How social commerce is transforming online shopping experiences

Social media is everywhere. It touches virtually every aspect of our lives. Apart from one: social commerce.

It’s a $360 billion market in Asia – but only a fraction of that in the West. Studies show only 6% of UK consumers have purchased directly on a social platform.

But it’s coming to us next.

It’s projected to be one of the fastest-growing trends of the 2020s as the pandemic jumped eCommerce forward by an estimated 5 years, older generations are increasingly going online and the average person now spends more than 2 hours per day on social media.

Brands are increasingly looking to create seamless shopping experiences on social media, where consumers are spending more of their time, rather than luring them to an online store. Users can in this way browse through products on social platforms and make purchases directly within an app without going to a third-party website. It becomes a one-stop-shop that brings your followers from inspiration to check-out in one easy, short swoop.

So how can brands get ahead of this rapidly moving consumer shift? Here are the top 3 things to consider.

1. The technology is there

There is no time to wait. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok have all implemented different ways to make social content shoppable, serving as a central interface for e-commerce. In particular:

  • The rollout of Shops across Facebook allows brands to create digital storefronts, with links to purchase products either on the retailer’s website or directly within Facebook itself.
  • YouTube Shopping allows customers to make purchases directly on-site by browsing through catalogues offered by sellers.
  • TikTok’s partnership with Shopify allows merchants to create and show shoppable content on the platform.
  • Instagram’s Checkout feature allows users to search and shop directly within the app.
  • Pinterest introduced a Shop tab; a dedicated space for users to browse and shop in-stock product Pins.

As we can see, social media giants’ race to the top will make social commerce an integral part of the online shopping experience in no time. Whether researching on Amazon, being inspired on Instagram, watching adverts on TV or unpacking an order at home, there’s an ever-expanding ecosystem of places shoppers can engage with brands.

2. The need for smart planning

For brands, understanding where, when and how to activate a social commerce strategy as part of a connected shopper experience will be key moving forward. This will be essential for large and small companies alike.

Many multinationals have millions of followers on social media that they don’t commercially benefit from. Depending on the specific sector and product offering, brands that can make social commerce an integral part of the online shopping experience are set to gain handsomely. Carefully consider your offering and whether social commerce is right for you:

  • The Drum’s study on attitudes to social commerce found that price seems to be a determining factor in whether someone would purchase on social. Big-ticket items such as travel and luxury are much less popular than more affordable items – suggesting social commerce will be more effective and relevant for some industries and consumer goods than others.
  • The study also found that different product categories differed in their appeal, with respondents ranking fashion, beauty, wellbeing and grocery as the categories they would most like to shop for on social.

Small companies that take advantage of social commerce stand to gain too. Its low barrier to entry means that many start-ups can connect with and sell to their audience within the app. Building a business solely on social has never been easier.

One example of this trend is Papersmiths. The stationery brand was forced to permanently close one of their stores during the pandemic and pivoted to using Instagram Shop to help promote their products. In a message to their community, founder Sidonie Warren attributed the company’s success to their social commerce strategy:

So, both large and small companies should listen up. Social commerce’s ability to simplify of the path to purchase significantly shortens the customer journey, providing the opportunity to drastically reduce abandonment and take advantage of growing rates of impulse purchasing.

3. Remember to always add value

With the right strategy, social commerce isn’t an intrusion – it’s offering up a product that the customer is likely to want at a time they’re likely to buy. It’s a value-add that enhances the customer experience instead of detracting from it.

So, approach it as such!

As with any new concept, consumers still need a fair amount of education and reassurance on the process. Remember that many are concerned that their data might not be secure or that they’ll never receive the item they purchase – so best to proactively address those concerns in your marketing.

Brands will need to demonstrate to consumers how shopping on social media is quite similar to shopping via a website and how social commerce can even streamline the process.

The winners of tomorrow will be the brands that embrace social commerce as a real tool for customer acquisition and retention.

Social commerce is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ – for either big or small businesses. It will constitute a primary sales channel in the very near future.

As the next evolution of e-commerce, companies should take advantage of existing technology to not fall behind competitors, strategically plan where and when to activate a social commerce strategy as well as remember to always add value to their customer’s path to purchase.

Customers are your marketing engine – and in the next ten years of social commerce, more than ever.


By Louise Alestam 


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