Marketing is getting harder—customer acquisition costs (CAC) are rising, recent legal and industry changes make it more difficult to reach customers, and conversion is more challenging than ever, with cart abandonment increasing every year.
Seasonality presents an even greater challenge for businesses, where consumer spending can vary greatly, from the highest highs of the holiday season to the lowest lows of the summer slump.
The good news? Slow retail months bear little impact on how people use social media. The average consumer spends 25.6 hours every month on TikTok, with YouTube and Facebook boasting over 21 hours per month and 15.5 hours per month, respectively. Sales channels help your brand reach beyond your online store, allowing you to list products (most often, for free) and take advantage of organic traffic that already exists within those platforms.
In this guide, you’ll hear directly from leading social platforms including Google, YouTube, Meta, and TikTok on how to leverage social commerce during slow retail months to create low-effort organic and paid content that boosts sales and drives engagement ahead of the holidays.
Table of contents
Create organic, high conversion content that sets you apart
While paid ad campaigns are a proven way to reach desired audiences and increase sales, there are many free ways you can use sales channels to get your products noticed and convert customers.
Make the most of free offerings
Let’s address the elephant in the room: You want to grow your business, find new customers, and increase sales while spending the least amount possible to get there. Luckily, there are a range of free offerings across social platforms at your fingertips.
With Google’s Merchant Center, you can easily show and manage how your products appear across Google—at no cost. Automatically connect your product data to Merchant Center from the Google & YouTube app on Shopify to show your products organically across search, Google Maps, YouTube, Images, and more. You can maximize your reach by enticing customers with offerings. For example, adding information about promotions, sale prices, free and fast shipping, and return or refund options. In a recent survey by Google, 45% of participants said that deals and promotions are the most helpful things brands can communicate as they consider items to buy. Showcasing your products organically on Google in slower retail months becomes even more important in the context of holiday shopping, where 36% say they spent more time researching online before purchasing last holiday season, compared to previous years, and have completed 21% of their holiday shopping by mid-October, on average.
You can enable your business to stand out further by enhancing your offerings on Google with a range of high-quality product and lifestyle images and engaging titles and descriptions that quickly capture attention.
With content consumers continually in search of ways to engage and support their favorite creators, YouTube Shopping makes it easier for these consumers to discover, shop, and buy directly from your channel on YouTube. New features, like tagging products, triggers a shopping button within your content and lets viewers shop directly from your videos. Plus, with exclusive-to-Shopify features like product drops, you can make fun, interactive experiences that let your followers start buying the moment a new product launches.
Make your social presence look like your website
On Facebook and Instagram, there’s a good chance that potential customers discovering your products don’t actually follow you. “When you think about your shops on Facebook and Instagram,” says Abby Pynchon, category manager at Meta, “what you really are thinking about is your online storefront. It’s where people can explore your products and get to know your brand.”
For millennials and Gen Z especially, social platforms have become a key resource for product search and discovery, with at least one in two preferring social platforms for learning about new products. But their mission doesn’t stop at discovery—two-thirds of Gen Z and half of millennials in the United States have purchased an item they’ve previously seen on their social media feed.
The quality of your catalog product data is central to the experience you give to potential customers on Facebook and Instagram. Optimize your catalog quality by providing more detailed product images and including relevant product attributes. You can also ensure parity with your website by setting up promotional offers with Shopify on Facebook & Instagram.
Make your content interactive
Interactive content—or content that requires your audience to engage and/or participate—is king in the world of content creation. It’s 81% more effective at attracting attention, increases the retention of messages by 79%, and increases submission rate by 80%.
Instagram Reels continue to become more social and interactive, with users resharing Reels more than two billion times every day (a number that has doubled over the past six months). With Meta’s new CTA experience for Instagram Reels ads, it’s easy to incorporate a CTA into your Reels, which expands and displays the ad’s thumbnail and headline. This new CTA helps make it easier to digest the ad by surfacing key product information via well-paced transitions.
By tapping into the spaces and ways that your target audience is already exploring, you can spark organic visibility and amplify your brand to generate higher impact.
Keep products at the forefront of your creative
It’s easy to get carried away with trends, short form videos, and catchy memes. But don’t forget to keep your products front and center of your online presence.
Start by optimizing your product feed on Google. Set up the required feed attributes in Google and think outside the box when it comes to your product titles. Specific, accurate product titles help Google show your products to the right shoppers. Need inspiration? Try brainstorming phrases people might use to find your products. And don’t forget that the Google & YouTube app automatically updates your product feed when you add, edit, or delete products from your Shopify admin.
