The Changing Landscape Of E-Commerce

How both social media and video are changing how companies market online


By this point, just about everyone is familiar and comfortable with shopping online. As mobile usage grows, brick-and-mortar stores are giving way to handheld, roaming catalogues and reservations about online purchasing are being eroded by innovative new sales techniques and payment safety.

The advantages of e-commerce are numerous. 24-hour availability compliments the lack of geographical limitations to buying online, and mobile has further extrapolated the ease of access and flexibility made possible by a lack of opening hours. Price is often another positive; the costs saved on a brick-and-mortar representation of the business gives stores the chance to undercut the high street and offer both cheaper prices and better specials. And the landscape is ever-changing - instant delivery has been growing and will continue to do so, while ads are set to become less and less intrusive.

E-commerce does have its drawbacks, though. The lack of physical inspection is perhaps the achilles heel of the industry, people are less likely to part with cash for products they haven't been able to see directly - a particular drawback for clothing sites. This is where video marketing comes in. As the next best thing to physical inspection, a video demonstration presents products in a more visually revealing way and, though technology cannot currently allow hands-on inspection, video can at least offer a rounded view of the product as well as perspective and demonstration.

And social media is playing an increasingly prominent role in video marketing. Facebook, above all others, is a particularly good medium for organic sharing and video consumption. Users are likely to tag other users on promotional posts, generating a wider audience separate from those directly targeted. Videos are generally accepted on a Facebook news feed, too. They're generally non-invasive, short, and seamlessly embedded onto a customer's feed. One only has to look at Shopify to see that online marketplaces prioritise both mobile optimisation and social media marketing, with an entire section of their site dedicated to Facebook advertising alone.

The rise of easily digestible instructional videos - with culinary demonstrations the latest to explode in popularity - points toward a user base that expects to be informed in a short space of time, and harnessing our ever-decreasing attention spans with clever product demonstrations leads to much higher conversion rates. Facebook attracts more than 8 billion video views per day - a figure that doubled between April 2015 and January 2016 - while Youtube, according to Gary Vaynerchuk (a social media marketing expert) is now simply too crowded.

'Now is the time to get started with social video marketing,' says marketing expert Dominique Jackson. 'Video has been on an upward trend for a while now, and it's not slowing down. Break out your smartphone or camera, get some ideas together and start creating videos to connect with your audience on social media in a new and exciting way.' A great example of e-commerce done right is Purple, a new direct-to-customer mattress company, proving a relatively unexciting product can catch fire online with effective video marketing. Purple managed to create a viral video enticing entitled 'How to Use a Raw Egg to Determine if Your Mattress Sucks - #purple', now with over 1,300,000 youtube views and well over 5 million on Facebook.

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $171,000, the entirety of the business has been, and will remain, online. By going direct to customer they can offer a high-quality product at cheaper rates, and there is no shortage of appetite. The viral video has generated so much interest that the company are currently heavily backordered thanks to overwhelming demand.

As the potential of video marketing becomes fully realized, 'social influencers' have been the first to benefit. These online celebrities - working across Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, etc. - are using e-commerce to translate their varying degrees of online notoriety into revenue. Their own personal brand is used to promote others, selling products indirectly through reviews, demonstrations and 'what's in my bag' style displays of shopping trips - though, incidentally, the majority of the products will more often than not be complimentary.

Brand sponsorship is no longer the reserve of the relatively few major online celebrities. Those with fewer - still in the hundreds of thousands - but equally loyal followers are being targeted by brands with perhaps less lavish marketing budgets. An eMarketer report entitled 'Influencer Marketing for US Brands', a huge two-thirds (67%) of respondents reported using influencers for content promotion.

FameBit - a site dedicated to connecting 'influencers' with brands - now has 31,000 active content creators who have generated over 20,000 brand-orientated videos. The self-service marketplace announced a partnership with Shopify in February 2016, and are in turn giving their 'influencers' a direct pathway into e-commerce. The current 31,000 will be able to utilize Shopify to set up and manage their own online stores, encouraging them to sell more than just their sponsors products. That the coming together will be a mutually beneficial one gives a fairly good indication of just how important these influential young people can be on a brand's digital marketing landscape. 


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