Social media platforms are constantly evolving to remain enticing and engaging for the casual user as well as brands.
With many spending hours on social media and effectively running their entire lives through their mobile device, you know it was only a matter of time until brands caught up to sell to their customers where they live – online.
Social commerce makes up 10% of all e-commerce sales today, and it’s expected to rise to 17% in the next three years.
In this article, we’ll break down social commerce, why your business should consider it, different social commerce platforms as well as how your company can leverage aspects of social commerce.
Let’s get into it.
Here's what to expect:
- What is social commerce?
- Social commerce vs E-commerce
- Why is social commerce relevant?
- Benefits of social commerce
- Popular social commerce platform examples
- How to start in social commerce
- Social commerce trends to keep an eye on
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the selling of products and services directly to customers via social media.
Discovery, browsing, product comparisons and customer feedback all take place on the social media platform. The beauty of social commerce is that it speeds up the buying process and offers a seamless shopping experience while helping brands leverage the mass market of social media users.
Social commerce allows for brands, influencers and individuals to build brand awareness and engage with their customers in a host of new ways. The popularity of social commerce has of course been helped by the pandemic.
When brands interact directly with the customer via social media this is known as a direct-to-consumer business. This relationship helps bypass wholesalers and third-party retailers alike.
An example of social commerce you might be familiar with is Instagram Shopping. Instagram added the native shopping feature to their platform only as early as 2019, so this indicates how relatively new the concept of social commerce is.
But, more about these social commerce platforms later.
Social commerce vs E-commerce
E-commerce is the buying and selling of products and services online. This can mean a major retail site like Amazon, which hosts many different brands' products. Or this could mean a dedicated website for one specific brand like Nike.
Social commerce, on the other hand, refers to the use of social media platforms to help drive e-commerce sales. Social commerce relies on social media interaction and user collaboration to promote and sell products or services. Some examples of social commerce include customer ratings, reviews and user recommendations.
Why is social commerce relevant?
Social commerce has taken off at an unprecedented rate with massive year on year growth, so one might be wondering why?
Well, social media and spending money release dopamine, the chemical that makes you happy. This is one of the reasons people find it difficult to stay away from social media. For brands, the combination of two addictive activities may seem like a match made in heaven!
Social commerce makes customer targeting much easier using the power of social media to show your shoppable content to the right people, at the right time. This also helps with bridging the gap between who you are targeting and who is actually buying and engaging with your brand.
Knowing who your ideal customer is, also helps with paid advertising and targeting, as you no longer have to try and guess the demographics of your ideal buyer.
Another reason social commerce is relevant is that the pandemic has skyrocketed online shopping.
In a way, brands have had to play catch up in meeting their customers on social media where they are increasingly doing their shopping.
Social commerce has seen a fundamental shift of power from major brands and retailers to the people. Social commerce meets people where they hang out the most – on social media. The social aspect of it all delivers authenticity and trust all within one shopping experience, on one platform.
Social commerce is relevant because the platform provides a relatively easy way for businesses to engage with their customers. Here are three ways in which social commerce drives customer engagement:
- Offers brands an outlet to tell unique brand stories through many different types of content, making your brand stand out.
- Converts casual scrollers to real buyers. Social media users are not only being exposed to your brand but now they have the added step of being able to buy without leaving the platform.
- Gives reliable social proof when people share, like and comment on your brand's content.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of social commerce is that it has truly levelled the playing field. Any small business can create its own brand and make it immediately available to a worldwide market.
Small businesses and individuals now have the same reach to a direct market as big brands. This not only empowers smaller businesses but also consumers who now have more choice in where they want to spend their money.
A study found that more than half of social buyers said that they were more likely to buy from a small business through social commerce compared to when shopping via an e-commerce site.
Here we can see a concrete example of a shift from e-commerce to social commerce.
Benefits of social commerce
Engaging your customer during and after the pandemic is now more important than ever.
Social commerce can help you gain brand awareness by showing your content to more people. This is important as due to the pandemic, 75% of customers are exhibiting new shopping behaviour due to factors brought on by the pandemic. If people are ready to switch, why not be the brand they switch to?
Social commerce cuts down the leg work the consumer has to do to ultimately end up buying your product or service. Through the vast number of customer touchpoints, social commerce offers you can connect
Aspects of social commerce like live video shopping help in telling brand stories and furthering brand equity through a multitude of customer touchpoints.
Connecting with customers using social commerce also helps brands bridge the gap between a brand’s perception of their engagement and their customers’ perception of that brand’s engagement.
It’s interesting to note that 90% of marketers believed they provided their customers with a personalised experience, while only 40% of customers agreed with this sentiment.
Popular social commerce platform examples
You may not be all too surprised that the largest social media platforms are also the largest social commerce platforms.
Whether you’ve never heard of social commerce or are on the fence about whether your company should start doing it, here are three popular social commerce platforms that you should know about.
Let’s take a look.
Instagram allows brands, influencers and individuals to post instantly shoppable content.
The platform allows for curated collections that are customisable in which you can create themes such as seasonal trends, new arrivals, and sales.
Instagram encourages social commerce via its “Shoppable Posts.” These shoppable posts are easy to discover and allow easy shopping without leaving the platform.
It’s also important to note that Instagram was so committed to becoming a more commerce-oriented platform that they replaced the “Activity” tab with a “Shop” tab in their app.
Instagram users on average use Instagram to shop on a weekly basis.
Let’s look at some other key statistics on how Instagram users behave after seeing a product or service on the platform:
- 79% search for more information after seeing service or product
- 46% make a purchase online or offline
- 31% follow the brand’s account online
Facebook Shops ranked highest (31%) in social media platforms shoppers were most likely to buy from, with Instagram and Tiktok second and third respectively.
