In the crowded world of e-commerce, kidcos that want to stand out with families need to go beyond static websites listing products to create more value with socially driven experiences.
That’s Grom Social Enterprises’ goal as it expands into e-commerce for the first time with its upcoming Santa.com launch. The company plans to support the site with content and Grom Social—a kid-friendly social media platform that lets 25 million-plus users share short videos and art. Launching in November, Santa.com will feature holiday-themed personalized products, curated gift catalogues, games and original short videos to tap into the enduring love kids and families have for Christmas, says Paul Ward, president of social media and EVP of enterprises at Grom Social Enterprises.
Because it’s an e-commerce site for ages 13 and under, it has to be rooted in safety, and Grom is working with certification service KidSAFE on the website’s privacy features. Kids will be able to play games and access content without having to register, and parental consent will be required if they are asked to submit any personal identifying information.
Through the North Pole-themed site, kids can add items to a wishlist and then email it to their parents, but they themselves won’t be able to make purchases. Grom is assembling a roster of e-tail partners to build out a catalogue of products parents can buy without needing to navigate to a third-party platform.
Kids can also visit with Santa, take a tour of the North Pole, and see a list of things they can do to stay on the nice list—which they’re encouraged to share on their Grom Social account.
Original short-form content, such as elves unboxing presents, will also be made available on the social site, paving the way for future content. Grom is developing an animated musical film (also called Santa.com) with German studio Toon2Tango that will deliver ahead of the 2023 holidays. Eventually, the special will air on Grom Social to drive kids back to the e-commerce site, with the aim of making both the site and the animated feature annual traditions for kids.
“There’s opportunity for synergy between the website and Grom Social where kids can share the products they get with others. And in the case of the Santa.com special, we can use it to fortify Grom Social with new holiday content,” says Ward.
The hope is to create a stress-free experience for families during the busy holiday season—a place to both gather and watch festive fare, and get gift-buying done more easily, he says.
While platforms like TikTok, Instagram and WeChat have made efforts to turn their platforms into shopping hubs, the kids industry hasn’t hit on the right e-commerce/social media blend yet. Grom sees itself at the forefront of this content/tech/social melting pot and wants to create social commerce (or s-commerce) that’s fun and engaging for kids.
Looking forward, Ward says Grom could use this s-commerce/content approach with other brands including preschool-skewing Baldwin, about a young train trying to re-unite with its family.
For example, the brand’s upcoming series could live on Grom Social, with new content and games on a dedicated branded retail website, creating e-commerce ecosystems.
The shift to s-commerce is taking off on platforms for older audiences. TikTok recently teamed up with Shopify to let creators make shoppable videos; Instagram and YouTube have been piloting buying functionality since 2017 and 2020, respectively; and WeChat unveiled its shoppable options in 2020.
A rise in live-streamed content is also set to drive consumer spending in social apps up from US$6.78 billion in 2021 to US$17.2 billion by 2025, according to the mobile data firm App Annie.
Kids are looking for an engaging social shopping experience as well, so some kidcos are going beyond static websites and passive-viewing experiences like unboxing videos to build more interactive approaches, particularly as more kids (and their parents) buy products online.
While the trend towards social commerce was happening well before the pandemic, lockdowns accelerated the shift of family shopping away from brick-and-mortar stores and towards e-commerce, says Fallon Anawalt, president of Athena Marketing & Advertising. It’s a wake-up call for other businesses to follow the lead of companies like Grom and deliver on what kids want—an interactive and social experience, she says.
Many kids really embraced virtual shopping throughout the pandemic, with 23% of UK youth saying they made a lot of online purchases during lockdowns, according to Childwise. (The UK-based research firm surveyed more than 1,400 kids between September and October 2020.)
And while 12% of respondents said they don’t have their own credit/debit card, and 10% said their parents won’t let them buy things online, plenty began shopping with their families even though they weren’t the ones spending money.
Eight in 10 US kids drove purchasing decisions and influenced movie and video game purchases as families searched for activities they could do together, according to UK- based research firm Super Awesome, which surveyed 502 kids and tweens last July. Even if kids aren’t making the purchase, they still tend to influence it.
As children gain more control over their parents’ wallets—and increasingly spend time online—shopping will inevitably transfer to social sites, says Anawalt.
Gen Alphas, in particular, expect to see videos and interactivity from marketers and e-commerce sites, says Sophie Abrahamsson, chief commercial officer of live-video shopping platform Bambuser. The Swedish techco, which has traditionally targeted Millennial shoppers, builds in-video shopping streams for businesses. Presenters can use the Bambuser app to live-stream themselves showcasing new products in videos, which can then be simulcast on social media platforms and also live as evergreen content on the company’s e-commerce website.
The videos feature a chat function inviting consumers to react in real time, and they can purchase items directly through the stream. Consumers typically spend 13 minutes on its videos, three times longer than the average time spent on e-commerce sites, she says.
Bambuser’s tech has been used by Adidas, Samsung and Tommy Hilfiger, and it was recently selected for the Disney Accelerator program—which connects techcos to mentors from the House of Mouse—on the strength of a pilot project in development with Disney that blends the conglom’s storytelling skills with shoppable videos.
The next step for social commerce is to get the tech into the hands of kids and kidfluencers so they can make unboxing videos and sharing products with their friends more fun, says Abrahamsson.
It’s a natural next step for influencers, and could be an effective tool for them, too. Almost half (44%) of Gen Z made a purchase decision in 2020 based on a recommendation from a social influencer, according to data from researcher Kantar.
“This is adding value to your content and can live as more interactive tutorials or videos that fit naturally on your social media channels,” Abrahamsson says. “If I was a retailer, and knew I had a video tool for engaging kids, I’d ask them what they wanted to see and what they could do with it.”