Emerging Trends in Social Media Advertising From Stories to Shopping Experiences

Social media advertising has transformed drastically over the last few years. What started as simple text and image-based posts has evolved into video content, interactive experiences, and seamless shopping capabilities. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are continuously rolling out innovative ad formats that aim to increase engagement and drive real business results.

In this dynamic landscape, a few key trends have emerged that savvy marketers should pay attention to. Visually engaging stories, shoppable post capabilities, and interactive try-on augmented reality experiences are changing how brands connect with their audiences. As consumer attention shifts to mobile devices, social networks are responding by becoming more visual, shoppable, and experiential. Brands that leverage these trends will see substantial returns on ad spend and engagement.

Let’s delve into the key emerging trends:

The Rise of Social Stories

Stories are full-screen, vertical, short videos and photos that users post which then disappear or expire after 24 hours. Though Snapchat popularized this format years ago, now all major platforms have embraced stories after seeing the format’s explosive growth.

Instagram Stories has over 500 million daily active users, more than Instagram’s feed. WhatsApp Status, Facebook Stories, and even LinkedIn Stories have launched in the past few years as well. Clearly, stories represent the future of social media engagement.

For advertisers and brands, stories provide a few unique opportunities:

Authentic Brand Content

Stories enable brands to post raw, authentic content that shows behind-the-scenes footage or a “day in the life” perspective. Given the format’s transparent feel, branded stories come across as more genuine and real compared to polished feed posts. Audiences get insight into brands as actual people rather than distant entities. Companies big and small are using stories to improve brand image and connect emotionally with users.

Higher Audience Engagement

Because of their full-screen vertical orientation, short length, and casual vibe, stories capture viewer attention in a distinct way compared to feed posts. Viewers are more likely to watch the entirety of a story without skipping ahead contrasted with Horizontal videos that can be scrolled past. The demand for stories content is apparent in the higher engagement benchmarks compared to feed posts.

Cost-Effective Video Advertising

For advertisers specifically, social stories provide a lucrative video advertising avenue that can achieve various campaign objectives cost-effectively. Story ads are native to the user experience rather than being seen as disruptive interruptions in the feed. Story ads also provide built-in mobile video production tools making content creation seamless right within social platforms. Marketers find story ads help meet branding goals and bottom-of-the-funnel conversion objectives effectively given stories’ viral nature and engaged viewership.

Key Considerations

While stories undoubtedly warrant a slice of brands’ social budget, they may not fully replace feed or image-based ads yet given stories’ ephemeral nature. Only 10-20% of followers see a branded story on average compared to much higher feed post reach. However, with users checking stories multiple times per day, the format provides frequency. Brands aiming stories ads at cold audiences should expect to put some spend towards retargeting to ensure viewers remember the content. Used strategically in a campaign mix, stories help brands stand out.

Shoppable Posts Take Off

Shopping behaviors are rapidly shifting online and social platforms want in on the action. Facebook and Instagram have introduced shoppable tags that enable businesses to tag products in organic posts and ads. When a user taps on the tagged product in-app, a product details pop-up appears showcasing images, pricing, variant options, and an add-to-cart button.

Users can check out and convert without ever leaving the social app. This seamless experience makes impulse shopping via social feeds infinitely more convenient. Marketers tie these streamlined conversions directly back to social content and their ad channel spend.

Here’s an overview of the shoppable post capabilities:

Instagram Shoppable Posts

Instagram launched shoppable photo posts over 5 years ago and shoppable video posts more recently allowing affiliate links in IGTV and Reels content. Instagram has also enabled product stickers in Stories. Brands use Instagram’s backend Creator Commerce Dashboard to track shoppable post performance including impressions and conversions. With over 2 billion monthly active users on Instagram and 130 million tapping to reveal tags in posts to learn about products, the platform is primed for social commerce.

Facebook and Messenger Shoppable Posts

Facebook also offers shoppable posts and shoppable video ads directing users to hubs with purchase options. Facebook Business Suite powers shop functionality across Facebook and Instagram. And Facebook’s Messenger platform allows businesses to display product catalogs and even create storefronts within messaging.

The Future Is Social Shopping

Together these features make dedicated ecommerce marketplaces less necessary given how conveniently users can discover and buy products by simply scrolling feeds they were browsing anyway. Over 50% of Instagram users and more than a third of Facebook users have engaged with shopping tags.

