Heralding a new dawn of social commerce

Nick Corrigan, UK&I MD of Global Payments

While lockdown measures start to ease in the UK and non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants have been given the greenlight to gradually reopen, it would be remiss not to look back at the massive upheaval they have faced and how the future may not be the same as we once knew. In the face of real uncertainty, we have seen all kinds of merchants shift their business models, practically overnight, in order to maintain revenue streams and relationships with customers that they have worked so hard to build. You only have to look at the number of new restaurants on food delivery apps, the pubs that have served us takeaway pints when the sun has shone and even the B2B catering companies that have shifted to B2C models.

As a result of such changes, we’ve also witnessed payments habits change drastically too. With minimal contact payments a necessity in face-to-face settings, Barclaycard revealed it has processed over 25m contactless payments above £30 since the new £45 limit was introduced, with a total value of over £900m. It says that over 90% of face-to-face payments were made through the contactless method. This is something that is likely to continue as pub’s and restaurants all now have a duty to remain largely cashless as they start to reopen.

Leveraging the power of social

With many businesses having moved their offerings online, consumers have, in some ways, had more choice than ever when shopping online – be it for a takeaway or a home workout kit. As such, those organisations operating online have needed to explore new ways to connect with customers in order to keep their loyalty. One way in which merchants have been able to do this is through the power of social commerce. Many businesses already have a digital presence because of social media. And, the smaller a business is, the easier it is to connect with local customers through social media channels – ultimately setting the scene for a new way for them to purchase products.

To set the scene, the number of people online and active on social networks is at an all-time high. In fact, according to We Are Social and Hootsuite’s 2020 Global Digital Report, there are currently 4.54 billion internet users and 3.8 billion active social media users around the world. Couple that with the fact that 87% of online shoppers believe social media helps them decide what to buy, it’s clear that there’s immense revenue potential in online sales channels like social commerce. But what actually is social commerce and why can it help merchants as we continue to navigate these uncertain times?

The benefits of evolving payment methods 

The number of people using social media is skyrocketing and the figures show that during the pandemic, more and more people have turned to social media for social interaction. So much so that 25% of UK and US consumers say they’re now checking social media more than before the pandemic broke out. Social commerce responds to this growing trend, tapping into the fact that more and more of us are spending time on social media, allowing businesses to sell products and services directly through social networking platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and more.

You might think this sounds like social media marketing, however, this differs because purchases are made directly on the social platforms themselves, instead of off-platform landing pages or websites. For consumers, this creates a frictionless purchasing experience for customers because they don’t have to start the buying process all over again on a new platform. For merchants, this presents the perfect opportunity to meet their social media followers, so they are not simply maintaining revenue, but understanding better who is buying their products and services.

One organisation who has seen the benefits of embracing social commerce is Kensington-based Bombay Brasserie. Open since 1982, it has been an iconic restaurant destination famed for its eclectic Bombay and Indian cuisine. Typically, guests looking for an authentic experience flock to its London location. But of course, lockdown measures meant that this was no longer possible. So, in place of being able to serve in the restaurant, Bombay Brasserie leveraged social commerce, which in their words “gave us the tools to trade efficiently and securely on our social media platforms”.

Social commerce is a true innovation for online businesses making the purchasing process for customers simple and efficient, and with the right payments partner, completely secure. At a time when we’re currently finding our way through the ‘new normal’, merchants can tap into a previously untouched revenue stream and reap the benefits through lockdown and beyond.

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emea Global payments Nick Corrigan

Author: Eleanor Hazelton

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