social commerce

Social commerce is one of the fastest-growing online shopping trends. Its features are emerging across a number of platforms, creating new opportunities for brands big and small.

For small businesses, social commerce offers a level of access to customers that lets them compete on a level playing field with large ones. Experimenting with social commerce strategies now can put you in a position to scale down the road.

social media marketing has massive ROI potential, but driving sales on social media still comes with its challenges⁠—one being getting your followers to leave a social media app to make a purchase on your online store. 

However, this might not be such a big challenge anymore, thanks to a fast-growing ecommerce trend: social commerce.

What is social commerce?

Social commerce is online selling that takes place on social media platforms or other platforms that have a social aspect. Instead of being sent off-platform to the retailer’s online store to complete their purchase, social commerce shoppers are able to complete their purchases right on the social media platform. This means that the entire shopping experience from browsing to checkout takes place on social media, leaving the ecommerce site out of the mix entirely.

Social commerce is also known as social shopping. In the past couple of years, social media platforms have developed tools like shoppable posts, on-site storefronts, and dedicated checkouts that allow users to discover new products, explore new brands, and make purchases all without ever leaving their social network.

What are the benefits of social commerce?

Not sure social commerce is right for your ecommerce business? Here are just a few of the benefits of social commerce so you can decide for yourself if you want to give it a try.

1. Less friction in the checkout process

In traditional ecommerce, social media is used to redirect traffic to an ecommerce site where users can purchase. While this model can work, the biggest deterrent is the friction it creates in the buying process. 

Following through on a purchase requires users to stop what they’re doing on social media, go to an external site, and then return to where they left off. This process might not seem arduous, but the effort involved is just arduous enough for many users to avoid. 

These additional steps required to make a purchase are what we’re talking about when we refer to friction in the checkout process. Each step makes purchasing a little more complicated, and at each step, users have a chance to decide the process is no longer worth it. 

But when you use social commerce tools within a social media platform, you greatly reduce that friction. Users that stumble on your content already have everything they need right in front of them to make a purchase. Purchasing from you is almost as effortless as tapping Like or Follow. Potential customers will still make a lot of considerations before purchasing from you, but when they’re able to buy directly from the point of discovery, the effort involved in the purchase won’t be one of them.

2. Drive social media engagement while you sell

A good social media marketing plan needs to perform the simultaneous functions of finding new audiences and maintaining good relationships with existing ones. 

When you use social commerce, you can engage with these two audiences simultaneously. Posts driven to create brand awareness can also feature buying options for others who are in the consideration phase.

A bonus feature of this dynamic is the users who may fall down the marketing funnel a little faster than usual. With awareness, consideration, and conversion all happening in the same place, users who’ve just discovered your brand may have all the info they need to decide your product is worth buying, and the features they need to buy it. 

3. The social commerce market is huge

Grouping social media users by their follows, likes, or interests makes finding your target market a breeze. But if you’re doing this without social commerce features, you’re likely missing out on a lot of potential sales. 

The number of people who report having purchased via social commerce has been growing since 2019. As users warm up to social shopping, this trend is expected to continue. By 2025, it’s estimated that around 37% of Americans will have made a purchase through social media.

With more businesses adopting social commerce, the ability to buy directly on social media will become less of an extravagance and more an expectation. Adopting social commerce now will put you in prime position to stay on top of this trend and stop missing out on lost sales.

4. Generate social proof while you sell 

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that describes our tendency to rely on the opinion of others when making purchase decisions. In ecommerce, social proof can take the form of product reviews, customer testimonials, case studies, public praise, or even just knowledge of a product’s popularity. If you’ve ever watched a movie or TV show just because everyone seems to be talking about it, you’ve experienced the power of social proof.

Social media is a first-touch point for a lot of users, which makes highly visible social proof a valuable tool for picking up followers and building an audience. When you sell via social commerce, that social proof also becomes a valuable tool for picking up sales.

Encourage purchasers to share pics or videos of your product. Ask for reviews or endorsements from influencers with highly engaged audiences. Just seeing that users are enjoying your product will help encourage others to do the same.

