Social Commerce is more than the biggest trend in Brand Advocacy marketing for 2024.
It is a dynamic force, reshaping the landscape of business as we know it. Socializing and shopping have become near-seamlessly integrated. With 4.5 billion social media users globally, Social Commerce is expanding at 3x the speed of traditional eCommerce; set to reach an industry valuation of $1.2 trillion by 2025 (Statista).
The way people shop has evolved, extending Social Commerce beyond the realm of social media purchases to a channel of community-driven commerce.
This is largely fueled by the creator economy, where creators of sizes smaller than you’d expect have become pivotal in shaping purchasing decisions. These creators act as a proxy for your customers' trust, feeling more like dependable friends than traditional ‘influencers’.
For this episode of Building Brand Advocacy, Paul and Verity delve into the strategies they predict will be the most powerful drivers of Social Commerce in 2024.
To help activate your brand community in the year ahead, you’ll hear how to build meaningful and fully individualized relationships, tips for utilizing AI to enhance and automate moments of connection, and why your data should quickly be moving from purchasing-led to personally-led.
To making the omnichannel shopping experience more dynamic, all while wrestling with the rise in consumer debt, there are three channels a brand can’t ignore. Viewing creators as their customers’ new shopping guides, enabling strong word-of-mouth marketing, and starting to utilize employee Advocacy.
The brands that stand out, and will survive the Social Commerce boom, are the ones who put the work in. Move beyond community building, and pour value into the people behind your profits to win.
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To hear more on the Social Commerce Summit: London, our first experience taking the podcast you know and love live, head to 22:30.
If you are a fashion or beauty marketer for the biggest brands in the UK, apply for your place at the Summit. Use the code PODCAST100 to get your ticket for free…
When: January 31st, 10am to 5pm
Where: The Soho Hotel
Learn more: http://tinyurl.com/social-commerce-summit-london
Look forward to seeing you there!
Building Brand Advocacy 051:
The Secret to Social Commerce Success: AI Advantages, Community & the Creator Economy in 2024 ft. Verity Hurd and Paul Archer
PAUL: Hello! This is exciting.
VERITY: So much to talk about.
PAUL: Yes. So what is it? 11th of January.
PAUL: And we're going to make some predictions.
VERITY: We are. And we have an exciting announcement to make.
PAUL: We do. We do actually, which we should have announced last year, to be honest with you. But, but it's all kind of tied up to our number one prediction. So Verity, do you want to? Do you want to take the reigns?
What is the biggest thing that's going to be happening in brand advocacy in 2024?
VERITY: It will be social commerce.
PAUL: Dun, dun, dun… Unsurprising to no one. But why? Why is it actually 2024? Cause it was always happening last year. I mean, 2023, tons of social commerce was happening. TikTok shop was launched in the US.
Why is 2024 the year of social commerce?
VERITY: I think, well, I don't know, a few years ago we were having to explain what social commerce is. Obviously we've come a long way from that. Now there is around 4.5 billion users on social media globally and that is growing at a much faster pace than normal commerce.
PAUL: Okay, I mean, one of the things I love is like, so half of people on Instagram have more than a thousand followers.
PAUL: You don't really get to have a thousand followers unless you're a really popular at school, right? Or you are actively putting yourself out there in a way that you will promote yourself, your activity, your business, your life, whatever it is in a kind of an outwardly facing way. And it's that personality type, the person who fits that criteria, who is driving social commerce, you know, the kind of micro influences, the nanos, the creators, the people who are talking about brands in a… in a favorable way and they're advocating for the products that they love, which is driving the purchases of it.
PAUL: And it's like, there's so many of them now. This is almost the majority of people on social media. So surely this is the biggest change that's happening underneath that, all marketing.
VERITY: Yeah. The creator economy is basically the pivotal movement of social commerce because they're the ones that are fueling it. And basically kind of, they're the ones that are influencing people's purchasing decisions at the end of the day now.
PAUL: Okay, and so are we counting social commerce as any purchases being made on a social media platform, or are we kind of having a broader view of it, which is any purchases that were inspired by a person on social media?
VERITY: It's the whole bigger picture.
I mean, the other prediction that I wanted to talk about or touch on was community driven commerce and that basically for me, it's, yeah, it's what people see on social media, but then it's the conversations that they're having based on what they've seen on social media that will then still influence their buying decisions.
PAUL: How does that work? How does a brand get amongst that?
