The concept of social commerce is nothing new. Retailers, brands, and influencers have for some time been taking advantage of digital native tools to boost consumer engagement online and through social media. Now, the time has come for the travel and leisure industry to foster a newfound relationship with the creator economy.
Social commerce in the United States has steadily grown, seeing more than $36.6 billion in sales in 2021. As the trend expands, some suggest that the social commerce market could reach more than $79.6 billion in sales by 2025.
While the U.S. consumer market has seen steady market performance over the last few years, in other parts of the world, such as China, social commerce has evolved into a new way of shopping and bringing consumers closer to their favorite brands and creators. Back in 2021, social commerce platform purchases skyrocketed to more than $363 billion in China, far surpassing the U.S. market.
It’s no secret, social commerce is popular.
Yet, despite the upside, social commerce provides consumers, social media behemoth Meta, announced in the last few weeks that it will be killing off its Instagram live shopping feature by mid-March 2023. Meta said it’s looking to focus more on ads and providing a more interactive experience for both users and brands on the app.
Although Instagram may soon be dropping its social commerce and online shopping features, industry experts suggest that brands and retailers, including businesses in the travel industry should be using social shopping as part of their marketing goals and strategies.
Social media is business
From a conversational point of view, companies across different industries have taken social media and transformed it into an online digital platform through which they can engage with their customers. It’s helped bring brands closer to consumers, and provides them with a more personalized experience, from the first interaction to check-out.
And for the travel industry? This means business.
According to a Deloitte report, U.S. social media users spent more than 1.2 trillion minutes online across 100 different internet properties in November 2014. While the figures give us a glimpse of how important various internet properties were almost a decade ago, new advances in tech and software mean that some industries are now able to get even closer than before.
In the travel industry, where most travel agents and booking sites still heavily rely on a web-based presence, email marketing tools, and some brick-and-mortar locations, among others – the content economy is yet another foot in the door for them.
After a tumultuous few years of seeing the travel industry come to a near standstill due to pandemic-related restrictions, more recent pent-up traveler demand has helped catapult the industry toward a new era of digital experiences.
Now with the travel industry seeing a steady recovery, social commerce will need to function as an aggregator for travel agents and booking platforms.
Social travel commerce platforms will enable companies to leverage integrated tech and software applications. Social media analytics, customer research marketing (CRM), and content retrieval will become a new form of finding and booking holidays.
Some businesses may take a different route, using social commerce platforms as an e-commerce engine to drive travelers specifically towards new products, services, and attractions.
We might see several companies looking to leverage the opportunities presented by the rise of business travel, which have also taken a toll since the onset of the pandemic and have since steadily been recovering.
As companies again introduce new and more effective travel incentive programs, social media could become a virtual portal for travel agents and aggregators.
Content can help promote community
Online content is more diverse than ever, with influencers collaborating with brands and retailers to promote products and services to an ever-growing audience.
Yet, in the past, users were simply categorized as followers, nowadays they’re more seen as a community among one another.
Influencers and brands spent years, if not decades building and fostering a specific relationship with consumers, reshaping the way they think, speak, and feel about certain products or services.
As a broad and basic example, we see this with Apple, which leverages marketing tactics, consumer experience, and design to build a community of loyal supporters and followers.
We can almost say the same about influencers, who have culminated millions of followers, providing a sense of authority with the brands they represent and market.
In the travel industry, this is possible, however, several obstacles can cause turbulence for businesses that aren’t able to properly invest in brand and tone of voice with their customers.
Social commerce will become a tool that will help democratize the industry, and provide a more unified experience for travelers. Content creators will be able to provide insight for their followers. In a similar vein, this puts the industry in front of consumers, opening new channels for them through which they can access services and products that were once unattainable or seemed somewhat foreign.
It’s a shifting mindset, but more so, it’s a change in marketing goals and strategy for some businesses in the industry. Leveraging travel social commerce will become an ecosystem of partnership between different brands and businesses.
For companies, it means a new business model, while for travelers it’s the foundation of high-value interactions and a more streamlined experience.
Travel social commerce will see its time in the sun, as the industry continues to expand on the back of ever growing digital marketing tools native to social media. A new way of bringing services and products to consumers requires the industry to adopt social commerce as a goal, rather than a system on its own.