3 reasons social sales are about to take off

bigstockTeenagersPhonesSocial sales are about to take off.

How do I know this? Well, social has been a huge direct sales opportunity for some years now, but because most time in social is on mobile devices, it has been hard to make this happen.

Three things that will change this:

 

1. Selling in social on mobile is getting much easier

Starbucks sold $1,000,000,000 through its app last year, and eBay took in the region of $20bn, including over one fifth of their vehicle sales.

These, and the likely take off of payment apps from banks, Paypal and other payment facilitators such as the mobile and social networks themselves, mean that in the near future it should be relatively easy to buy almost any product through mobile.

And once that is possible, sales in social are relatively easy. All that is needed is a smooth handoff from a social app (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) to a payment app (Paypal, your bank), that doesn’t require you to type in your credit card number.

2. The future of selling in social is here… in China 

And for a vision of what this more integrated world looks like, just look at China’s social networks.

Tencent WeChat has 400m active users, many of whom have registered payment details so that they can book taxis, order food or do clothes shopping from their phone. 20,000,000 ‘red envelopes’ of money were sent in the first two days of Chinese New Year.

Will a Chinese social network buy Facebook? Or vice versa? Or will Facebook and Twitter simply copy these features?

It doesn’t really matter – because these features will be coming to our social networks in the near future.

3. Social lead generation infrastructure has arrived

Twitter’s lead generation cards, available since last August, are making it much easier to get engaged consumers to sign up to find out more, to reserve a product, or to commit to attending an event, as Burberry have recently done.

Twitter cards more generally are taking off with over 16,000 websites using them already, so expect to see them used for lead generation routinely in the next year.

So what can we do about social sales?

Firstly it’s worth just starting some tests. I decided to test some lead gen for a client through highly targeted Facebook advertising last week. Within an hour of starting, my campaign was generating leads – at a dramatically lower cost than their traditional channels. The creative wasn’t top quality and the targeting was approximate. But within 24 hours I had a strong idea of whether a larger lead gen trial through Facebook would work for this client.

Secondly, imagine the world as you want it to be. People may not be able to buy your baked beans through Facebook today, but what would the user experience look like if they could? The answers fairly quickly will drive you to investigate more about how social can be integrated with offline shopping (hard now, but probably not in a year or two) or online grocery shopping (small now, but relatively simple to integrate with).

Rob Blackie is director of social at OgilvyOne London