Instagram the Latest Social Media Platform to Get In On the E-Commerce Act

With e-commerce around the world growing at a staggering rate thanks in no small part to the sharing of products online via social media, it’s little wonder that the social media platforms themselves are thinking of ways in which they can join the e-commerce party.

In recent months there has been a concerted push by the social media giants to integrate external links and enable users to purchase products or find out more about what they like without having to click away from their favourite platform.Social Media Platforms

Twitter launched their dedicated pages that allow users to shop where they tweet; Facebook has embedded ‘buy now’ capabilities into group pages and an option to send money to someone through Messenger; Pinterest unveiled its ‘buyable pins’ that give its users the opportunity to buy things they see on the site; and now Instagram is getting in on the act.

By unveiling a new advertising solution, similar to Twitter’s dedicated pages, Instagram is aiming to improve the efficiency of its marketing by integrating external links. Its most prominent features include a new application programming interface to facilitate a wider variety of advertisements and the authorisation of sponsored content related to user-specific interests.

What does it mean for your e-commerce business?

The consequence of this development for small online retailers is likely to be hugely positive, but only for those who know their audience and who they want to reach. Brands will be permitted to customise their sponsored content, so it is vital that you know your target audience and tailor your sponsored adverts accordingly. When you consider that Instagram has over 300 million active users, with an average of 70 million photos uploaded every day, you  can quickly see how not doing this could well result in your products or latest offers not being seen by interested users.

As with Twitter’s dedicated pages, Instagram’s development now means that its users can find things they love based on the item, or a high-profile person endorsing it, rather than asking them to scroll through endless photos and advertisements. This effectively means your content can be pushed by an influencer with a large number of followers in your target area. If their followers like what’s been posted, its sharing potential across the platform is far greater.

Ensure e-commerce strategy is aligned with target audience

The emergence of integrated links on social media platforms has made it more important than ever to create content that is tailored to your target audience. Investigating who the influencers in your particular market are and trying to use them to endorse your products and services could then help to maximise exposure.

With social media activity an increasingly fundamental element of e-commerce strategy for even the smallest online retailers, it’s important to realise that platforms like Instagram are evolving from a place where information is shared to an engaging e-commerce marketplace.

 

Ecom Global Network Ltd is a membership-based organisation that exists to support and enhance the e-commerce operations of its members.

Digital Single Market Proposed in EU to Stimulate E-Commerce Growth

This month saw the European Commission unveil its plans for a Digital Single Market, which it hopes will stimulate e-commerce across Europe by making it easier for businesses and consumers to buy and sell from other EU countries online.

Statistics show that while 44% of consumers in the EU made an online purchase in 2014, only 15% bought something online from another EU country and only 7% of SMEs in the EU engaged in cross-border sales. Proponents of the Digital Single Market claim that it will help to remove the barriers that are currently restricting cross-border e-commerce and add an extra €415 billion to the EU economy.A computer keyboard with an image of the EU flag on one of the keys.

The UK is well placed to take advantage of such a proposal as it already has one of the most developed e-commerce markets in the EU and the world. Online sales in the UK now account for around 15% of all spending, compared with an EU average of 8% and figures as low as 2.5% and 3.5% in Italy and Spain respectively.

Central to the plans for a Digital Single Market in the EU are the implementation of 16 different measures within the next year, including:

  • Replicating rules on customer protections, such as the right to return goods, across the EU so consumers get the same experience wherever they buy from
  • Reducing the cost of parcel delivery, which is seen as the biggest barrier to cross-border sales by both businesses and consumers
  • Ensuring that businesses offer the same prices to digital consumers irrespective of what country they live in
  • Updating copyright laws so that digital media products, including films, music and games, that are bought in one country can be more easily moved to, and used in, any other EU country
  • Improving broadband speeds and security and data protection measures to make buying online quicker and safer

Google under the microscope

Already the subject of an EU investigation into alleged antitrust violations, Google is likely to come under further scrutiny in a Digital Single Market because of existing reservations over some of their services. The EU has already let it be known that they do not like the way Google promotes its own price comparison services (Google Shopping) at the top of search results. They allege that this attracts consumers to websites who pay Google at the expense of those who don’t, resulting in a distorted and unfair marketplace.

