social storefront with clothes

The Social Storefront Dilemma (2/2)

November 24, 2021

Huge digital malls with unlimited storefronts: strength and weakness at the same time. The need to stand out from the crowd. This is a lot to process, so let us compare it to something we know and understand quite well: actual malls.

For many of us malls were a place to hang out, windowshop and of course buy products. We used to spend whole afternoons in malls, strolling through the hallways, trying to figure out which of the many storefronts is worth visiting. Changing the perspective to the shop owners. We see that they face their own set of challenges. What is best shown in the storefront to entice people to come in. Which of my products attract the most people? How to best allocate shelf space between my various suppliers? Who are the people who just windowshop and who are the actual buyers? 

Social Media platforms recognize the challenges for both the consumer and the brands/shops. With their advertising capabilities they are offering tangible value to both. As a consumer I can configure what kind of advertising I want to see and get advertising that is relevant to me and as a brand/shop I can identify the people with the highest value to me and showcase them the products with the highest value to them. 

The advertising possibilities on the social media platforms are constantly evolving and getting more complex. To understand what is actually possible is the first step in escaping the social storefront dilemma. As we are trying to help you navigate, we compiled some of the most important features.

Targeting - Reaching the user that is most relevant to you

This is a bold claim, however with their walled garden structure and the ability to collect user data, social media platforms are in a good position to actually meet that. All platforms have their own capabilities (with differing degrees of sophistication), but we can cluster them into 3 categories:

  • Based on on-platform data: As consumers we interact with topics, take part in conversations, follow people/organizations/brands, watch content etc. This behaviour reflects our personalities and interests, offering brands a great way to target customers based on individual characteristics.
  • Based on off-platform data: Every relevant social media platform offers ways to target people based on their off-platform activities. The easiest way is via tracking pixels/SDKs. This way advertisers are able to retarget people based on their activities within their website or app. Additionally CRM-data, advertising IDs etc. can be used.
  • Prospecting/Lookalikes: The last category is somewhat built on the two others. Interest based targeting is not always the best way to identify the most relevant users. The fact that I am interested in smartphones does not necessarily mean that I am in-market for a new one. The fact that I’m not interested in underwear does not necessarily mean that I’m not wearing any. Lookalikes based on actual behaviour e.g. ad-engager or purchaser are often a good way to have a more data-driven approach to targeting.

Ad formats - The ubiquitous storefront

Knowing the right customers is only part of the equation, as they need to be aware of the brand and products. This is where social media platforms shine. They created dedicated ad formats for specific advertising goals. From discovery and experience to consideration and purchase: users are in specific mindsets making ad formats specifically designed for those mindsets more successful. Looking at the most recent trends in social media advertising we see some interesting trends:

  • The power of fullscreen discovery: With its story format Snapchat kick-started a new trend in 2016 and this year even LinkedIn launched its own version. Facebook/Instagram jumped early on this and TikTok broke onto the scene with a new approach to fullscreen video (prompting Facebook to launch its own version here as well). The reasoning behind it is as simple as significant: When having a fullscreen at your disposal, why not use it completely? Having this “real estate” enables brands to use the power of the fullscreen storefront to let people discover and experience brands and products. 
  • The individual storefront: by using precise targeting, advertisers are not only able to reach users most relevant to them, but also tailor the storefront individually, making it more influential. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and even Youtube are offering Collection/Storefront ads, enabling advertisers to showcase their brand prominently, while offering direct link outs to the featured, individual products.
  • Automated re-discovery: Remarketing was a big topic the last few years. However the social platforms are arguably best suited for it. As we spend 2.2h (on average) per day on social, it offers the best window to re-engage with customers already interested in specific products. The advantages are clear: Advertisers are not only able to retarget already interested users dynamically based on their own behaviour, they are also doing it with creative approaches best suited to the environment the users are moving within.

Algorithms - The almighty blackbox

Social media is almost a synonym for strong algorithms affecting our daily lives in 2020. In terms of advertising those algorithms are often mystified with their inscrutable ways. The platforms are of course anxious about keeping their proprietary algorithms as secret as possible. When managing many campaigns and understanding their workings though, the impact of those algorithms on the outcome is undeniable. However, as it is the case with every tool, you need to understand how it works and how it is supposed to be used. One of the key trends of the past years is the land grab by the social platforms. They requested ever more control to be passed to their algorithms and were taking it away from brands/shops. It is imperative though, that even if these autopilot systems work well, brands/shops do need to understand their workings to leverage them for their own objectives.

The social storefront dilemma is something every brand has to overcome. Getting the required visibility for one’s own brands and products is a real challenge, but with the right usage of their efficient advertising tools social media platforms are offering the right path to drive actual return! 

What social platforms are offering is unprecedented in many ways: They have the place, form and tools to showcase the right brand and product to the right customer in the right way.

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