The pandemic has driven a boom in social commerce, allowing consumers to directly purchase products or services from a brand from social media content. This year, the trend is projected to drive a whopping $38.09B in sales, increasing 34.8% from 2020. So what’s driving the trend, and how can brands reap the benefits of shoppable content?
To speak to this, we spoke with Thibaud Clément, co-founder and CEO of Loomly, a collaborative platform for marketing teams and social media eCommerce experts. Since graduating from both Grenoble Ecole de Management, France, and the University of Ottawa, Canada, back in 2011, Clement has worked with his wife and business partner, Noemie, launching four successful businesses.
Good afternoon; we’re here with Thibaud Clément from Loomly to talk about social commerce and their new tool. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of social commerce growth in the last year, can you speak to that?
Social commerce is a term that was coined more than a decade ago, but what’s interesting is that it’s really booming right now. We think it’s the conversions of a couple of factors – number one is essentially the continuous penetration of social media in our lives. We spend more and more time on platforms, regardless of our age, occupation, and social background. Number two, there has been a boom in e-commerce. In 2020, we saw probably a decade’s worth of progress in under a year with a major adoption of online shopping. Three, which is extremely important, we have the major players in social media who are investing a lot of money and efforts, and energy into actually offering some social shopping features, which really wasn’t the case before
We are seeing Facebook throwing their hat in the game. TikTok is coming up. All of that is creating a lot of, you know, competitive tension and new opportunities. Interestingly, all of that is really converging to change the way we were using various platforms. Before, Amazon was basically for shopping, and Facebook was to meet with people. Now, we see all of that come together.
I believe this the main driving force that is making social commerce skyrocket.
What are the advantages of social commerce over a standalone e-commerce site? Obviously, you’re going to aggregate eyeballs through the social prospect, but it tends to be more costly than if you were to do it yourself, so can you talk about sort of the plus and minuses of social commerce?
Starting with the pluses, I believe there are two considerations. First of all, if you are a traditional brick and mortar and don’t have an online presence, an e-commerce website, or even a website – you know you have to make the switch to online selling due to recent circumstances. It’s interesting because you probably already have a social account. If you don’t, it’s easy to set things up basically, and you know you don’t have to buy a domain name; you don’t actually have to build an online store. It is becoming easier and easier to develop an online presence, thanks to platforms like Shopify. Also, it’s very, very easy to set up Facebook shops, for instance.
If you don’t have an online presence, social commerce is probably one of the fastest ways to sell.
Number two, if you are in a different circumstance and have an existing online presence with an audience with a community, then social commerce makes it easy to reach them where they are and allow them to shop for whatever you have to offer while remaining inside a platform that they know and trust – namely the social networks.
Those are, you know, the main pluses and the main opportunities where you can take advantage of social commerce.
One minus or one thing that you want to maybe watch out for is that you rely on that social platform when you build on a social platform. We’ve seen in the past, for instance – this is kind of the story of the internet – when you were building an eCommerce website, and you were relying on SEO. If there was a change in the algorithm, then all of a sudden, your traffic could be impacted. We’ve seen recently with social networks changing their policies or algorithms, which could impact your store’s sales.
One way to mitigate it is to use social commerce as a complementary channel to whatever you are doing elsewhere rather than just the only channel.
How does social commerce differentiate from other online selling, like Amazon stores in the Amazon marketplace?
That’s a good question. To answer it, we probably roll back a little bit and understand what is different between Amazon as a website versus Instagram. If you go to Amazon, you are probably what we can call an intentionalist – you already know that you want to buy something such as an HDMI cable. You have something in mind already, and you are ready to buy.
On the other hand, if you are on Instagram, you will probably not be looking for an HDMI cable. You are there because you have like five minutes before jumping on the bus or while you are watching a commercial on tv or something like that. You are scrolling. You’re just having a good time; maybe you are following people. At best, you are window shopping in a way because you’re interested in seeing what an influencer is doing or wearing or recommending. You’re not there with the explicit intent to buy something specific, but you know you may be receptive to whatever is shown to you.
