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Consumers want retailers to talk with them, socially

Conversations with consumers are changing from inboxes to social platforms, and consistency is key to keeping connected with consumers.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
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What it means: E-commerce extends far beyond just a retailer’s desktop, mobile and app presence with the fast-paced growth of social selling. With TikTok’s e-commerce endeavor building buzz in the U.S., it means another entrant into the world of social commerce. Consumers spend more time on their phones and engaging with social media than ever, and the blending of social platforms and e-commerce is a natural next evolution for the industry. Brands engaging with consumers through these channels helps in building brand awareness and also converting consumers to purchase through social platforms.

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Customers want to hear from businesses: A full 86% of consumers said they wanted to communicate with the businesses they frequent, according to Square’s “Future of Commerce” report. Conversations, though, are shifting from inboxes to social platforms. While most consumers (60%) still want to hear from businesses via email, 46% want to hear from them through a social media profile or in their direct messages.

“Consumers want to feel connected with the businesses they shop from, and consistency is key for retailers wishing to maintain that connection,” Roshan Jhunja, Square’s head of retail, told Retail Leader. “It’s a baseline expectation today given the ease of doing so digitally.”

Square’s key findings regarding consumers’ desired platforms for communication include:

  • 32% said Facebook.
  • 31% preferred text message.
  • 22% picked social media direct message (DM).
  • 17% favored Instagram.
  • 14% chose chat on a website.

Taking to Gen Z

Retailers already are responding to the shifting communication expectations of consumers with new strategies. For example, to appeal to a growing market of younger consumers, 43% of retailers already use or are planning a different marketing approach for Gen Z, Square reports. Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, which many younger consumers use as search engines, will be an essential part of retailer’s marketing and communication strategies as Gen Z’s spending share grows.


“Younger generations are digital natives — born into the age of smartphones and social media — and therefore quite comfortable online,” Jhunja said. “It's unsurprising that a lot of their brand discovery comes from social media. Gen Z for example, spend a huge chunk of their time on one or more social platforms with YouTube, Instagram and TikTok at the forefront.”

Unsurprisingly, it’s the younger digital-native generations that are more likely to interact with retailers on social media too. 

“Since they grew up on social media, they value having the world of commerce at their fingertips and being able to conveniently and accessibly interact with their favorite brands through these channels,” Jhunja said. 

Social commerce

Consumers are heading to social media to interact with retailers by building community, communicating, providing feedback and searching for deals. Square found:

  • 32% like or follow business’ profiles, 24% like to comment on pages and posts and 21% watched live video from a business.
  • 24% like to DM businesses directly.
  • 22% wrote a review on a social media profile.
  • 20% participated in a giveaway or contest, and 20% have used a promotion code they saw on  social media.
  • 17% booked an appointment directly, and 17% purchased an item directly from a business’ social media profile.

“Current social media platforms are active two-way communication channels between consumers and retailers,” Jhunja said. “Consumers look to a brand’s social media accounts to not only get inspired and to shop, but to verify a brand’s credibility and promotional cycles as well as seek customer support to troubleshoot any issues they’re experiencing.”


The number of retailers selling goods directly through social channels in 2022 jumped 10% year over year from 2021 (91% compared to 81%, respectively) — demonstrating the fast-growing power of social commerce

Additionally, 18% of consumers are interested in livestream shopping where a host demonstrates a product in a live online video, Square found. This preference primarily comes from Gen Z and millennials, who prefer the context of real people when seeing a product, understanding its benefits and gathering positive testimonials. 

“It’s been an especially crucial conversion channel for those who were on the brink of a purchase decision,” Jhunja said.

Currently, retailers are selling their goods on an average of four different channels, Square reports. 

“That’s not to say you should sell on every channel you hear about, but do seek out channels which resonate most with your consumer and authentically work for your brand,”  Jhunja said. “At a time when people are hungry for the best deals, remember to always promote them on social media. Enable native social commerce where it makes sense to minimize friction at purchase time, but be wary of customer data policies — some platforms make it hard for retailers to connect with customers purchasing via a social platform. In such cases, you’re simply a supplier, and the platform ‘owns’ the customer.”

Square anticipates consumers’ social media behaviors to only grow based on new capabilities that are introduced to apps. 

“We’re seeing 79% of consumers making purchases directly from mobile devices — including shopping apps, social media and online shopping sites — with an average of 22% of their total purchases being made while they scroll,” Jhunja said.

What’s next: Livestream shopping still has yet to take off in the U.S. market in a meaningful way. However, with short form video dominating across platforms, this may be a trend that takes off in the next few years. Livestream shopping gives brands the opportunity to tell the story of their products to consumers and helps to solve for the lack of tactile product discovery online. Brands and retailers should be testing livestream strategies now, whether to feature products, offer solutions or services, or engage with consumers.