Carry your product-centric approach over to social media. On Instagram, businesses that posted five product-tagged posts and/or stories a month saw a 231% increase in purchases. You can tag in static imagery, carousels, Stories, and shoppable Reels. You can also encourage creators to tag by enabling Shopping Partner Permissions on Instagram and allowing them to Product Tag their favorite products in their own content.
Keep a close eye on analytics
Analytics and performance statistics aren’t just for paid ads—many major platforms share insights for free that you can use to tweak your marketing strategy.
Google Search Console is a free tool that allows you to monitor your website traffic, track search performance, and find any issues that could prevent your site from ranking. Key features also include finding out click-through rates and which keywords you rank for, seeing which queries bring users to your site, and submitting sitemaps and individual URLs for crawling.
Similarly, the Meta pixel is a piece of code on your website that helps you better understand and measure how effective your Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns are by monitoring the actions people take on your website, such as page views, time spent on a page, scroll depth, products added to a cart, and purchases.
With the TikTok for Shopify app, you can add a TikTok pixel in just a few clicks. The TikTok pixel is a piece of code placed on your website to help you find new customers, optimize your campaigns, and measure ad performance. Shopify’s expanded pixel integration with TikTok includes the benefits of Events API, a secure and reliable server-side connection that empowers improved ad delivery and measurement. On average, advertisers using the pixel and Events API together see a 15% improvement on cost per acquisition. To use the TikTok pixel for Shopify with Events API, simply select the Enhanced or Maximum data sharing level during setup or in your existing settings.
You can continue improving your analysis and marketing performance with Google Analytics 4 (GA4). GA4 is built with Google AI to surface insights from your data that you can use to improve your audience targeting, understand customer journey, provide flexibility in meeting user privacy requirements and regulations, and leverage predictive metrics such as churn probability, conversion probability, and predicted revenue. GA4 provides a more complete understanding of your full customer lifecycle by bringing together data across app and web at scale for multi-channel measurement. Plus, GA4 has integrations across Looker Studio, Google Merchant Center, Google Ads, Google Play, and BigQuery to ensure easy linking of these platforms and additional functionality.
Easily implement GA4 tagging and ecommerce tracking through the Google & YouTube app on Shopify to get valuable insights about your business performance, products, market, and more with holistic performance reports.
Shopify’s built-in analytics and reporting provides insights right where you sell, with no setup required. Benchmark your key metrics against stores similar to yours, understand your customers’ behaviors, view live data for flash sales, and measure your performance and sales across marketing channels—all within your Shopify admin.
Diversify your content formats
Video is a daunting but essential format for content in 2023. If you are among the 18% of businesses who don’t know where to start with creating video content, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Seventeen percent of businesses that use video in their marketing strategy say they started with video for the first time in 2022. And for good reason: 91% of consumers say video is their preferred content format.
TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts are three easy ways to create short, snappy content. Just don’t forget to keep your products as a central theme and hook viewers within the first three seconds of the video.
In 2022, there were over 150 billion views on YouTube Shorts, videos and livestreams with tagged products, and 76% agree that YouTube enhances the traditional shopping journey by delivering unexpected inspiration. In May 2023, YouTube launched a suite of shopping features like product tagging on Shorts and video, sales promotion, product drops, and more, all designed to make it easier to sell products, and for viewers to shop on YouTube. By including a clear call to action in your YouTube Shorts and videos, you can encourage potential customers to shop the products featured in your content.
When diving into video production for successful ads, TikTok recommends shooting in 720 pixels or higher, always shooting full-screen (vertically), using audio strategically as a powerful asset and not an afterthought, and opting for motion over still imagery in video.
Instagram Reels also offer robust value, with a recent survey showing three-quarters of people followed a business after watching Reels, nearly half messaged a business after seeing a business’s Reels, and nearly two-thirds purchased a product or service after watching Reels.
Share influencer or user-generated content
Sharing user-generated content (UGC) is a marketing strategy that continues to grow in popularity among ecommerce brands, who create social proof and convert new customers by simply sharing photos, videos, and reviews of existing customers boasting about their products.
One easy way to do this is by sending someone tags your business in an Instagram post a request to feature their photo in your shop on Instagram. If the Instagram user approves your request, the photo will appear on your product page for other customers to see when they’re considering making a purchase.
Looking for influencers to work with? With Shopify Collabs, you can search a database of millions of creators to collaborate with, produce UGC, and promote your products to new audiences.
