Social inspiration and commerce - shorter, faster, closer, sorted!
In the relatively near future, I see a certain part of commerce completely changing - and it relates to how inspiration and purchase will start to become so closely connected that they will become one and the same. This will be especially true of products that you don't buy on a regular basis - but that jacket you saw on Instagram or a friend may have shared with you on Facebook might only need an easy way to pay to tip you over into purchase.
For example, about 2 years ago I saw a sponsored post from Bellroy, a maker of leather goods. The product was a magnetic key holder - perfect for me as I hate carrying loose keys. So, like a lot of people, I swiped up on the ad on Instagram to go to the site. However, because I would have to go through the whole process of adding my details to the site to buy the product, I got as far as adding it to my basket. Like a lot of people, when I'm scrolling through Instagram, it's usually to fill a few minutes, so I am not very likely to get my credit card out and put in my details. The thing is, this could have been a far more seamless experience and a lot more conducive to building an ongoing relationship. Enter real social commerce...
The experience I had - one that's shared by millions every day - is going to change as companies like Instagram start to allow brands to sell directly on their app without pushing users out to a brand's website. This relies on you saving your payment details in Instagram so when you see an item you like, all you have to do is press "buy." This will have a significant impact, as it means that not only will brands have to have 'regular' websites they sell through, but also populate social networks with their items - and these social channels will become the marketplaces of the future. No doubt, we will end up with brands that only exist to sell on Instagram, much like Anker, a charging technology brand that only sells through Amazon.
From inspiration to purchase in seconds
What is so interesting about this change is that the distance between inspiration and purchase is going to shrink. Through online social, you'll go from seeing something, to owning it in seconds; thus removing any friction from the journey. Your social network would be the gatekeeper of your information, knowing where you live and, no doubt, using Google Pay or Apple Pay to facilitate super-fast payment.
There are, of course, brands out there that have been around for a while that have already been doing a great job of trying to bridge that gap. One example is Fancy, which seeks to seduce you into adding items to a wish list; so that when you want to buy an item, you can do so directly from the website. This makes them more of an inspiration-led version of Amazon. One notable challenge facing these kinds of brands is that they don't have anything like the same reach as Instagram and Snapchat.
There has also been talk in the last year that Instagram has been creating a standalone shopping app. Social networks getting into the eCommerce space makes total sense as it means that ads on those platforms create a direct line to product purchase. Snapchat has also been trying this out - voila their trial with Nike.
What I really want to convey is how the purchase journey could soon become so short that people will be able to seamlessly go from inspiration to purchase with one tap.
And if we look further into the future where BCI (Brain-Computer Interface) becomes an established technology, purchasing will be as quick as: you think it, you get it. Indeed, through BCI, the future of online commerce could soon take us in even more creative directions with a brain-computer interface that enables consumers to think their way to purchases. This may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but it's a development that some very high-profile minds are already taking seriously. Facebook, for example, is building an interface that connects brain and computer for typing.
As to what today's consumers think about the coming phenomenon of true social commerce, you can read all about their online preferences and priorities in the new 2019 edition of The Future Shopper.