Running parallel to the Digital Single Market initiative will be a separate antitrust investigation into the e-commerce sector. While giving nothing away on whom it is likely to target, the existing investigation into Google practices means it should come as no surprise if they’re on the EU’s radar in this case too.

The VATMOSS conundrum

The proposed Digital Single Market has also brought the subject of VATMOSS back into sharp focus. The much derided scheme that was introduced in January of this year and was quickly dubbed VATMESS by its opponents was originally introduced by the EU in a bid to make it harder for big online corporations to avoid paying taxes. Companies like Amazon had for a number of years strategically located their base for EU sales in places such as Luxembourg, where there was either no VAT liability or very low VAT to pay on sales. This gave them the opportunity to undercut businesses selling in other parts of the EU by as much as 20%.

VATMOSS brought about a change whereby VAT would now be payable in the country where a purchase was made rather than where it was sold from, therefore removing the loophole that big businesses were only too happy to exploit. Unfortunately the initiative came at a cost to thousands of start-up businesses, who had previously operated under the VAT threshold but would now need to register for VAT and manage the paperwork and costs that go with it. Small traders were quick to voice their anger at the scheme which they claimed could make their businesses so unprofitable that they would have to close down.

The VATMOSS plot has seemingly thickened somewhat with the unveiling of the Digital Single Market plan, in particular the eighth proposal:

  • To reduce the administrative burden businesses face from different VAT regimes: so that sellers of physical goods to other countries also benefit from single electronic registration and payment; and with a common VAT threshold to help smaller start-ups selling online

VATMOSS stands for VAT Mini One Stop Shop and it was announced amid claims by the UK government that anyone using it won’t have to register for VAT in every EU member state where they sell digital services.

On the face of it this measure bears a striking similarity to the VATMOSS scheme that has already been met with such opposition from small traders. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction in the months ahead.

What to Look For In an E-commerce Platform

We’ve long known that consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet to buy their products and services. Those companies unable to sell online are losing customers who are happy to jump ship to competitors who can provide a more convenient retail experience.

With business-to-business sales now being engulfed by the e-commerce revolution too, it seems clear that businesses that are unable to transact in this way are missing out in a big way. Indeed, with recent projections that B2B e-commerce sales are expected to hit the $1 trillion mark by 2020, you have to ask whether businesses can afford not to be incorporating e-commerce technology into their sales models.Image of a shopping trolley on top of a laptop.

Of course, this has not always been easy or cost effective for small businesses whose budgets for infrastructure investment tend to be relatively modest. However, in recent years the explosion of technology has made access to simple, powerful and easy to implement e-commerce solutions much more affordable for small businesses.

There is so much choice available to businesses looking for their first e-commerce platform that it is important you know which features you need now and which ones will allow for growth as your business develops.

E-commerce features for the here and now

Being able to manage the back-end of online sales is the most fundamental capability of any e-commerce platform and lets you maximise what resources you have to achieve the farthest reach with customers. You should ensure that any potential e-commerce solution can deliver ongoing testing as your company, product catalogue, and customer base grows and evolves.

It should be capable of integrating seamlessly with your other business critical services. Many platforms work with payment providers such as PayPal, as well as a variety of shipping services. You should also think about how well the platform integrates with the systems that drive your marketing strategies.

Due to the increasingly widespread use of mobile devices by customers when browsing and purchasing online, it’s also important that your e-commerce platform supports mobile commerce from the outset.

Allow for e-commerce growth

With your e-commerce platform up and running, you need to be able to quickly customise it to boost sales revenue. This might be in the form of a targeted campaign that promotes specific products to a particular demographic at a particular time of year.

You should be able to easily integrate marketing, sales and site design elements together so that you can present your product or service offerings in a way that makes it as easy as possible for your customers to buy from you.

International e-commerce sales are something that should also be on your roadmap. While it might not be an immediate priority for many small businesses, it is a good idea to research whether the e-commerce platforms on your shortlist can handle the different aspects of selling overseas. Most platforms have built-in functionality that support payment processes in their country of origin but they may not include all the choices available for doing business in other countries, which could stifle your attempts to grow in the future.

 

Ecom Global Network Ltd is an organisation that supports and facilitates global e-commerce among its members. Find out about the benefits of joining and to see how we can help you maximise your e-commerce potential here.