Facebook Shopping helps businesses to create Facebook native storefronts where people can discover, browse and purchase within the platform
With Facebook Shopping, a business can also connect their e-commerce store’s inventory to their Facebook page.
This works well because Facebook users often seek out business information about companies like an address or event. So, when a company offers a shopping experience also on their Facebook page, they are taking advantage of an opportunity to sell on this channel,
Facebook Shopping lets users complete the shopping experience through shoppable tags on posts that promote instant shopping.
To discover a business’s Facebook shop, a customer would either need to search for that brand’s name specifically on Facebook or stumble across their sponsored post on his newsfeed.
Facebook also gets creative in how they encourage new shopping experiences. For example, brands can host live video shopping events or virtual shopping appointments on Facebook.
Snapchat is now making moves with its AR lenses. AR (Augmented Reality) lenses allow users to take selfies with branded products like sunglasses, makeup, shoes, and other items. This promotes consumers to interact with the brand and influences them to buy.
Snapchat also shows ads that are shoppable.
One strategy that Snapchat seems to prioritise is its influencer marketing. This works well for Snapchat as 50% of its users are under the age of 25 years old. The best way to sell to young consumers like this is through social proof, aka influencer marketing.
An example of a company succeeding with social commerce on Snapchat is HiSmile. Through their Snapchat ads, HiSmile were able to drive new customers to their website, resulting in a 15% increase in revenue.
How to start in social commerce
Any business, large or small can engage in social commerce.
The beauty of social commerce is that it is very accessible. This is not to say that it is easy but that large and small businesses have the same opportunity to sell and promote their products and services through social media engagement.
Social media platforms are always evolving and updating to stay relevant, which offers endless opportunities and benefits for brands to connect with their customers.
Here are some ideas on how you can further engage customers. Try offering:
- Fresh & original content that supports your brand story, look and feel
- Unique experiences like livestreams that promote user engagement with your brand
- Shareable content and deals that promote referral traffic and help with audience targeting
- Shoppable posts and tags which lets users instantly shop
Social commerce trends to keep an eye on
Consumer spending habits along with the pandemic has given rise to the new ways brands engage their customers on social media.
Micro-influencers in social commerce
A micro-influencer is an individual who has between 10-50k followers on a social media platform. They are characterised by a rather niche audience and high engagement rates.
In the past, smaller companies would have to hope and pray to land a partnership deal with a big retailer to get their products to the mass market. Now, finding micro-influencers to collaborate with is the key to smaller businesses gaining more exposure.
Micro-influencers come in handy here, as they are an affordable method for small businesses to reach a much wider audience.
The influence of micro-influencers is of course smaller than influencers with maybe millions of followers, however, they do have a more specific audience, which makes targeting a lot more efficient.
Micro-influencers often have a more dedicated following, being very open about paid collaborations, which goes a long way in giving off an authentic feel.
Sustainability in social commerce
Environmental and sustainability awareness has been a trend for some while now, with companies putting their CSR (corporate social responsibility) front and centre to try and gain an advantage in the market.
As it stands e-commerce does not have any sort of universally recognised certificate or seal of sustainability. This gap has led companies to, in essence, give themselves their own seal of approval when it comes to sustainability claims about their products.
Sustainability is a very important factor for younger generations, who have more choice than ever before and who are willing to even go as far as to boycott some brands.
Social commerce offers businesses a chance to echo their sustainability claims as well as offer sustainable products or services that are in line with their brand message. Win over customers by showing them what values your company stands for.
Here we’ll list four examples of how to appeal to socially and environmentally conscious buyers.
- Put your sustainability claims front and centre, an example could be promotions where a percentage of the proceeds goes to a certain cause.
- Show off your eco-friendly packaging. Think of recycled materials, carbon footprint (of the supply chain) or reusability.
- Promote environmentally-friendly shipping options.
- Review your returns policy. This could be something as simple as asking customers of being mindful of their wastefulness.
Being transparent about your values is important as more than half of consumers globally are either buying or boycotting a brand due to its stance on social issues.
Live video shopping in social commerce
Live video shopping in the context of social commerce takes form in the shape of one-to-many live shopping events. These events take place on social media platforms or on a brand’s own website and are typically hosted by influencers who are in cooperation with larger brands or small businesses.
Live video shopping allows brands to create a unique brand story, as well as communicate directly with their customers. This is of ever-growing importance as markets are becoming increasingly saturated and social media users are being shown countless ads.
Live video shopping allows you to connect with your customers in a much more human way that helps you stand out.
Live video shopping is a little ahead of the curve for many companies, so if you need to assess what is on the market, check out our 11 Best Live Video Shopping Platforms blog.
Peer-to-peer marketing in social commerce
Not to be confused with influencer marketing, peer-to-peer marketing is when customers recommend a product or service to their friends, family or colleagues – their peers. On the other hand, influencer marketing relies on the “famous” aspect of an individual to sell a product or service to the public.
An example of peer-to-peer marketing is the use of user-generated content.
Peer-to-peer marketing supports social commerce in that it offers reassurance of authenticity when customers share, add comments and review content.
Peer-to-peer marketing is a relatively natural aspect of social media, which can be leveraged into improved brand awareness, increased sales and engagement, and social proof.
Social commerce is more than just a trend
The pandemic has brought along many changes in buying behaviour that are here to stay. Social commerce is only in its infancy but it has already proven as a great strategy to connect buyers with brands.
Engaging on social media is more than just a trend, it is becoming the standard that customers expect from brands.
Social commerce sales can add to your overall business growth.
If you’ve found that the idea of social commerce is something that tickles your fancy, learn more about other trending e-commerce strategies like live shopping on our blog.