There's no buzzier concept than "social commerce," and with good reason: Inmar's 2021 Social Commerce survey shows that 95% of US adults look to influencers for inspiration and 84.1% have made a purchase based on an influencer's recommendation.
Social commerce sales are expected to reach $36.62 billion in 2021; and while that total is impressive, in reality sales are probably even higher, but not properly documented because of a lack of adequate attribution. In fact, most marketers don't realize they are underestimating the value of social commerce to their bottom line…and by not acknowledging its importance, they are missing out on opportunities.
"Most marketers – and even leading industry voices – define social commerce far too narrowly," says Leah Logan, Vice President of Media Products and influencer for Inmar Intelligence. She cites a common definition of social commerce as "purchases that come directly from a social platform or via direct linking from the platform over to a retail environment."
However, she notes, this linear path from exposure to purchase is not how people shop, leading to a distorted view of what constitutes social commerce. Wondering if you are misattributing sales? Let's find out.
The wider view of social commerce
If the path described above is too narrow, then what should be included in social commerce?
Logan cites three additional purchase paths that should be part of your analysis of social commerce:
Being exposed on a social platform and ultimately buying in-store
Being exposed on a social platform via social post that does not link directly over (i.e. Instagram photo posts) which means that tracking is unavailable
Being exposed on a social platform and not directly purchasing immediately (i.e. saving a pin or screenshot for later)
"By widening your perspective on social commerce, you can see that inspiration and purchase may happen completely separately from each other, yet they happen in concert," says Logan. "The difference is that you're not exclusively relying on last-click attribution from a tracking standpoint."
The tracking conundrum
We all know the adage that "what gets measured gets managed," and the overwhelming view is that measuring social media is challenging. In fact, many marketers use "brand awareness" as their main indicator of success, merely because it's more easily quantified by counting metrics like content engagement and followers or subscribers.
But that type of proof is likely not enough to earn an increase in budget. LinkedIn research found that 58% of digital marketers have to prove social media ROI to get approval for future budget requests, and yet only 37% were "very confident" in their ROI metrics. This lack of measurement could lead to underfunding that can hurt their brand's potential.
A recent Inmar Intelligence/studio ID survey found that while 60% of marketing executives said increasing sales is a main goal of influencer marketing programs, 44% believe the top hurdle curtailing their spending on these programs is the ability to quantify ROI as they do with other marketing techniques.
But if marketers can't accurately measure social commerce, how can they deliver?
The missing puzzle piece
"Defining campaign success can take multiple forms," Logan says, adding that Inmar recommends considering five separate ones.
Three of them are relatively easy to measure through available data, including:
"Promotional Effectiveness," derived from studying an influencer's impact to drive redemptions of promoted offers through their channel. You can look at metrics such as likes and shares as a starting point, but one of the best ways to determine how well your campaign performed is to create unique offer links or promotion codes exclusive to the individual influencers.
"Foot Traffic Analysis," which you can track using mobile geo-fencing to study the impact of influencer content on in-store foot traffic. The real success comes from creating a test and control group and comparing the store traffic between the two.
"Brand Sentiment Analysis," which analyzes the impact influencer content has on customer perceptions of a brand. This is relatively easy to assess through metrics such as likes, shares and comments.
But there are two measurements that require more substantial data to accurately track, and yet they are the two that most accurately allow brands to tie influencer content exposure to retail and e-commerce sales:
"1:1 Direct Sales Attribution," which is found through tracking individual customers who were exposed to influencer content through to purchase
"Retail Sales Lift Analysis," which comes from digesting POS data and forming test and control groups to uncover sales lift
To measure these two vital components, brands can turn to ShopperSync™, Inmar’s proprietary data intelligence platform, which creates an overall experience that includes social, promotional and other marketing strategies to track touchpoints all along the shopper journey.
Is influencer ROI holding you back?
By defining influencer marketing too narrowly, your brand is effectively missing out on the attribution that could shake loose more marketing dollars and lead to more success.
"You're leaving a lot of money on the table, and as a marketer, you're really not getting credit for the effort invested in your influencer strategy," Logan says.
Brands that are serious about influencer marketing – and that should be every brand – have to find a partner who can help fill in the gaps in their measurement strategy. Taking advantage of an influencer marketing platform, like Inmar Intelligence, gives you access to data, resources and technology that can help you accurately determine the effectiveness of your influencer campaign and measure its impact, giving you the metrics you need to prove ROI and free up more budget for this crucial marketing strategy.