Lengow Day: SMEs successfully selling on Social Media

For a long time here at Tamebay we were wary of selling on social media, not because it wasn’t happening but because it was just about impossible to measure ROI (return on investment). Large companies were attempting to sell on social platforms but often it was merely promotional activity and any sales happened as an assist on the merchant’s own website – not on social media itself.

That’s now changed, with Facebook advertising, Instagram clickable shopping bag icons on stories, Social Media Selling is now within the reach of the SME online retailer and it’s something that all businesses selling online should be experimenting with.

At Lengow Day in Paris last week the key theme was ‘Go Beyond’ and that’s what Tayyab Akhlaq of Public Desire, a women’s shoe retailer, and Alicia Brocal of Hawkers, a Spanish sunglasses retailer are doing. Both shared their experiences of Facebook and Instagram and selling on social media and the success they have seen as well as the lessons learnt along the way.

Tayyab’s Public Desire has amassed a following of over a million on Instagram in just two years and uses social almost exclusively to promote his products. The focus is on young women on mobile who are fashion conscious and will click from social to make a purchase. Where else could an SME have their footware displayed alongside a dress from Zara and a handbag from Mango which is exactly what happened to Public Desire in the image above? Being marketed alongside fashion brands in this manner would have been thought impossible just a few years ago, but today on Instagram it’s the norm.

Alicia told a similar story with some 80% of their advertising spend being on Facebook and Instagram. She says that early adopters of fashion are on Instagram and that’s where you need to be to get your products found.

Andy Liang from GlobalEGrow Ecommerce helps businesses sell to and from China and agrees with Tayyab and Alicia saying that ecommerces used to be about searching for what you want but now with social media purchases it’s changed to discovery and immediacy of the purchase. He points out that influencers in your market are key to spreading the word (or image!) and that whilst in China there is no Google, Facebook or Instagram so merchants need to engage on Chinese platforms the discovery journey, rather than search, is just the same.

So how do you get your products shared and found? One way is to find influencers with large followings who will share your products on Instagram or other social platforms. Sometimes this can be luck, sometimes it can be through sending them free product of offering discounts. In other cases those with the largest followings can be bought and will have a set fee for sharing a product on Instagram or other platforms.

Alicia was keen to emphasise that you need to adapt your approach in different countries however, tastes, influencers and buying behaviours vary between countries so what works in the UK won’t necessarily be the best approach in France and Germany.

Tayyab closed the panel session with perhaps the best advice which is that creativity and thinking outside the box is key. It’s not enough to hope that your customers will post their new purchase on Instagram and a hook to encourage them to do so is key to success. An example he gave (an idea from one of his staff members) was to put a plastic spider in each box of shoes he shipped last Halloween. Acknowledging that it was a bit of a risky strategy, it was successful as numerous customers shared the shoe and spider images and for the cost of a few plastic spiders, millions of Instagram users saw his products.

Instagram and selling on social media isn’t quite as risk free as selling on marketplaces where generally you only pay a fee for a successful sale. On social your investment has to be up front, whether it’s investment in advertising or in free product and other promotion with no guarantee of any return. However, selling on social media is now mature enough that those willing to take the financial risks are seeing the rewards, so much so that many have abandoned traditional marketplaces and now all or most of their spend is focused to selling on social media and they are as, if not more, successful than they were on marketplaces.

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