platforms. This leads to a frustrating experience for customers who feel as though they are not being offered the same service or deals when they shop through social media.

And with 36% of people saying getting a bargain with a discount or promotional offer is the main trigger for spending on social media this holiday season, consistency is key for social commerce experiences to work. This means consistency in terms of messaging, consistency in terms of promotions and pricing, and consistency in terms of stock.

Promotions driving out-of-stock issues 

The holiday season is notoriously the busiest shopping period of the year and there is always a far higher demand for products of all kinds during these months.

When this demand is coupled with discounts and promotions, many retailers find themselves rapidly running out of stock and unable to keep up with orders. This in turn leads to many products quickly becoming unavailable for purchase and results in lost revenue and disgruntled consumers.

Inventory inconsistencies

Further to the above point, research by SimplicityDX found that 98% of consumers have encountered stock and availability issues when purchasing through social media. It’s staggeringly common for a shopper to engage with a certain item on social media, only to find that that product, size, design, etc., is out of stock with the retailer.

Why does this happen? Primarily, many retailers are unable to keep up with the fast-paced nature of social media sales, the increased demand generated by the holiday season and promotional offers, and do not have their socials adequately linked to their own storefronts. 

This inevitably leads to a disconnect between products on offer via social and actual inventory available.

After chaotic years of retail labor shortages and the inventory crisis of 2021, Salesforce is predicting that stock-out issues will be even worse this holiday shopping season. When desired items aren’t available for shoppers to buy, both the shopper and the brand lose out. And if the wrong item is shipped to a social commerce customer, then there are return costs for the brand to swallow and returns confusion for the shopper to navigate (only 15% of people know who to contact to return an item purchased on social media).

Lack of certainty around post-purchase steps

The impact of refunds and returns is worth stressing in more detail.

Return rates typically increase in line with greater purchasing activity. Black Friday return rates rose 129% year-on-year between 2019 and 2021, leading some experts to dub the first Thursday in December “Returns Thursday.” 

And yet, for shoppers checking out via social platforms, everything that takes place post-purchase (delivery, returns, communication) can become something of a guessing game. 

How long will it take for products to ship? Will I receive an email receipt? Will I be updated on my order — and by who? What happens if I need to exchange an item or get a refund? How long will I have to wait?

Consumers have a lot of questions about the social commerce shopping experience, and brands haven’t always thought the answers through. Disappointing post-purchase journeys have left two-thirds of social commerce shoppers more cautious about buying on social networks.

A better, more joined-up experience is required

The above figures aren’t intended to scare or dissuade. There’s a reason that SimplicityDX invests so much time and energy into analyzing the current social commerce landscape — the more we know about what’s not working, the more we can do to help brands succeed.

‘Satisfied’ customers generate 2.6x more revenue than ‘somewhat satisfied’ customers, and 14x more than ‘dissatisfied’ ones. Coupled with the knowledge that it costs far more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, making sure that every stage of the customer journey is as streamlined as possible should be a top priority for all social commerce brands. 

So let’s now look at the ways that social commerce promotions can be optimized this holiday season to drive more sales.

Social commerce success: four tips for the holiday shopping season ahead

1. Own your checkout and direct traffic to the brand site

Social media can be a very effective marketing platform; almost half of consumers agree that social is a great way to learn about new products. But when it comes to completing a purchase, 71% of consumers prefer interacting with the brand site directly. 

When a retail brand owns the checkout experience, both shoppers and businesses benefit. 

By directing ready-to-buy traffic to your brand site, you:

  • Offer customers the flexible, ‘buy now pay later’ options we know they are looking for this year.
  • Mitigate the issues around inconsistent inventory as stock levels can be checked in real-time, removing the problems associated with purchasing through a third-party/social site.
  • Can provide clear, realistic guidance regarding delivery — and that’s important when it comes to building trust, converting sales, and encouraging repeat buyers.
  • Can maintain historical data to manage returns. We know that customers are highly likely to return goods during the holiday season, so make sure you’re ready.

Speaking of data, brands give up the ability to capture and use customer data when checkouts happen on the social platform — and, with it, the ability to remarket, retarget, and rescue abandoned carts. This has led to skyrocketing customer acquisition costs and merchants now lose $29 for each new customer acquired, up by 222% since 2013. It’s a phenomenon that would be easily resolved with social commerce platforms and brand sites better integrated at the point of purchase.

2. Improve your landing experience and product pages

Retail brands also need to assess the quality of the landing experience that they are delivering to shoppers today.

81% of shoppers have reported landing page problems when arriving at a brand site through social media. And poor landing pages are responsible for 14% of lost on-site revenue; the single biggest eCommerce leak we’ve discovered.

It’s crucial to ensure that your web pages run quickly and smoothly, contain all of the information required for customers to complete their purchase, and that they are optimized for both mobile and desktop platforms.

3. Consistently apply promotions across all touchpoints

On average, it takes 6 - 8 touchpoints to make a sale and even in the digital world these touchpoints now include a number of different facets — online advertising, blog content, social posts, UGC, product catalogues, web pages, marketplaces, and more. That leaves a lot of room for inconsistency in promotions and discounts.

There is no magic bullet for applying promotions consistently across all channels, particularly if you are a mid- to small-sized brand. It takes hard work and attention to detail. But the hard work will pay off as the consumer journey will be smooth and consistent, helping to provide that feeling of trust and value so important in today's shopping landscape. 

4. Be prepared to pause popular promotions

We’ve already covered just how prevalent stock issues are in social commerce experiences. And holiday shopping demand will likely see sudden surges of interest that quickly outstrip supply.

Brands would do well to keep a close eye on stock levels for all promoted items during the peak sale season. They would also be wise to avoid promoting fast-moving, low-inventory items on social altogether.

If items look close to selling out or you’re otherwise no longer able to fulfil orders, do not wait to act. It’s far better to cut a promotion short or place it on hiatus than to have tens, hundreds, or thousands of customers asking for refunds on products you no longer have in stock.

2022’s holiday shopping season requires a smarter approach to social commerce

Brands should expect customers to start their holiday shopping earlier this year and to be hungrier for promotions — but not at the expense of a consistent social commerce experience.

SimplicityDX makes social commerce work. The SimplicityDX Edge Experience Platform enables brands to optimize social commerce experiences by simplifying the buying process between journeys started at the edge and the brand’s eCommerce site. Founded by a team of industry veterans in May 2021 and privately funded, SimplicityDX operates in the U.S. and U.K. markets. 

Read more about our insights on social commerce.

Top 6 Social Commerce Trends for the 2022 Holiday Season

Social Commerce is Not Dead

When is the best time to post on social to encourage eCommerce sales?

The Truth about Meta's Social Commerce Market Share

Impulse Buying in Social Commerce: Fact or Fiction?

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