VERITY: Well again, in terms of not necessarily sort of like a social commerce prediction, but I mean; from a community aspect, which obviously I'm very passionate about, community this year, brands will have to focus more on strategising their community rather than sort of building one because most brands have spent the last few years trying to build a community. They need that because it's so much different to an audience. They may have many followers on social media, but they have to kind of build that community in a way that will make them want to talk about them offline as well.
So your mates down the pub, WhatsApp, your DMs. That's where everything is happening anyway.
PAUL: It's just like, how can a brand, so how can a brand actually activate their community? If they've got, we're not talking about following, we're talking about the people who are actually involved, the ones who are super fans in this kind of case. Like what does, what is, what do brands need to do in 2024 to activate them?
VERITY: Well, it's interesting that you say about super fans and that it's definitely around like, harnessing those super fans. So, you know, there's been a lot of conversations recently around Instagram particularly, it's not about products anymore. It's about the storytelling, it's about, you know… it's allowing your customers, the people that are buying from you, to showcase your products now.
PAUL: So you're shouting about the type of person who buys from you?
PAUL: Okay. And you're platforming them? Like, how are brands going to be moving into this in a deeper way?
VERITY: Well, I suppose something that we should definitely mention, I think AI might play a pivotal part in that.
PAUL: No doubt.
VERITY: I know you've got some interesting thoughts on this, Paul! But I think AI will help brands take, I mean personalisation again is another prediction for this year. AI will take that to new heights because they are able to kind of analyze consumer behavior and sort of just, I suppose, it's putting all of it together, the customer journey, and then not only kind of like recommending products, but kind of creating that whole shopping experience for them. So I definitely brands will have to tap into AI if they're not doing already.
PAUL: Yeah, I always think about this is, is that moving… we already have personalisation, right? So many brands are able to thin slice their database to target us with the right marketing message, be that an advert or be that a CRM or whatever it is, the ones who are doing it well. But I think that what AI unlocks is this idea of individualization. It's like your experience is entirely individualized. This isn't just a, hey, we're going to sell you the right thing. It's just like, we're going to build a relationship with you and have a back and forth, which is meaning that your involvement with that brand should be deeper.
They can provide more than just that product. They can tailor it, they can advise you, they can be a part of your story and your life story is that because they can know you and they can go, well, the AI can know you and have a back and forth on it. So I'm pretty excited about that next phase of membership, of loyalty, of retention, where it actually goes into this idea of personalization. Oh, sorry, this goes into this idea of individualization.
VERITY: Yeah. That's a difficult word to say.
PAUL: It is, yeah. It's quite a hard word to say!
But from an AI perspective, I also think it's gonna become really, my nerdy predictions, is I just think it's gonna become so commonplace.
VERITY: So soon?
PAUL: So soon, yeah. I think that it already is baked into so many things that people are doing, but it's gonna move to this sort of next phase. It's gonna plateau in the next year. because I think what you've got, yes, everyone talks about chat GPT and OpenAI has been that leader in it. There are so many other players that are up to the same speed. Google's released their Gemini product, which beats GPT in many different scenarios. So I think what we're gonna see is this kind of lofty heights of chat GPT, 90 billion valuation. They're gonna kind of fall off a little bit as everyone starts to catch up, particularly if you've got like open source tools and all sorts, which basically means that it's just gonna become commonplace. It's gonna become a part of our everyday life and that magic won't feel magic anymore. It will feel like Google, because Google is magic, you know? Like you search the entire internet in 0.0023 seconds or whatever it is. It's pretty amazing, but to us it's so commonplace. I think the adoption of AI is gonna come to a stage where it becomes so commonplace for a generation and that generational gap between those who do it and those who use it all day long and those who don't will become vast and actually it would be really, really hard to bridge.
VERITY: Interesting. What about, I mean, AI, I think about, I mean Pinterest was one of the first platforms to try the AR, so especially with beauty brands, and I think beauty brands have always led the way when it comes to trends. Like just being able to like. look to see what a shade of lipstick looked like on. So now we've got virtual try-ons, you know, the virtual kind of like stylist and things like that. Like, do you class that within all of that?
PAUL: Um, and you've got like a Beakman, have you seen Beakman's got the thing where it scans your skin and tells you where you're basically going to become old and wrinkly, which is great.
VERITY: Great. I’m there mate!
