The way we shop today has changed. More and more consumers are moving away from what we would consider to be traditional online shopping and towards shopping at the edge. In this blog we discuss that transition, define shopping on the edge and outline the benefits and challenges for retails, as they move to understand and adjust to the new reality.

More and more consumers are moving away from what we would consider to be traditional online shopping and towards shopping at the edge.

But what is edge shopping? And what does it mean for brands looking to optimize their eCommerce strategies? Read on to find out more.

What is shopping at the edge?

When we talk about shopping at the edge, we are talking about customer purchase journeys that start away from the brand site.

Shopping at the edge is defined as “a cross channel shopping journey that starts on one of many different customer touchpoints such as social media, live streaming, chat and messaging, advertising, email, product packaging and ends on the retailer or brands website.”

In the 30-odd years of ecommerce, the traditional accepted wisdom was that customers would go directly to the brands website. Customers would use a search engine to find a link to whatever product they were looking for, navigate to the brand site, and complete the purchase in one or more sessions, returning directly to the brand site until they were ready to buy.

But with the advent of new tools and discovery methods — in particular, social media — this journey has changed. For shopping journeys where a customer has a specific product in mind, such as a replacement fridge light, these are now typically fulfilled by a marketplace, such as Amazon or ebay, or in the case of a specific replacement part, a spares marketplace. But when customers don't know exactly what they are looking for, many turn today to social media. Social has become the preeminent discovery channel where customers discover new products and brands. But it's not the only ‘edge’ where customers shop.  

Customers now interact with an average of 7.6 touchpoints during their purchasing journey, compared with the 1 or 2 seen a few years ago. Often, this journey looks something like the following:

Lady shopping at the edge

- Sara is watching the latest TikTok videos when a creator pops up in her feed talking about a great new product that catches her eye.

- Sara clicks on the link, or goes to the link in bio, and clicks through to the brand site or social checkout

- Sara is wary of scams, and doesn't use the checkout built into the social platform, but clicks through to the brands site where she learns more about the product.

- Sara thinks about the purchase, and returns to the brand site at a later time and makes the purchase.

As we can see, the customer journey has become more complex and contains far more steps than we used to see. This presents both new opportunities and challenges for brands looking to maximize their eCommerce sales. It also assumes that Sara lands on the right page, the experience is engaging and she doesn't bounce. As we’ll see later, only a few of these shopping journeys end so well.

The benefits of shopping on the edge

Despite this more complicated and lengthy customer journey, edge shopping presents benefits that brands can use to their advantage.

Product discovery

Social media — where most new customer journeys now start — is ideally suited for product discovery. In fact, according to the SimplicityDX State of Social Commerce 2022, about half of online shoppers think that social is a great place to discover products.

Social media allows brands to advertise their goods and services through engaging, aspirational content that is delivered straight to a firehose on potential new customers. By investing in the right type of content, brands can ensure they are always top of mind for their audience and that that same audience is being shown their range of products in aspirational and engaging settings.

Builds brand awareness

In addition to helping customers discover products, social media also allows companies to build brand awareness and cultivate an audience through the same mechanism.

By providing customers with relevant, interesting content, brands are able share their values and connect with their audience on a more personal level than ever before. This can lead to customers becoming brand fans and helps to ensure repeat business and sales.

Direct traffic to the brand site

Our research shows that 71% of customers prefer to check out on the brand site, with only 13% reporting that they prefer to buy on the social media platform where they initially discovered the product.

If brands are savvy with their social commerce strategy, ensuring they tag all of their products and make posts shoppable, they are able to efficiently funnel shoppers towards the brand site to complete their purchases. This not only has the benefit of giving customers what they want but it also allows brands to capture customer data for retargeting and future sales. It also provides clarity regarding returns and refunds — a common pain point for customers that checkout directly on social platforms.

The challenges of shopping at the edge

While there are benefits to this new method of online shopping, edge shopping does come with some unique challenges that brands have to be aware of.

Social commerce revenue is often underreported

Due to the way that most eCommerce revenue is measured, there is a significant underreporting problem when it comes to tracking social shopping revenue - our research shows that social revenue is underreported by as much as 245%.

This leads to brands underestimating the impact that their social commerce efforts are having on revenue. We have discussed this issue in more depth in another blog, including what brands can do to mitigate this problem.

Clicking through from social to brand site is often painful

As discussed, customers overwhelmingly prefer to check out on the brand site and social media is a great way to help shoppers discover products, then direct them to the brand site.

However, our research shows that over 80% of online shoppers have experienced problems when migrating from social platforms to the brand site.

This is due to a variety of reasons, including but not limited to: stock issues, slow loading times, and broken links, but the biggest of all is the loss of context. Clicking through from the warm, aspirational content of social media, and landing on a cold hard, transactional Product Detail Page with a single ‘add to cart’ CTA just doesn't work well. The net result is a 73% higher bounce rate for traffic from the edge compared with landing on any other page. Conversion rates are cut in half as well. The impact is huge: Customer Acquisition Costs skyrocket and Return on Ad Spend plummets.

The Product Detail Page is a really bad place to land traffic from the edge - so bad that we’d recommend only doing it as a last resort. Instead brands should build frictionless Edge Storefronts when designing their social commerce strategies. In our next blog, we’ll dive into exactly what Edge Storefronts are and how brands can optimize them to create the best possible customer experience.

If you’re looking for help with optimizing your landing pages or social commerce strategy, get in touch with SimplicityDX today to find out how we can help!

Read more about our insights on social and edge commerce:

What is Social Commerce? The Top 8 Reasons Brands Need It

Key Considerations for your Social Commerce Strategy

Shopping at The Edge – The New eCommerce Reality

What is omnichannel eCommerce?

SimplicityDX Publishes 2022 State of Social Commerce Impact Study

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