Make the most of search engine optimization (SEO)
Ecommerce SEO is the process of generating more organic (i.e., non-paid or free) traffic from sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to your online store. Writing long descriptions with relevant keywords on every product page and obtaining backlinks from relevant websites are some ways to improve your online store’s ranking position. However, you can also dive deeper into sales channels to help improve your SEO organically.
With more than 800 billion videos on YouTube and over 81% of adults using the video-sharing site, incorporating YouTube into your omnichannel strategy is a must. By optimizing videos through keyword research, you increase the chances of your video content showing up in relevant search results. Optimizing your videos for specific, highly targeted keywords expands reach and helps you grow organically.
- 9 YouTube SEO Tips and Techniques (2023)
- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Ecommerce SEO
- 30 Free SEO Tools for Your Website in 2023
Share what matters
When syncing your products from Shopify to Google, following Google & YouTube’s quick start checklist and including additional information alongside required product data is an easy way to boost sales. For example, you can motivate shoppers by highlighting shipping speed, extended return policy, and featuring discounts and promotions. In a recent survey by Google, 75% of participants say they will shop with stores that offer free shipping.
Looking to drive traffic to your brick-and-mortar store? Or are you keenly aware of the growing number of customers who like to visit stores to see or touch products in person, even if they plan to buy online? If you manage inventory using locations, then you can use Google’s local inventory sync to promote your products for local shopping when your customers search on Google. Local inventory for local discovery lets Google show your customers where your products are, so that they can buy in a location that’s convenient for them—whether that’s using same-day delivery, pick up later, or curbside pickup. After you set up local inventory, you can list your products locally as local inventory ads, and free local listings.
Tips and new features for driving product demand without compromising on creative
Tap into nano-influencers
There is clear value in influencer marketing, with influencer recommendations being trusted nearly two times more than branded social media content. Influencers play a huge role in a customer’s decision-making process, so collaborating with them to reach new customers is a no-brainer.
What may surprise you though, is that it doesn’t take the influencer with the biggest following to give you the best ROI. While follower count is an important metric to consider, nano-influencers—or those with between 1,000 and 5,000 followers—have the highest engagement rate among all influencers. The higher the engagement rate of your potential influencer, the more likely they are to sway what their followers think (and buy).
When it comes to influencer marketing, audiences are not created equal. Gen Z, or those currently between the ages of 16 to 24, are most affected by social media influencers, and women are more likely to follow influencers than men. This is why understanding your audiences across channels is key to effectively allocating your budget and maximizing a multichannel presence that focuses on blending the customer experience, and giving potential customers a choice to engage on the channel they prefer.
New to working with influencers? Shopify Collabs helps you recruit creators and manage relationships to reach new audiences and drive sales.
- 11 Most Important Sales Channels for Selling Online
- 30+ Influencer Marketing Statistics You Should Know (2023)
- Instagram Influencer Marketing: A Complete 2023 Guide
Enable checkout and Shop Pay
The customers who find you via a sales channel are likely to have never visited your website before, but they are familiar with social commerce—or buying directly on social media platforms rather than through ecommerce platforms. This is a trend you should expect to continue to rise; by 2025, it’s predicted that 18% of purchases will be made through social media. Sales channels like Google & YouTube, Facebook & Instagram, and TikTok are a low-cost (and often, no-cost) way to reach your customers where they already are.
When you set up the Facebook & Instagram sales channel, you also activate Checkout on Facebook and Instagram. This lets shoppers make purchases directly on Facebook and Instagram (currently available only in the US). While Checkout is a Meta product, it is powered by Shopify Payments, which means you can manage orders, taxes, and payouts in your Shopify admin.
With Shop Pay, you can offer shoppers an accelerated checkout experience that’s four times faster, everywhere you sell online. Shop Pay lets customers save their email address, credit card, shipping, and billing information. This saves your customer time during checkout (and we know that faster checkout leads to greater conversion).
Collaborate with other brands
By identifying and engaging with other brands that your customers interact with while on their journey to finding your products, you can capture more potential customers. A perfect, mutually beneficial way to work with other brands is through Instagram Collabs. By co-authoring content with other accounts, you’ll share views, likes, and comments, allowing you to leverage and connect with each other’s communities (increasing your reach and engagement).
TikTok also offers features to promote collaboration, such as Stitch and Duet, which allow any creator (including brands) to use another creator’s video either side-by-side or within their own content. By updating your privacy settings or the settings of a specific video to allow others to Stitch or Duet with you, or encouraging other creators to use these features by using them yourself, you can increase your engagement and the reach of your content.