PAUL: It's quite cool, it's worth checking out. Um, that, I mean… That's not necessarily AI in most cases, that's just AAR in that sense, it's a Snapchat with a first one to really kind of push that out. I think that the AI piece is most interesting in the way that brands can have this hyper individualized experience with their customers. When you're back and forthing, it is that sort of, you will like certain things, even to the extent that, even today, you know… Sometimes you sign up to a newsletter and you're quite clearly buying men's outfits, you get recommended dresses. And it's that sort of thing there, which will become those who will be smart enough to understand it. And they'll be like, it means your experience will be like, yeah, you are the kind of person that wears these kind of clothes. So therefore here are the predictions that are perfect for you. But you're gonna have a back and forth on it. And that kind of conversation will be like recommended, it'll be like, okay, what's happening in your life? You know, be able to make, the way that AI works, it is, well, it's nothing without data. So what brands are gonna need to do, they're gonna be hoovering up data about their customers in every single place. And it's not just the purchasing data. Brands have been obsessed by purchasing data. Who's the one that's spending the most? Who's our loyal customers, everything like that. And actually it'll go into the much more kind of like, the wider… like, individualized parts of it. It's a little bit demographic, but it's also about taste, it's about personality, it's about who you are, it's about your social media presence, and actually be able to take that information of the way you present yourself to the world as a person, and then the brand being able to take that data and then process it as an AI to then be able to be like, ‘yes, Verity, what do you think of this’? And you're like, I love it, that's so me. And that's when you know it's gonna be, that's the magic, that next phase of magic. And I don't think that 24 is the year that will happen, but I think it will be the year that the best brands invest in it heavily, so that in 25, that magical moment starts to become commonplace.
VERITY: Yeah, it's about completely shifting and making the shopping experience really dynamic. And I think that's the key that will really kind of create that meaningful connection between brands and the consumers as well and that loyalty piece as well.
PAUL: Yeah, I completely agree. Now I've got another one away from AI. Now you're the social media guru and I'm the kind of like the nerdy macro economics and software guy over here. Like I think that brands are going to have a really tough year this year.
VERITY: Yeah, I can see that.
PAUL: So I mean we've got so some of the data that's backing this; we've got consumer debt in the US is higher. It was in October this year, or last year even, was the highest it's ever been, well over a trillion dollars, which basically means that people have been living on their credit cards and they're getting to a point when they can't live on it anymore. And actually something hopefully isn't gonna break. I mean, but there could well be a pretty cataclysmic event that happens. That means this kind of house of cards will fall apart and that would be disastrous for everyone. But hopefully that doesn't happen. But what's probably more likely, you know, move away from the doom and the gloom… it's probably more likely is just people are gonna spend less. And what they spend on is gonna be more impactful. And I think people talked about that in 2023, being something that's gonna happen. Didn't really happen. Brands still had bumpy years. Brands that were doing well, they still sold the same as they did in 2022. And we've seen this across the brands we worked with a Duel. But I think in 2024, I don't think that's gonna stay. And I think it's gonna be really, really hard.
And brands should be preparing now for the fact that they won't sell as much. They shouldn't be reporting growth and estimate that they're gonna have tons of growth this year because they'll fall flat on it and it's gonna be really, really hard. And they're gonna, you know, we’ll have people be buying too much product, we're gonna have another post-COVID event with so many companies. I mean, we'll see quite a lot of companies go under who miss those sales numbers as well, which is sad, but I think it's unavoidable. So I think that the smart ones are the ones that are gonna be like, let's leave this plateau out. They're not gonna overstock too much. They're gonna be careful and they're gonna be much more iterative. Something else which… smart tech, AI and things like that will help them be. But that in conjunction with like, there's massive shipping problems going on.
PAUL: With the Houthi rebels and everything like that. So actually there's this kind of like, supply chain issue and we're gonna have less people wanting to buy as much stuff. It's gonna be a really weird year on the kind of like the foundational level. So, for us as marketers on top, we need to be careful and be hyper aware that it's not gonna be quite as plain sailing as it has been over the past couple of years.
VERITY: Maybe not, but I think this will come down again to those brands that stand out and how they have spent the last few years building their communities and the people that they work with because influencers will become, or creators will become like shopping guides.
PAUL: Yes, I love that. What do you mean, what's in your head for that though?
VERITY: So I… shopping guides, influencers. So this is about them. So for an influencer or creator, we don't like the word influencer, is they will start to showcase products in their day-to-day lifestyles. And I know they're kind of doing that already, but what the difference with the brands is, is that they should have established these relationships with these creators already. And if they haven't done already, then that is where they should be looking to start in 2024. This is what I mean around sort of strategizing around your community, because it is that community of creators, your super fans, that are gonna be the ones driving probably those purchases, even for people that are struggling, because they're gonna go to the ones that they trust the most. And I think, that shopping guide; they will rely on those people that they've been following and trusting for the last few years to kind of guide them in the best to go with those limited purchases.