One top of this, your social shopping posts themselves act as a type of social proof. When online shoppers see their peers liking, commenting, and sharing your posts, they’ll feel more confident in making the decision to buy your product. 

5. Easily accommodate the growing number of mobile shoppers

The number of mobile ecommerce sales reached $359 billion in 2021, a 15.2% increase from 2020. Industry experts estimate that by 2025, mobile ecommerce sales will account for 44.2% of retail ecommerce sales in the US, for a grand total of $728.28 billion. 

As online shoppers warm up to the idea of shopping on their mobile devices, and social media networks adopt more tools that help facilitate it, an easy-to-use mobile-ready storefront will become more and more crucial to the success of any online retailer. 

You might be thinking, So what? I have a responsive, mobile-friendly Shopify theme that makes checkout a breeze. While that may be true, the fact is, most sales aren’t happening in browsers. They’re taking place within social media apps. 

Research firm eMarketer found that about 88% of the time mobile-users spend browsing the internet is done within social media apps, as opposed to mobile browsers. You might have a stunning ecommerce site, but without social commerce, you’re still missing out on the sales of users that won’t end up seeing it.

Social commerce features are built by social media developers, engineered to function seamlessly and algorithmically designed to locate users that are more likely to have an interest in your product. 

Sales is complex, and nothing guarantees that users will buy from you, but it’s hard to envision any scenario where social commerce doesn’t give you a big advantage. 

What platforms support social commerce?

Where does your target audience hang out online? Chances are, you’ll find your audience in at least one of these platforms with social commerce functionality.

1. Instagram

According to Instagram’s own research, 81% of the platform’s users use the platform to research products and services. Plus, more than 130 million users tap on shopping posts each month. Since so many users are looking for ways to connect with and shop from brands on the platform, it just makes sense to leverage the platform’s social commerce features. You can sell on Instagram in several different ways:

  • Shoppable Posts: Tag products in your images so users can shop just by tapping on your post.
  • Shoppable Stories: Tag products in your Stories to make it easier for followers to shop directly from your content.
  • Product Stickers: Add clickable shopping stickers to your Stories.
  • Explore Tab Shopping: Optimize your content for the Explore tab so users who find your content can shop easily.
  • IGTV Shopping: Tag shoppable products directly in your IGTV videos.
  • Instagram Reels Shopping: Tag products in your Reels.

To sell on Instagram, you need to have an Instagram Business account connected to a Facebook page. In addition, you need to sell physical products in an approved location and, of course, comply with Instagram’s terms and conditions.

2. Facebook

Facebook Shops let you connect with customers and potential customers through Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram Direct. It’s a mobile-first shopping experience that lets ecommerce business owners create a social commerce store for free. Facebook Shops are fully customizable, letting store owners import a product catalog or create one on the platform.

3. TikTok

TikTok is one of the newest social media platforms out there, but it’s grown quickly into an influencer marketing powerhouse. In February 2021, TikTok launched Seller University (testing in Indonesia). The platform is seeking to add additional ways users can monetize the platform through selling their own products on-platform (instead of sharing links that take users off the platform to complete purchases, as is the current method). There will also be an option to sell as an affiliate for influencers who focus on affiliate marketing to earn money.

4. Pinterest

Pinterest has long been used for shopping inspiration and for business accounts it can also be used for shopping completion. With Product Pins, businesses can show pricing and stock information for products from your Pinterest Shop. You also have the option to upload your product catalog to the platform and even use a really cool Shop the Look feature that shows all the products in a Pin that makes them available for purchase.

5. Snapchat

Snapchat uses augmented reality (AR) to let users “try on” shoes and clothing, as well as see how particular products might look in their homes. While Instagram has a try-on feature for makeup and sunglasses, the innovative use of AR puts Snapchat ahead of the game here.

6. Twitter

Twitter has had shopping options for years. They’ve made adjustments to social selling on the platform over time. The most recent iteration, Twitter Offers, lets advertisers create promotions and share them with Twitter users or even shop products without leaving the app.