Think outside the standard email template
Looking for an in-house solution? Shopify Email’s growing collection of email templates enables you to create custom marketing campaigns designed with driving product demand in mind—and you can create and save your own templates, too. Pull in products and discounts from your store seamlessly, and add compelling features like checkout buttons directly within your emails. Plus, you can automate key moments like a welcome email series, a thank you email, and abandoned carts emails, all directly in Shopify. That way, you’re reaching people at exactly the right time, with a targeted message.
Engage with your audience
On TikTok, viewers that engage with a brand’s video by sharing, commenting, or liking are 150% more likely to buy a product or service from your brand, and interactive add-ons make it easy to capture your audience’s attention. With a variety of standard or premium interactive add-ons to choose from based on your marketing goals, these visual elements enhance your in-feed ads and encourage viewers to engage with your brand in an organic way.
A winning formula for successful ad campaigns
Experiment with sales channels
Before investing heavily into one channel, experiment across platforms to understand which gives you the best return.
- TikTok users are 1.5 times more likely to purchase a product after seeing it advertised on TikTok.
- Meta’s Shops ads outperform website-only campaigns with a cost per action and return on ad spend improvement of 20% on average.
- Advertisers who adopt Google’s Performance Max achieve 18% more conversions at a similar cost per action.
It can take some time to build up a new channel, so keep a close eye on your analytics to understand your winning strategy for each respective sales channel and the best balance for your multichannel presence.
Stay on top of trends
Being a pioneer for the latest trend often means being at the right place at the right time, and can feel daunting to anyone with limited time to devote to social media. Get relevant market trends with Shopping Trends in the Google & YouTube app on Shopify to help you understand market trends that impact customer and product demand, learn about your competitive landscape and market position, and get recommendations on steps to take to capitalize on these opportunities. You can also use Google Trends as a quick and easy way to explore popular Google Search terms through real-time and historical data based on regions and languages.
Looking to get more innovative on social media? Check out TikTok’s Discover page and Creative Center to find out what specific sounds, effects, or hashtags are trending at any given time and be a pioneer when it comes to experimenting with new product features as they are released.
Let channels work for you
Creating an ad campaign can feel like a guessing game at times: Am I promoting products in the right channels? Am I promoting products to the right people at the right time? Google’s Performance Max goal-based campaigns take away some of that pressure for you by using the power of Google AI to select the best time and place to show your products to potential customers when you set up a campaign. Your products are promoted across Google surfaces (like Search, Gmail, YouTube, and more), and you’re able to evaluate campaign performance and adjust your campaigns accordingly. On average, advertisers who adopt Performance Max see 18% more conversions at a similar cost per action.
You can also turn to Meta’s “Performance 5” framework for growth, which shares five data-backed strategies proven to drive performance. Here are some highlights:
- Account and creative simplification: Spend less than 20% of your budget in the learning phase by consolidating ad sets, keeping audiences broad, and not making frequent edits.
- Automation: Deliver the highest-performing ads to your target audience and optimize for fresh, high-performing creative with minimal manual input by using automation to maximize the performance of your ad spend.
- Creative differentiation: Keep your creative fresh and relatable by diversifying your approach and/or format.
- Conversions API: Create a direct and reliable connection between Meta and your marketing data with Meta’s Conversions API (CAPI).
- Results validation: Use Conversion Lift to help you understand the true, causal impact of your investment on Meta.
Cut customer acquisition costs by up to 50% with Shopify Audiences
Shopify Audiences help drive higher ad performance and allow you to find more customers for less, by leveraging Shopify’s unique commerce insights. With Shopify Audiences, you get enhanced targeting with custom audience lists that are generated based on millions of commerce signals and algorithms that are constantly improving. You can reach higher converting audiences across your marketing funnel on channels with the largest reach, including Meta, Google, and Pinterest. Shopify Audiences is available to eligible Shopify Plus stores that use Shopify Payments and are based in the United States or Canada. Check whether you're eligible to use Shopify Audiences and install the app before you set up Shopify Audiences.
Boosting conversion across marketing channels year-round
With social commerce sales estimated to reach $1.3 billion in 2023 and $3 trillion by 2026, capitalizing on organic and paid methods across social media channels is essential for keeping up with the competitive commerce landscape. By leveraging these channels during slow retail months ahead of your busiest holiday season, you’ll be able to set yourself up for success year-round.