PAUL: Yeah, I love that. And actually, word of mouth, generally, I think is one of those things that I think is not just gonna be creators and people that they, it's gonna be people they trust, not just the creators they trust, it's gonna be people like their friends, it's gonna be people like us. I always thought that the kind of the idea of that retail experience you have, particularly if you go into a multi-brand retailer… listen, you walk into REI or Millets or something like that, and you're like, you walk up to the person and you say, I need some walking boots. This is like a kind of a...
VERITY: This is the difference between the shops that me and you go to.
PAUL: Yeah, that's it. Well the thing is, I'm sure you've bought wellies and walking boots before.
VERITY: Yes, obviously.
PAUL: And that's actually something, because you don't know what walking boots to buy. Now you know what's on point from a fashion perspective. I have no idea about either. But...
VERITY: I've seen the Ganni walking boots recently.
PAUL: Oh, they are? Okay, well this is it. They're as good as the cowboy boots? But if you imagine you're going up there and you don't know, you need some shoes to walk the dog in.
VERITY: Yeah, yeah.
PAUL: And you speak to the person in there and they're like, well what are they needing? And they recommend it, they're like, well what are you using it for? Are you climbing mountains? Are you walking the dog? Do they need to be waterproof? And then they will find you the right pair of shoes and you'll walk away with the right ones. Now that kind of experience, I think particularly online, is lacking. And I sort of, I'm quite excited about the idea of… us as consumers having those kind of, those maven friends who, like you're like a fashion maven so if I'm like, right, what should I wear? I'd go to you and you'd be like, yeah, you shouldn't wear that. As you have done!
PAUL: Now, like, so we all have different, and then I've got friends, I've got a friend who definitely knows the right shoes to buy and I've got other friends who know exactly the right bike to buy or the right computer to buy. You know, I don't buy any technology without asking my co-founder, Naio, our CTO. Now I'm like, which computer, which TV? He’s like, buy that and I'm like, great. I didn't even have to research it, I got that. And some people you go to who know cars and it's this ability to then find those friends who have the deeper knowledge and allow them to become that sort of store associate and make a recommendation and then allow them to benefit for it. And I think that this is something which we're going to see more and more because people are desperate for that Super trusted recommendation and it and bar like calling into a store associate on a digital thing, It's not really there online when you when you buy through e-Commerce. And I think that activating those superfans; those knowledgeable fans, will be like the secret to brands getting this hyper personalized word-of-mouth journey online.
VERITY: Yeah, there's – I think there's two things there just to kind of summarize. First one is that yeah, they will rely on those people to guide them through the purchasing decision. And they will trust that a lot more than any other traditional marketing methods. The other thing that you touched on, like I know, this is social commerce, but I think a lot of brands, like you said, you trust the store employee. And I think that will be another big thing this year is brands utilizing their employees a lot more. I think we saw it during COVID. But I think that has to come back around, and utilising their employees online as well. Actually, I went onto LinkedIn this morning. The first post I saw was a marketer from, you know, big beauty brand and, you know, there was a behind the scenes picture of two of their… employees and she was like, why are we not utilising the people behind the brand more? Who know the product, love it – they're the ambassadors.
PAUL: Hugely so and actually though I have some data on this which is anecdotal though we whispering to a lot of big brands who want to activate their store associates and they just see this as this kind of like latent opportunity that they've got where you've got thousands; tens of thousands in a large brand's case, of these fans generally, because most people who work for a cool brand, they're quite into it, you know? They know the brand story, they have the product, they know as soon as a new product comes out, they've been educated in it, they know how to tell that brand message, but they're gonna do it in an authentic manner. And then it's also hyper-local, right? So if you work in a store in Boise, Idaho, or something like that, right? And you've got a thousand followers on Instagram because you're 22 and that's what most 22-year-olds have, right? And you start talking about the products in the store that you work for. You're actually speaking to this incredibly hyper-local community in Boise, Idaho and getting them to come into the store. So it's sort of social commerce, but it's not gonna be attributed through the online. Most of it's gonna be done face to face. And I think that this is one of the, this is the tip of the iceberg, there's gonna be so much of this that's going on, and I actually think it's great because it's authentic, it's cool, it's interesting, and it kind of uses and gives an opportunity to a really often overlooked person who is so vital to that purchase journey for a lot of brands. And so, I'm pretty excited to see how that comes, and judging from the conversations that we're having, it's early doors, but a lot of brands are thinking about it, and so this will be something that becomes much more commonplace.