How to sell effectively with social media commerce?

1. Choosing the right social media platforms

It can be a little tricky finding the perfect social media platform for your brand. One thing you have to keep in mind is your demographics, this is crucial as each social media platform has its own audience & users. For example Linkedin is filled with professionals, whereas TikTok is filled with teens waiting to get entertained.

2. Using livestream features offered by social media platforms

Livestream can be a great way to build social proof, showcase your products or answer customer questions in real time. Live-streaming brings life to your brand, it allows people to see the products in actions & convert using commerce tools within the social media platforms.

TikTok is focusing a lot on live-streaming now, especially for businesses. They now reward businesses with gifts & surprises for using their livestream commerce features. This is really cool, as they are the first ever social media platform to motivate businesses to sell more, whilst giving them a chance to win something.

3. Partnering up with influencers

Influencer marketing has been a big part of social media since 2016. Influencers are a very popular way to increase your sales & brand trust. Now with social media commerce, influencer marketing is a must, it allows new customers to view the product & make the purchase directly from the influencers social media channel.

Social Commerce Tips and Tactics

Here are some of the top social commerce tips and tactics you can use right now to get started with social commerce or improve your social commerce strategy.

1. Optimize your content

If you’ve done any marketing, you already know the importance of optimizing your content. This is vitally important for social commerce where you’re competing with hundreds of thousands of other creators on social media platforms for the attention of consumers. There are several things you’ll want to do to ensure that your content is optimized for the platform and audience you’re targeting:

Images: The vast majority of the time, you’re going to want to use vertical images. Most social media users access the platforms from their phones, so keeping your content vertical means they won’t have to turn their phones sideways to get your message.

  • Videos: Video content for social commerce should fall somewhere between six and 15 seconds.
  • Text: Copy for your social commerce content should be short. Try 100 characters or less for headlines/titles and no more than 500 characters for descriptions.
  • Captions: Use captions to increase accessibility and reach users who watch content with their volume turned off.
  • Filters: Use filters to make your product stand out, but don’t use so many that users aren’t sure what they’re supposed to be looking at.
  • Logos: Include your brand logo. And don’t hide it in a corner where it will get covered up with other information.
  • Location: Use multi-language support to reach users in their own language.

2. Promote your lower-cost products

You probably have tons of wonderful products that you want people to consider, right? That’s awesome. But don’t overwhelm users with endless options. Pick your top few bestselling or low-cost products to get started. The lower the barrier to entry, the more people will respond by completing a purchase.

3. Use influencers

If you’re not already using influencers to promote your products, what are you waiting for? Influencers are a powerful way to reach your target audience and increase trust in your brand. You can use influencers to create native ads, organic content, provide product reviews, and more.

4. Generate and Use Social Proof

Social proof is a very important part of any marketing strategy. Consumers want to know that other people, people just like them, are buying and using your products. When you can collect and share social proof like reviews, testimonials, statistics, results, and other things that let shoppers know that your products are effective and beneficial, you’ll be 

able to reach more people and earn their trust a lot faster.

5. Extend Your Reach

Social media is excellent in terms of the number of people you can reach. And, the more people you reach, the more people become aware of your brand and your products. Extending your reach involves three things:

  • Growing your social media followers
  • Optimization of your content
  • Promotion of your content

Social media commerce is the future

Social media trends come & go, but social commerce isn’t going away anytime soon. As social media platforms evolve & grow, they will bring better ways & alternatives for social shopping. We believe all businesses must try out social commerce & experiment with any new types of tools introduced by social media platforms, if they want to evolve & grow.

Many ecommerce trends come and go, but social commerce won’t fade any time soon. As social media platforms develop more ways to incorporate social shopping, users will grow to expect a frictionless way to purchase products at the moment of discovery. 

Wrap up

Social media has revolutionized the way businesses and consumers interact, and social commerce is its newest frontier. Now is the time to be adaptable and lean into change. The earlier you experiment with social commerce, the faster you can scale later. For more on how businesses are doubling down on social media download The Future of Social Commerce today.