Marie La France, vice president, strategy, Dash Hudson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

As global lockdowns begin to ease, global digital immersion has become impossible to ignore. Physical restrictions have forced brands to pivot from traditional marketing tactics, and social media has quickly become the lifeblood of every brand’s marketing strategy. 

While digital channels have risen in importance over the past five years, the connection between social media success and online sales has never been clearer — or as easy to measure. Facebook drove 40% of traffic for e-commerce brands last quarter, and 66% of Instagram users seek interactions with brands on the app. To capitalize on this phenomenon, brands need to embrace digital agility and harness the power of data to captivate today’s rapidly evolving consumer. 

As eMarketer reports, the number of social commerce buyers in the United States alone accelerated 25.2% to 80.1 million in 2020, and will continue to grow 12.9% to 90.4 million in 2021. Forty-six percent of Instagram users make purchases after seeing product information on the app and 52% of TikTok users say they find new products from ads on the platform. 

In Dash Hudson’s latest report, Q1 2021: The Convergence of Social and Commerce, the visual marketing software platform shared insights from brands and social media platform experts that demonstrate how innovative social commerce sparks growth. For example, efforts by Selena Gomez’s makeup brand Rare Beauty have garnered an engagement rate that’s +375% higher than the cosmetics industry average. 

The takeaways are obvious: social channels need to be at the forefront of marketing efforts. Social media is where brands can cultivate meaningful relationships with people, and where brands have the opportunity to glean insights about the content their audience craves. By applying smart data to the content creation process, brands can optimize content that will resonate across e-commerce and marketing objectives.

Create authentic transparent experiences for online consumers

Marketers need a strong grasp of their target audience and what they care about. As more brands increase investments in social and e-commerce channels, digital spaces are reaching peak saturation. At the same time, consumer expectations of brands are high. Online audiences expect a consistent and engaging digital voice and a frictionless shopping experience. 

Authenticity and transparency are also factors that are top of mind for shoppers. Sixty-six percent of people say they prefer to shop from transparent businesses, and 50% will pay more for products from socially responsible and environmentally conscious brands. It is important for brands to evolve their strategies to meet the needs of the 2021 consumer mindset. Understanding the target audience and what makes them tick on social media is essential to driving business growth this year. 

Build channel-specific content for campaigns

The customer journey has evolved, and brand marketers should transform their approach to content creation to put forward an impactful narrative. With the emergence of channels like TikTok and the debut of new features like Instagram Reels, brands need to meet people on their channel of choice in the style of that channel, and adopt new tactics to stay relevant. 

One in four TikTok users can’t be found on any other channel. Similarly, Instagram Reels presents brands with the powerful opportunity to experiment with new forms of content and tap into bigger audiences. Balmain uses Reels to bring runway moments to life. The luxury brand extends its reach to the everyday consumer while creating viral content to highlight its newest collections. By testing new channels and features in these ways, brands can evolve their strategies to stay top of mind for consumers. 

Data-driven decision making needs granular insights 

Brands invested in social commerce in 2020 but to stay ahead of the market in 2021 a renewed focus on data and personalization is critical. High-level data is simply not sufficient when it comes to the complexities of channels, mediums and audiences.

Marketers need to get granular when it comes to people’s tastes and preferences in order to put forward campaigns that will resonate. Teams should invest in technologies that will equip them with actionable insights and real-time analytics to create a personalized customer journey for their target audience, one that is rich with content that inspires action. A strategy that relies on data to determine visual selection, campaign narratives and influencer partnerships will boost ROI in 2021 and beyond. 

The power of images, agility and experience

Visuals have a powerful influence on online audiences and make a direct impact on the decision to purchase from specific brands. Photos and videos — whether paid or organic — are key to creating meaningful connections online and ultimately drive revenue across the board. Understanding which styles of photos and videos resonate with a target audience over time can differentiate a brand in a crowded space and has proven to bolster online sales. 

Agility is at the center of a thriving brand’s social media playbook. The brands that pivoted strategies throughout 2020 came out strong. For example, the decline of traditional retail pushed Gap to create an optimized customer journey across social channels, translating to a +45% increase in online revenue in 2020. In another example, to continue to build meaningful connections with consumers, Anthropologie introduced new experiential marketing tactics through features like IGTV and Reels. 

Embrace new trends and adopt new technologies to thrive in 2021

After a turbulent year, the first quarter of 2021 marked the beginning of a renewed marketing landscape and a new era defined by social media and e-commerce. The brands that have emerged (relatively) unscathed understand the importance of seamlessly integrating these two programs. The secret to their success is data. 

Social media and e-commerce channels present a powerful opportunity for brands to understand their target audience and what they care about, and optimize every piece of content they put in front of them. Equipping a team with data-driven insights and access to the latest trends is critical to capturing consumers in the crowded social space. Now more than ever, brands need to double down on data to keep up with the speed at which the market is moving.