PAUL: Right, so. So, our news.
VERITY: Oh yes, let's talk about that. I forgot about that!
PAUL: Yes, we probably should have talked about this at the top of the show. So we're all in on this. Our biggest trend this year for advocacy in 2024 is social commerce. But it's something which a lot of people are kind of panicking about. They're not sure quite how to get amongst it. You've got all the different platforms. We've got TikTok shop, we've got Instagram, we've got Pinterest. And actually how can a brand get ahead of it? Which brands are killing it? What do you need to do to build a strategy and to build a strategy that scales? And so we're kind of putting together the best minds in the industry for a summit in London, starting in London, maybe we'll have another one in the US. And so it's pretty limited. There's only a hundred people coming to it, but it's basically, it's from building brand advocacy going live for the first time.
VERITY: Which is exciting!
PAUL: And terrifying.
PAUL: So who have we got speaking?
VERITY: So far we have Matt Navarra.He is one of the world's sort of like well-known industry leader when it comes to all things social commerce, social media, marketing.
PAUL: After Verity Heard of course.
VERITY: After me, yeah. But I will also be there! So yeah, Matt will be there setting the scene in terms of we'll have a quick recap of 2023, what's been happening in this industry, but obviously more important, what's happening, what are the differences between all of the platforms and tapping into the creator economy and more importantly, what brands need to know when it comes to all of that. So he'll be there setting the scene.
VERITY: We have some amazing fashion and beauty panels. So beauty looking at sort of like the changing landscape, retail influencer within the beauty industry. And a fashion panel, where we'll talk about some of the stuff that we touched on just now actually around strategising, engaging, monetising your community, which I think is a good thing. It's also quite a good opportunity for a lot of leaders at fashion and beauty brands. So it's quite specific for that because a lot of brands will benefit from the information we've got there but the ones in the room as part of the summer, we wanna kind of connect people who are fans of the pods and who are working at fashion and beauty brands in the UK. And so that's kind of like one of the most important things that we're trying to engineer through this. But there are a few spots left. It's application only; most of those have gone, but we'll link to the website in the show notes on it so you can kind of keep abreast of it.
VERITY: I think it will be really important to say as well, actually, TikTok shops, we will definitely be touching on that. Over 50% of people coming have requested and want to learn about TikTok shops, so.
PAUL: Over 50%?
VERITY: Over 50%, yeah, which is huge. And I think, quite rightly so, because brands are looking at going, good grief, this is such a big opportunity for us, but we actually don't know where to start. So if you're in that boat, don't worry. There are many other brands out there, but we will also have a brand that is absolutely dominating that space.
VERITY: So yeah, and round tables and one-to-one Advocacy surgery sessions are available as well.
PAUL: So it's gonna be fun. We're terrified. We've never done anything of this scale. It's not huge, 100 people, but it's still-
VERITY: It'll still be nice and intimate, but you will, yeah.
PAUL: Yeah, trying to make it as best it possibly can be and watch this space. Maybe there'll be more coming in the future. It's on the 31st of January in London for anyone who wants to come or if you want to recommend it to someone within your teams. And there are a few spots left. We've got code, special code for our listeners.
VERITY: So if you head to the link in the show notes and use the code podcast 100, you will get a free ticket.
PAUL: Ooh, nice, if there's any left. Yeah. It's not a huge number, go.
VERITY: We better get this episode out.
PAUL: Amazing, well I hope we covered everything there. There's lots going on. It's gonna be a weird year, I think. But also quite exciting.
VERITY: Yes, very.
PAUL: There's a lot of big shifts happening in the kind of like the foundational level. And so, excited to see what comes of it. So, we'd love to hear if anyone else has any predictions as well. We may do a V2 once we learn a little bit post social commerce summit, so we might actually have to do something in February which updates some of the learnings that we've got kind of holistically from that.
VERITY: 100%, yeah. I also wanted to talk about shopertainment, but we'll leave that for another day.
PAUL: Oh, I don't even know what that means. Great, well let's do a whole episode on that then! Cool, well this has been fun, and looking forward to seeing some of you in a couple of weeks' time. We've got a couple of good interviews lined up as well in the meantime, which will be dropping every week as per usual. So if you've enjoyed this, please do share it with someone else who you think is trying to figure out what the hell to do in 2024, like we are. So hopefully this can be helpful to them and we appreciate you listening.
VERITY: Thank you!