Social commerce and the power of community

Day two ended with an insightful fireside chat with Greg Merrill, growth and transformation executive with NIKE, and Debra Langley of Lyra Ventures. Greg’s Board experience includes B2B & B2C companies focused on technology, software, footwear & apparel, luxury fashion, robotics, automation and sustainability.

Debra has a wealth of experience in fashion, retail and technology. She is a Venture Partner with Lyra Ventures, a Singapore-based fund investing globally in B2B solutions and new commerce models that are transforming the fashion/retail industry.

Greg shared his views on the future of retail, in the age of commerce where customer expectations outpace everything.

Greg and Debra covered a wide range of topics, including the rise of ‘Everywhere Commerce’, the ‘Power of Community and Culture’ and exciting opportunities that are emerging at the intersection of fashion, sports, music, and entertainment, fuelled by the rise of social commerce and creator-driven communities.

“Success is the result of multiple failures”, Greg began, suggesting retailers need to not be despondent by early failures as they launch into digital and virtual environments.

There has been a seismic shift in customers’ expectations. The customer journey is no longer a straight, one-way path, or even a tunnel. It’s become a bowl of spaghetti and that is creating challenges for retailers.

“With an increasing number of ways to discover, research, and buy products, the customer journey is becoming less linear and more spread across touchpoints in both the physical and digital world.”

“You might become aware of something you need at a BBQ. Your friends talk about it a new brand of BBQ sauce and you do some research. But, then you forget about it until you get on Facebook and now all of the sudden it’s back into your mind.”

There’s no shortage of ways customers can engage and connect with retail brands, but this in itself can create a problem. As retailers today have so many different ways of making sure their products or services are part of the customers ‘consideration set’, with the volume of information they get every day, messaging can get lost. There are just so many more brands out there, that awareness doesn’t equal conversion.

Greg offered, “Retailers need to be commerce ready, whenever, wherever the customer is.”

“Markets are becoming more complex and fragmented. Look at where we are today, in Singapore. A city of different cultures, languages, and even currencies. Now imagine trying to be a retailer across these markets today.”

There are three things a retailer must do from a digital perspective to be successful in complex and dynamic markets.

“Speed is critical. It is no longer important just to understand what the customer wants, you have to also move at their speed.”

Few things are as frustrating for online shoppers as a bad website. They want to add to cart, but the page won’t load or there’s too much third-party content slowing it down. Research has found that even a small delay in website speed significantly increases the chances that a customer won’t complete a sale or even come back to the site to try again later.

“Talent agility is emerging as an important variable of retailer success. It’s no longer about having the right people; it’s about ensuring your people have the capacity to do get things done.”

“Talent agility means that team members can anticipate and respond to changes on their own and have the ability to innovate and react to unforeseen circumstances. That may mean external changes imposed by shifting customers’ needs or responding to organisational changes brought on by managers within the company as well.”

A workforce that’s agile is a workforce that is capable of meeting these changes with minimal resistance, and that can actually leverage them as new opportunities, rather than as obstacles to be overcome.

Finally, Greg spoke of the ‘modularity of technology’ from the lens of a legacy-tech problem. You end up with a Frankenstein tech stack. Things that have been bolted on over the years. It becomes difficult to peel these back and implement new tech.

Greg offered that ‘social commerce’ will continue to drive retailer success in a digital world.

Social commerce is a rapidly growing branch of e-commerce that uses social networks and digital media to facilitate transactions between retailers and customers. It encompasses activities such as product discovery, reviews, ratings, sharing, recommendations, transactions, and loyalty programs.

“In other words, social commerce taps into the growing use of social media platforms to promote and sell products or services directly on the social media sites users log into daily.”

Retailers’ adoption of social media as a marketing and sales channel is all about connecting brands directly with their customers and helping them to engage in meaningful conversations through various social channels.

“By using user-generated content, like photos, videos and customer reviews, retailers can build relationships with customers on a deeper level than what’s feasible with traditional e-commerce strategies.

“This helps retailers connect emotionally with their prospective customers and drive higher sales conversions through social media platforms.”

Greg concluded that retailers are still forecasting trends by looking backward for 12 months.

“You can’t move forward, looking backwards. You need to get closer to your consumer Using social media AI-powered scraping will help retailers identify emerging trends.

Greg spoke about the role of TikTok. Unlike Instagram’s ultra-polished, often over-edited depiction of the fashion industry, TikTok is viewed as a space for creativity, authenticity and unfiltered self-expression.

Fashion lovers are increasingly using the app to discover the latest trends, get honest reviews of brands and products, find inspiration for new looks and connect with like-minded individuals.

The internet is filled with stories of product that have sold out in minutes because of a viral TikTok post.

“TikTok went crazy for the affordable, yet effective cleaning product aptly named The Pink Stuff. The #ThePinkStuff hashtag has amassed more than 111 million views, while #pinkstuff has attracted more than 90 million views. It was reported that The Pink Stuff repeatedly sold out in the U.S. and was subjected to price gouging.

“Today, a customer may see a product they like on TikTok and decide to buy it on the spot, rather than waiting to visit a physical store or searching for the product online. If businesses do not have a strong online presence or use trending social media platforms like TikTok, they are at risk of losing out on potential high-value customers.”

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