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Scroll, like, click, buy: the undeniable rise of social commerce in MENA, by Memac Ogilvy’s Matthieu Vercruysse

As the new normal continues to alter digital consumer behaviours, social platforms are becoming wise to frictionless, in-app commerce journeys. The result is a full, one-stop-shop social buying experience—and it’s already here, writes Memac Ogilvy’s MD for Social & Performance, Matthieu Vercruysse.

Did you know that if a website takes more than three seconds to load after being reached by an ad click, it can lose up to 40 per cent of its traffic? Four of your last ten potential customers just disappeared before their saw your logo.

And it’s not just slow loading that’s grinding gears. Right now, when users navigate from any social platform to a brand’s website, they face myriad kinds of friction. They get lost on the way, the link doesn’t drive to the correct landing page, the page is not optimised for mobile, they need to fill in the same personal information over and over, the payment solutions are not user-friendly—the list goes on. Imagine the impact on sales for an e-commerce platform.

Take an in-store comparison—would you accept a mall experience with bad signage?  A shop with no cashier? Having to repeat yourself to a vendor several times? A machine not accepting your credit card? Not likely.

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While buying online, there are many similar scenarios that cause your potential clients to just give up in the middle of their purchase journey. And with this type of commerce becoming the norm, it’s a big problem.

A new role for advertisers

That’s why social media used simply for big reach and engagement is no longer enough. In this new age, advertisers must play the role of facilitating an entire digital transaction, from platform to checkout. The challenge, however, is the region remains in-store obsessed.

Malls and shopping centres play an important role in the fabric of the local culture, but the pandemic has forced people into re-evaluating their buying habits. As a result, we’re seeing much more reliance on digital solutions and e-commerce. Of course, malls and stores will retain their appeal, but these new digital behaviours are here to stay, too. Resulting in hybrid bricks and clicks society.

The good news is that social platforms are continuously improving existing, and creating new, advertising formats. So, as well as offering impactful messaging to large audiences, building brand awareness and ad-recall through multi-format content, such as long- and short-form video, and animations, they’re now putting a lot of effort into leveraging commerce and transactional solutions.

And we are starting to see the fruits of this labour, with Facebook Shop, Instagram Live Shopping, TikTok in-app purchase, WhatsApp Catalogs, Snapchat shoppable Augmented Reality, Twitter’s shop button, and others. These are the foundations of the emerging social commerce. The name is not new, but the practice is under construction.

So, what is it, exactly? Social commerce is the use of social networks in the context of commercial transactions, taking the platforms well beyond the top half of the traditional funnel and allowing consumers to discover and purchase during a single in-app session.

Now, these social platforms can offer far more than traditional advertising solutions. Not only can they be compared to TV and outdoor thanks to their big reach, but they can also offer the shop window — and even the shop itself.

The next step is direct and integrated payment solutions—and these are just a step away (already in the testing phase in the US and Brazil, and a commodity in China). This allows brands on social to take more and more steps along the consumer journey, through to the transaction itself. And all of this in just a few clicks for the user—fewer steps, less friction—making the experience as seamless as possible.

This is what native social commerce is all about. A step (or many) beyond an already mature advertising business that uses social media to drive performance for e-commerce platforms. And while many of these advertisers are still busy improving and accelerating targeting, retargeting, AB testing, and sequencing, native social commerce is allowing a shopper to make a purchase in the most efficient way possible—just a few single, frictionless clicks. Directly from the app, without leaving the session.

At Memac Ogilvy, we are already seeing this huge shift take place. In fact, we recently sold a number of cars through Facebook. Which sounds nuts. Every day, we sell home furniture on Instagram and make people subscribe to Telco plans from TikTok and Youtube. And if buying a car is not something you can see yourself doing today, think about lower engagement purchases, like food deliveries. It’s more likely that you would easily order a burger directly from a Facebook advert. Indeed, we sold a large number of meals through a virtual Drive-Thru, built right in the Facebook newsfeed, creatively called Scroll-Thru. The next stage is simply that, at scale.

Today’s buying a burger from Facebook is tomorrow’s buying a house right off Instagram.

The Middle East is primed for this cultural shift, too, having some of the highest internet penetration numbers in the world, but still relying heavily on a brick and mortar lifestyle. This sets the region up for being a perfect omnichannel location. So, while the physical retail industry continues to recover from the pandemic, people will keep buying more online. Therefore, advertisers and businesses have perhaps never felt such pressure to run advertising with a direct return.

And so, in steps native social commerce. A perfect match.

Social majors have long understood these new rules, and deliver a good value proposition for many industries to follow. And despite not all new features being readily available in the region, a vast majority of strategies are and should be urgently considered by all types of businesses, whatever the industry. Because this trend will only grow.

Foundations built and tested today will be the key to success tomorrow. Stay tuned for our webinars on the same.