The usage is quite different between those two platforms, and it’s interesting to see how that translates into shopping. On Amazon, what you want is what you want. The platform has products very well-referenced so that whenever someone is searching for something, it shows up.
If you are selling on Instagram, you have to have a different approach because you have to create the intention of buying, and you want to make whatever you are selling very appealing. That could be through influencer marketing, product photography, or storytelling.
I don’t think one is channel is better than the other – they offer different user experiences.
Is there a different buying behavior when someone buys from social commerce versus a traditional eCommerce platform?
I believe there are a couple of things that differ. Again, it depends on whether we’re talking about Amazon or a standalone eCommerce website that you would be managing versus social commerce.
I think that on social media, probably the main driver of sales is impulse buying. You come across a pair of sneakers, and maybe you don’t really need them because you were not really looking for them, but then they look perfect, and so you want it, and then all of a sudden, at the click of a button, they are yours. You don’t even have to leave the platform; sometimes, you don’t even have to input your credit card.
In traditional eCommerce, there is likely intent. You were probably looking for something you need. The driver here is an unmet need – even if it’s a gift and then you need to find what you’re going to buy, you have to go through the entire checkout process.
Is influencer market marketing a bigger factor in social commerce? For example, you see the sneaker, and you like it, but if you see the sneaker on Shaq or somebody, then it’s like, “Oh, I want to wear it because Shaq’s wearing it.”
I don’t know; I would probably look at that the other way around. I actually think that social commerce reinforces influencer marketing because it will make it easier for influencers to sell products. After all, they don’t have to say, “Hey, look at the link in my bio or follow this link for a discount.” Then you are redirected to another website. In social commerce, everything happens within the platform for a more efficient buying experience.
We then run into the traditional problem – users are on multiple platforms, there are disparate systems. Is that something your product is looking to address?
At Loomly, we have been working with brands on social media for a very long time. Our product is to drive brand success. Our platform helps marketing teams collaborate and streamline collaboration if they build their presence on multiple platforms. We are compatible with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest, and many more. Loomly offers a single dashboard to manage all your platforms and customize the message for each platform – as you may know, each platform has its own unique code, character, and feature requirements.
The platform allows you to push the message directly from a single, integrated dashboard helping you with the entire content publishing process from asset management to id generation, content production, review, and team approval. You can publish and respond to any comments you may receive. And ultimately, the team can measure the promotion’s success through a report of established metrics.
From our platform, you can boost any post that you have. If you create an organic post and it is successful, you can allocate an advertising budget to reach a wider audience. Or you can even create standalone ads, which translates into sales on social commerce platforms. We’ve seen this approach really skyrocket sales. What is interesting with a boosted post is they are, you know, essentially organic posts. They fit the bill of what an organic post is. They usually tell a story.
They are not crafted exactly like an ad, so they tend to resonate more because people become banner blind to actual posts that are ads. This allows you to tell your story in an organic way allowing you to amplify whatever you are promoting, such as a new product announcement.
We even have what we call a custom channel where you can actually prepare content for platforms that we don’t support so that you can still see how this is going to fit into your general brand storytelling.
We already help you with organic posts and ads, and in the future, we want to support more and more types of content such as product descriptions for eCommerce, emails for newsletters, or articles for blogs. Having it all in a central location so that when you are building your brand online, it is consistent across all channels.
What channels are available currently supported by the platform?
We are working with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google My Business, Snapchat, and TikTok.
Is there an integration with Google AdWords or Facebook ads?
Not yet, but it’s on the roadmap.
Loomly is essentially a marketing collaboration platform. It allows all stakeholders to collaborate and manage brand content. Creating the content is a lot of work with many people involved. Our platform allows teams to manage all their assets in one place for all channels – you can create content and customize it for specific channels, you can get approval from anyone working with you, such as your boss or client. You can share it with outside partners like your copywriter, designer, sales team, product developers, HR, or even the legal department for compliance.