For DTC brands especially, enabling shoppable capabilities provides a zero-friction path between discovering a product via social ads to checkout. Expect feeds to become even more transactional going forward as platforms compete to be the source carts and payments.

3 Key Benefits for Brands

More Direct ROI

Tracking With shoppable posts attributed directly to social content, brands achieve clearer ROI tracing compared to last-click attribution models previously. Platform analytics equip brands to optimize feed content and ad visuals based on actual conversions driven.

Higher Conversion Rates

By keeping users in-app to complete the transaction, shoppable posts remove many potential drop-off points in directing to external sites. Consumer attention is retained and conversions flow. Across the board, brands are seeing shoppable posts convert 2-5X higher compared to website traffic.

Lower CPA Rates

Thanks to higher on-platform conversion rates, brands pay less to drive actual sales with shoppable posts and ads. Reduced customer acquisition costs stemming from social commerce capabilities offer brands superior return on their spend. Look for CPA rates to decline further.

Forging New Audiences with Try-On AR Experiences

Augmented reality (AR) on social is transforming how people interact with brands and evaluate potential purchases. AR try-on technology has exploded allowing users to visually try on makeup products. Sunglasses. Hats. Handbags. Clothes. Jewelry. Thanks to AR, virtual product try-on eliminates physical restrictions letting social audiences digitally interact with brands.

Here are the brands leading social AR innovation:

Instagram AR Effects

Instagram makes visually experiencing products possible through AR effects launched right within Stories and Reels. Brands like MAC Cosmetics, Nars, and Sephora let users try various lipstick shades using phone cameras. Similarly, glasses brands like Ray-Ban and Oakley have AR effects enabling users to test eyewear styles. Luxury fashion houses are jumping onboard as well with virtual clothing and accessory try-on effects.

Snapchat AR Shopping

Lenses Like Instagram, Snapchat offers AR shopping Lenses that attach to faces or scannable objects allowing simulated try-ons recognizable to any Snapchat user. Brands like Chanel, Farfetch, Prada offer Lenses showing off their latest product lines overlaid atop user images snapped. Adidas created virtual sneaker try-on Lenses that became a huge viral sensation on Snapchat.

Facebook AR commerce ads

Facebook is testing AR commerce ads within both feeds and stories that let users try beauty products from bareMinerals, MAC Cosmetics, Smashbox and others. Brands provide 3D asset files that Facebook inserts into ads bridging the gap between discovering and virtually experiencing products.

3 Opportunities AR Creates

More Engaging Brand Discovery

Rather than passively seeing ads, AR product simulations actively engage audiences and feel like games. The interactive and visual nature of AR ads generates substantially higher comment and share rates for brands.

Lower Return Rates

When shoppers can try before they buy and visualize a product’s fit, size, or style on themselves beforehand, returns decrease saving brands operational costs. AR builds confidence in purchases making customers more likely to keep items.

Expanded Audience Reach

The novelty aspect of AR tries makes them go viral organically on social platforms unlocking new audiences for brands going beyond existing customers. Partnerships between beauty brands and influencers taking AR effects even more mainstream further social sharing.

While still early, AR commerce innovation provides preview into the interactive future of social advertising. Visual interactivity removes barriers making social feeds the first stop both for product discovery and experiential sampling.

Key Takeaways for Brands

If recent history serves as indication, social platforms will continue evolving features to keep users continually engaged. Though feed posts, static images, and horizontal video ads still warrant inclusion to raise awareness widely, brands must think beyond tradition to stand out.

Experiment with social stories to join key conversations and insert your brand into culturally relevant moments. Enable shoppable tags to turn impulsive inspiration into immediate transactions. And test AR virtual try-ons to wow new audiences while also driving higher quality conversions.

Businesses that leverage the latest social features today create Network effects that pay dividends both now and into the future as audiences, behaviours, and platform capabilities mature. Don’t let innovation pass your brand by. Use the major emerging trends of stories, social commerce, and AR to earn audience attention and lock in their lifetime loyalty starting now.

The trends clearly show social networks emphasizing visual content, native shopping functionality, and interactive experiences—all with mobile users in mind. Brands that align their strategies and ad approaches with these shifts will continue winning market share. The possibilities are endless as social continues to evolve the realm of digital brand connections and performance.

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