Customers Want Personal Advisors, Not Advertisers


The expanding role of social and messaging apps should lead brands toward a one-to-one DTC strategy

In many ways, the Great Digital Acceleration is, in fact, the Great Social Acceleration. There are now more than 4.5 billion social media users globally, and almost 500 million users have joined in the last 12 months alone. Messaging, the new social darling, is also surging—80% of time on mobile devices is now spent on chat apps. And with Covid-19 acting as a powerful accelerant of digital adoption, these numbers have been trending upward in the past two years.

Every revolution in communication leads to a revolution in commerce. Why? Because commerce is resilient and fluid: It finds people where they are and where they spend the most time interacting with each other. Commerce is inherently social by design, and that’s been true since the dawn of civilization.

Beyond the obvious ubiquity of social media today, there’s a perfect storm of macro trends colliding to reshape the way we live, work, socialize, shop and buy. From the rise of messaging apps to the changing ad and consumer data landscape (goodbye cookies!) to the emergence of Gen Z as a driving force of the creator economy, social media is playing a more central role in the world and overall customer experience, rapidly becoming the new front door of the internet. And it’s changing everything from marketing to commerce to customer service.

These seismic shifts are the gasoline poured on the social commerce fire, an industry expected to reach $1.2 trillion in market size by 2025 (which is, tomorrow?) according to Accenture. And all eyes are turning to social commerce. 

Just in the past month, Amazon acquired social commerce startup GlowRoad, while Snap and Meta respectively acquired Fit Analytics and Presize (AI tools that scan shoppers’ bodies to help them find the right size and fit) and Shopify launched Linkpop (a link-in-bio tool to help creators and solopreneurs sell their products on social).

Tech companies and brands go where the money is—that is, where consumers are—and the race is on for both sides.

Social is both the megaphone and the marketplace

For brands, social media used to be a broadcasting tool, a megaphone to advertise their products and engage consumers on emerging channels. These channels were long seen as satellites of the business and often treated as an afterthought by marketers and their agencies in the 360 media mix. After all, anthemic 30-second spots and billboards have been the bread and butter of Madison Avenue for decades.

Today, if you are not actively present on social, you simply don’t exist. So if brands want to win over their customers’ hearts and wallets, they need to first win on social media with creative, authentic, inclusive and conversational content.

Content marketing is now a two-way street. Consumers are not just the audience, they are co-creators who want to join and shape the conversation.

Beyond that, the role of social media is expanding. It now transcends marketing: It’s the new search bar, the new storefront and the new help desk altogether. These changing dynamics are forcing brand teams to reevaluate their strategy and work in more integrated ways, blending marketing with ecommerce and customer care teams. 

Messaging is the new marketing darling

If social channels are the new storefronts, then the digital equivalent of walking into these stores is to slide into a brand’s DMs to ask a question. Meta recently reported that 1 billion people connect with businesses weekly via its three messaging apps—Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger—with 150 million weekly product catalog views on WhatsApp alone.

Customers expect instant responses that guide them and reassure them along their journey. They want an ongoing conversation, a relationship that feels more personal than transactional. And more importantly, they want to be treated like VIPs. 

According to a recent, aptly titled McKinsey article, people spend 20-40% more with companies that message with them on social media, and companies that don’t respond show 15% higher churn than those that do.

Social media is no longer a mere touch point in a marketing campaign—it can now make or break your whole brand or ecommerce strategies.

As a result, expectations have changed. We are moving away from a one-to-many advertising model to a one-to-one advising model. Messaging apps—the private side of the social media coin—can play an important role here by unlocking personalized conversations with high-intent customers when they engage with your content.

Advertisers that act like personal advisors will win the battle of social commerce. Helping is selling, and showing you care will foster deeper relationships that drive revenue.

How to leverage social commerce in 2022 and beyond

Retail brands that are embracing social as a new channel for commerce have witnessed strong returns and see social as a critical ingredient of their direct-to-consumer strategy: Nike sold out of a pre-release sneaker in 23 minutes on Snapchat. Sephora launched a digital store on Instagram for 80 beauty brands. Crocs drove 8 billion impressions via augmented reality shoes using TikTok within a week. Adidas announced that it aims for DTC to account for 50% of their sales by 2025.

Social and messaging apps, by their inherently conversational nature, are becoming cornerstones of every brand’s DTC and social commerce strategy because they give consumers direct access to their favorite brands. To win in the social commerce era, brands will need to make their communications more engaging and immersive (through augmented reality and video), more helpful and authentic (through micro-influencers and creators) and, most importantly, more personal and conversational (through messaging apps).

As former Unilever CMO Keith Weed eloquently summed it up: The future of marketing is “consumer segments of one.” The end goal for advertisers is to become a trusted advisor or friend, the signal in the noise of infinite product choices and a crowded social marketplace. 

This article first appeared in

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