Trend alert: social shoppable content

Brands and consumers are jumping aboard, as startups offer the tech and established players test the waters.

A social strategy is key to drive engagement, particularly with the millennial cohort, but making that content shoppable is the next evolution.

The trend of enabling consumers to purchase products highlighted on established social media platforms or even similar, emerging channels is one big fashion retailers and small brands alike have been tapping into.

Matt Di Paola, Sid Lee’s managing director, digital innovation, sees social shoppable content as part of a bigger trend where retail, digital, social and mobile unite across a cohesive consumer experience.

“Over the past several years, the social web has been creating a decentralized web,” he says, via email. “The smarter brands have been setting themselves up operationally to make their content and commerce more portable across platforms (paid, owned and earned) and [channels].”

“Make it easy for people to get what they want, when they want and how they want it, and the action will follow,” he adds. “Starbucks and Amazon prove this over and over again.”

This past fall, fashion retailer Aritzia saw huge e-comm growth (250% compared to pre-campaign levels) when it merged social media with shopping. Its “#FallForUs” campaign took consumers’ social posts and made the products referenced shoppable on its site through visual commerce platform Olapic.

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter have both been testing “buy” functionalities that would let users make purchases through the platforms, and two Toronto-based startups have already gotten in on the social shoppable content trend.

Launched in July, Bestie is a social shopping network, where brands and individuals create profiles to share and interact with shoppable content, and follow each other’s feeds. Products appear on the site through various means – when users upload them, as well as Bestie’s internal curation and an algorithm based on what’s trending within and outside of the platform. They all have a buy option – directing users to the point of purchase.

Bestie has an affiliate revenue model with its store accounts, which include brands such as Forever 21, Etsy and Macy’s, and has grown its product base to more than one million in a few months, with the goal to add 30 million more in the coming year to year and a half, says Bestie co-founder Gary Lipovetsky. He wouldn’t reveal the network’s user base, but says thousands of people visit the site daily, and monthly revenue per registered member tripled from July to September. (However, users don’t need to be members to buy from Bestie.)

The platform is resonating with consumers (80% of its demo is female, with three quarters of them aged 18 to 34) because of its collaborative aspect, he says. Peer validation, trends and pop culture influence shoppers’ purchase decisions, and online shopping is traditionally more solitary than its real world equivalent, where millennial females often shop in groups, he says.

“Having a platform where they can share, collaborate and get that peer validation – they achieve that on Bestie.”

Similarly, fellow Toronto startup Foursixty is tapping into the popularity of social content and enabling small to mid-sized e-tailers to monetize it. It creates a feed on a brand’s site that posts pre-approved UGC from social channels and makes it shoppable, immediately directing users to the POP. It launched this shoppable function in July.

While platforms like Olapic and Curalate play in the same space, Foursixty co-founder and CEO Michael Chachula says his company has differentiated itself by targeting small to mid-sized brands that rely on social but have trouble monetizing it. Its clients span various categories and include brands such as David’s Tea, Jenny Bird, Mini Mioche and S’well Bottle, and it has also begun to work with web development shops and agencies specializing in e-comm platform development to include Foursixty’s service within their offering.

The startup reports that between 25 to 33% of a site’s visitors interact with the feeds it creates, of which 13 to 25% click on to the point of purchase, with a 2.2 to 3.8% conversion rate.

Consumers will ultimately determine whether social shoppable content is the future of e-comm, but for now, it’s certainly a trend to watch in 2015.

Image courtesty of Shutterstock