Greg Bailie, Head of Growth and Innovation at the Influencer Division of Nfinity Media, writes that from creators to the metaverse, social commerce is set to dominate the way we shop (and sell).
The Creator Economy isn’t new. Traditionally, anyone who created something and sold it as a freelancer has been classified in this economy, from writers and designers to painters. Technology and social media has changed the Creator Economy however, and today creators are curating content and building communities on social media, as bloggers, and videographers.
There are some incredible ways that creators make a living these days, from partnering with brands to owning their own YouTube channels. Stanford graduate Alexandra Botez earns six figures playing chess on Twitch, where she has 877,000 followers. For creators, the world has become their oyster.
In 2020, a new start-up, Karat, even launched its first product for creators, the Karat Black Card, a credit card specifically for people who are monetising themselves as creators. The way we engage, leverage technology and even make a living is shifting – and this is what is driving our top social trends for 2022 list.
1. The Creator Economy is now
According to research conducted by InfluencerMarketingHub, 50 million people now consider themselves to be creators on social networks. These aren’t millionaire YouTube stars – they are ordinary people who have built successful side hustles by combining their love of specific hobbies or interests with an ability to create entertaining and trusted content (something that has boomed in the wake of a global pandemic).
The average consumer is increasingly turning to creators whom they know, trust and share the same interests with for everything from entertainment to product and service recommendations.
Social networks are both driving and responding to this trend by adding many new native monetisation tools to their platforms. These tools are designed to get content creators paid, which ensures they will continue to create both native and sponsored content, adding value to the brands they work with as well as the platforms they are leveraging.
What does this mean for brands? It’s simple. Thanks to creators, brands can leverage existing fan bases and the content that creators are developing to connect with target audiences. Remember, creators have established followers and tend to do a better job of creating authentic, long-term customer relationships than any brand account can hope to achieve.
However, brands choosing to leverage this trend should be careful – the authenticity of creators is what drives trust and engagement. Dictating content to creators is therefore ill-advised. Instead, choose creators who align with your brand values and whose audiences meet your own target audience criteria.
2. Shopping has gone social
Social commerce is growing as quickly as e-commerce and we predict that by the time we’re talking Trends 2023, it might even be surpassing e-commerce in terms of growth.
The difference between social commerce and traditional e-commerce is that social commerce is largely developed around social content, instead of the product. This trend speaks to all the other trends that we expect to see this year because it is the foundation of how creators and brands are all leveraging how consumers are discovering brands on social networks – and then making purchases as a result.
What makes social commerce possible, however, is how platforms are supporting influencers through the tools and marketplaces they are creating, effectively making it possible for an influencer to create their own content about a brand and then link that content directly to a product page.
Whether a user is watching a livestream, a short video or is on challenge, they can easily be redirected to the product page, enabling them to purchase. This is crucial because audiences do not arrive on social channels with the initial intention of shopping. Instead, they are looking to be entertained and possibly to discover new products.
3. In-app purchases will continue to gain traction
The days of using social media purely for generating awareness and amplification are over. Today, many consumers are lost if a purchase cannot be made then and there through a ‘checkout’ option.
According to Facebook, 81% of shoppers were already using social media to discover new brands and research products before the pandemic. This level of consumption, combined with lockdowns, has resulted in a social shopping explosion. Letting users discover products and then checkout in the same app just makes sense.
Consider the fact that cart abandonment on mobile is already high and that navigating to a website is an extra step when a user is scrolling through their social media feeds and it’s clear that there’s a big leak in the conversion funnel that in-app purchasing solves.
Platforms are not only supporting this through in-app purchasing solutions, they are also moving away from third-party payment solutions and investing in their own payment gateways.
For example, Douyin (known as TikTok internationally) has introduced Douyin Pay, which not only streamlines in-app purchases, but consolidates transaction behaviours and related customer data within its ecosystem, giving brands a complete picture of their target audience’s preferences and spending habits.
4. ‘Live’ shopping is the new in-store experience
Social commerce is on the rise but the in-person ability to touch and experience a product is still important. Enter live shopping, where creators and brands live stream a product experience to showcase a product, answer questions and – of course – entertain in the process.
The trend has dominated China and is now making global waves. In 2020, Douyin generated 381.2 billion yuan from its live commerce business and continues to experience rapid growth and, according to Statista, this more than doubled in 2021. According to a survey on live streaming in China, about 77% of respondents had heard about a local platform, Taobao’s live streaming sales, followed by 67% who had heard about Douyin’s live streaming. If this growth is anything to go by, we can expect similar shopping experiences to reach our shores, supported by the social platforms themselves.
For example, Facebook’s Live Shopping tool allows brands and creators to create live-streamed shopping events in which products are showcased in real world settings, and the audience can be interacted with directly from the live broadcast. Since online shoppers do not have access to in-person sales assistants, live streaming events are changing the game when it comes to social commerce. And of course, the tool (and experience) wouldn’t be complete without the ability to purchase the product directly on the platform.
5. Virtual reality is reaching a tipping point
According to a new report from the Centre for Advancing Retail and Technology, 2022 will be characterised by a wave of virtual reality content and consumer adoption is expected to quickly follow the trend, making now the ideal time to be a trailblazer in the VR retail space by leveraging a growing demand for shopping experiences using VR technology.
What will this look like? Basically, shoppers can be at home, sitting on a couch and put on a headset to go shopping. There are two things required for VR to explode in the retail space, and both are already in process.
The first is content creation for VR environments. The ability to create VR content is already becoming less expensive and more easily accessible, and if Tik Tok’s stratospheric growth is anything to go by, ‘non-professional’ creators love new ways of engaging with their audiences and will quickly find a way to leverage VR technology.
Second, consumer adoption needs to reach a tipping point. Currently, many consumers are being exposed to VR via gaming. This will soon move into widespread adoption in education and daily life, and once that happens, consumers will expect VR to become a part of their shopping experience.
6. Welcome to the metaverse
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing that the metaverse is ‘a virtual reality construct intended to supplant the internet, merge virtual life with real-life and create endless new playgrounds for everyone’, may sound futuristic, but the reality is that we’re already in the metaverse in many ways.
How many family reunions already take place on Zoom? During the pandemic, we saw graduations on Minecraft and weddings relocated to Animal Crossing. It’s already possible to virtually try on clothes and as we’ve already highlighted, VR is only set to become more and more mainstream. The next step is the metaverse (also known as the spatial internet), and it’s not a very big step at all. This isn’t a trend that will dominate 2022, but it’s worth including in this list because of how our other trends will feed into the eventual reality of the metaverse.
So, what does this look like in terms of consumerism? Imagine walking through your local park. You pass a jogger sporting running shoes that look excellent. Suddenly, a vending machine appears next to you, filled with variations of the same shoes, all in your size. You can click on a review by an influencer you follow and whose opinion you trust. You pick the shoe you like, payment is immediate and the shoes are delivered to your home the next day. And you continue your walk in the park. The metaverse is the culmination of augmented reality and virtual reality layering information in our real world, thanks to all the data points generated by us each and every second of the day.
If this sounds a bit too futuristic, remember that Facebook’s virtual reality social media platform, Horizon, is currently in beta testing and many other technology companies – including Microsoft – are investing heavily in platforms based on the spatial internet.
We’re in an exciting decade that is set to change the way we engage with our world and these trends are at the forefront of the next step in consumerism, entertainment and technology.