The platform ensures all appropriate parties have given the green light before it goes and helps tell a consistent story across channels and over time. Loomly is a one-stop solution for marketing professionals.
How did you get started?
This is a company that I co-founded with my wife, Noemi. We’ve been working together for nine years, and it’s actually the first company that we’re building together. We built this company because we were managing advertising agencies before we started the company. As managers, we were trying to streamline the content process, and we were mainly using spreadsheets to keep track of all the parts and lay out the editorial calendar.
This was time-consuming, error-prone, and repetitive. When we tried to streamline that process with existing tools, we could only find two categories of tools: generic project management software to collaborate, but you can’t publish. Alternatively, we tried traditional schedulers where you could publish, but you couldn’t collaborate.
We needed a tool that combined both features, so we built Loomly. The tool is great at collaboration and publishing. A typical account has many channels managed through the platform. There’s a plan for everyone from a basic plan where you can connect to 10 channels.
You are essentially taking my Slack group and my buffer schedule and putting them into one tool.
It’s funny you mentioned those two tools because a long time ago, we were, in fact, integrated with Buffer when we just got started, and we were trying to cover only the collaboration part. We were delegating the publishing part to Buffer. They are a great company and tool. We are competitors, but they are great. And with Slack, we are actually currently integrated with them.
Whenever someone in Loomly is sending you a notification or telling you, “Hey Mike, can you just update the copy of this post or Hey, it’s good to go,” then you can receive a notification in Slack, and then you can click and go and see the post. So, yes, it’s a good representation of what we do.
What are some of the new things that you’re working on?
We ship new features every week, but we improve our asset management system and library; we’re providing users with more ways to create content from scratch. We can tell you what is trending on Twitter and how to take advantage of it. We have created a post builder; it’s a wizard that takes you to step by step by creating a post from scratch. We give you some ideas, and then you pick the idea that you like, select the channel you want to publish to, and then you know you can import some very cool images, for instance, from Unsplash.
Users can edit their images, add text and filters, and stuff, so all of a sudden, you go from a blank page to a post.
Additional features we are working on include more ways to monitor your presence online to get more feeds by knowing what the current conversation is about your brand online, responding to those, and creating even more content.
This is a crowded, competitive landscape. What’s your key differentiator, and then how will you continue to develop barriers to entry?
That’s an interesting question. I believe there are three things that we are doing differently –
The first thing is we created this tool because we couldn’t find what we wanted online. We are actually solving a pain point – an actual problem that people have because we had that problem. We have over 8,000 client teams worldwide, so it looks like you know we were not alone.
Secondly, we try to design the product in the most user-friendly way possible. That’s usually the most frequent feedback that we get is that it’s super easy to use. So, I believe this is also a differentiator because some great tools are on the market but cumbersome to use. Our UI and UX tend to stand out.
The last thing is we try very, very hard to deliver stellar customer support, and this is again something where we receive a lot of great feedback from our customers.
I believe that once you’re in a major market that is like ours, which is big but still growing, and you addressed your main address pain point, delivered an easy to use the product, and you are here for users when they have a question or a problem, then I think by checking all the boxes you can win.
How long has the product been in the market?
When I wrote the first line of code, it was back in August 2015, and we opened up in public beta in February 2016. so it was actually our fifth anniversary just Monday
And like you said, you have a user base of eight thousand or so?
Yes, eight thousand paying customers, we are fast approaching the $5 Million in annual recurring revenue.
We are constantly announcing improvements to the platform. We have a 15-day free trial, no credit card required. So if you want to give it a try, you go to Loomly.com, and we are there in the chat for any questions you may have.
We appreciate your time today, and hopefully, everybody can check Loomly out.
Thank you so much for having me.