The Untapped Power of Social Commerce

Social commerce is shaking up the retail world as the line between social media and eCommerce continues to blur.

With social distancing and people opting to stay home because of COVID-19, social commerce has only grown stronger. More and more shoppers are shifting to digital sources of inspiration and are choosing to complete their shopping journeys online.

In this post, we’ll look at the other factors driving social commerce, why it’s rapidly growing, and some tactics that you can use to win at it.

Examples of Social Commerce

Social commerce is the use of social media networks to promote, buy, and sell products. It’s a subset of eCommerce in which the entire shopping experience ideally happens on social media.

Consumers have increasingly been turning to social media for product discovery and purchase ideas. In addition, social commerce removes the friction of buying a product elsewhere. Business Insider Intelligence estimated that U.S. social eCommerce sales will reach $84.2 billion by 2024.

Among platforms, Pinterest holds the leading position in the area of social commerce. Forty-seven percent of social media users see it as “the platform for discovering and shopping for products — more than three times higher than those who cited Facebook or Instagram.”

Even though it’s still in its infancy, examples of social commerce are starting to pop up in different forms across social media networks. These include:

  • Facebook Shop pages
  • Instagram’s Shop Now button
  • Google Shopping Ads under YouTube videos
  • Pinterest Buyable Pins
  • Chat boxes to inquire about products and services
  • In-feed ads featuring a Shop Now call to action on TikTok
  • Live-selling on Facebook and Instagram

What Are the Factors Driving Social Commerce and Why Is It Growing?

In 2005, only 5% of U.S. adults were using at least one social media site. Today, 72% of the population are on social media. Pew Research Center found that 90% of 18- to 29-year-olds use social media, followed by 30- to 49-year-olds (82%) and 50- to-64-year-olds (69%).

According to Statista, the most popular social media networks worldwide are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Instagram, TikTok, Q2, Qzone, and Sina Weibo. In terms of usage, the daily average worldwide is 144 minutes per day as of 2019.

The key trends that drive the growth of social commerce can be summed up into three:

1. Visual

Consumers have a shorter attention span than before, and visual representation is proven to engage them more. For instance, Facebook posts with images see 2.3X more engagement than those without images. Moreover, 59% of consumers think that visual information is more important than textual information, according to a study done by The Intent Lab.

2. Mobile

Shoppers not only choose but also rely on the convenience of eCommerce — and more recently, mCommerce, or mobile commerce. According to Statista, “mobile currently accounts for half of all global web pages served.” In terms of revenue, Business Insider Intelligence estimated that by 2024, mobile will account for 45% of eCommerce sales.

3. Social

Consumers go to social media networks for many things. Besides entertainment, social media is a source of product inspiration for 44% of young consumers. Accenture also found that 37% have increased social media usage to inform purchase decision-making.

Social commerce works because social proof is inherent in these online networks. According to Curalate, for 50% of shoppers, seeing user-generated content increases their chances of buying products through a brand’s social media.

What Can Brands Do to Win at Social Commerce?

The exciting thing about social commerce is that shopping intent is high when consumers discover products and purchase ideas on social media. For brands, the key is to convert these “moments of want” into sales. How do you do that?

  • Strengthen your brand’s presence. Promote positive experiences that can increase consumers’ brand recognition and affinity. Develop creative campaigns that resonate with your target audience. You can also extend your reach to new communities by partnering with influencers who are relevant to your vertical.
  • Highlight your best products. Find out which among your products perform well and make sure shoppers see them. To give you an idea, eMarketer shared that “lifestyle-oriented retail categories such as apparel, luxury goods, beauty, and home decor” can benefit the most from social commerce.
  • Ensure your user engagement is top-notch. Embrace the social in social media. Make sure your customers feel that they’re part of your brand and community. Do this by posting user-generated content, replying to comments, and even just liking their posts when they tag you.
  • Create continuity from social media to your website. Deliver a consistent experience by ensuring that customers can easily find the products they see on social media on your website. Besides investing in visual or textual search technology, you can also post user-generated content on product pages. Moreover, you can create visual galleries so that shoppers can continue to get inspired and enjoy the visual inspiration they’re used to from social. Lastly, you can use social media images as editorials and make them instantly shoppable.

Social commerce shortens the path from product discovery to purchase. When executed with personalization, it’s a promising channel for brands not only to increase revenue but also to deliver quick but highly engaging shopping experiences.