Originally, social media was designed as a way to connect with people near and far. But as platforms have progressed, they’ve begun connecting us with brands as well. Nowadays, consumers can complete a purchase on their favorite social media site – from start to finish – without ever having to exit the platform.
Social media has finally advanced enough to play a significant role in the thriving world of ecommerce.
We’ve arrived at the era of social commerce where social media platforms are quite literally becoming search engines for shoppers.
What Is Social Commerce?
Simply put, social commerce is the buying and selling of items and services through a specific social media platform. The entire shopping experience – from product promotion to after-service sales – is incorporated into interactive features available within the social networking site.
Thanks to social commerce, users can shop directly from their social media feeds.
How Is Social Commerce Different From Social Media Marketing?
Social media marketing is a technique geared towards steering qualified traffic to an external website or online store.
Social commerce, on the other hand, provides the convenience of one-stop shopping within a social media site or app – an exciting alternative for today’s on-the-go shoppers.
The Emergence of Social Commerce
Shoppers these days are impatient – maybe even a little spoiled. Our attention spans are just 10 seconds long, if that.
Our social media obsession has hardwired us to expect instant gratification in all of our digital interactions. Social commerce is the solution, by virtue of the fact that it understands and accommodates this fundamental change in our preferences.
If we were to pinpoint the primary cause for the emergence of social commerce, it would undoubtedly be the Millennial generation. Indeed, Millennials were the catalyst for the shift toward social commerce in the first place.
Due to the enormous spending power of this generation – estimated at a whopping $1.4 trillion already and projected to be $4 trillion by 2030 – businesses understand that they are duty-bound to cater their efforts towards Millennials.
Essentially, there are just two factors that significantly impact the success of a business:
- A product or service that fulfills a genuine need in the market
- A streamlined buying process that makes it simple for customers to make a purchase
The potentiality of social commerce lies in the latter requirement – the whole purchasing process is simplified, thanks to features such as chatbots and auto-fill payments.
Understanding this critical component of online shopping, Facebook rolled out its Shops feature with the sole intention of giving people “a place to experience the joy of shopping versus the chore of buying.”
Let’s be clear: social commerce isn’t some passing fancy that’s going to fizzle out in a matter of months – it characterizes the way online business will be conducted from now on.
For organizations that don’t wish to be caught off-guard, it’s critical that they pivot towards social commerce.
What Are the Advantages of Social Commerce?
One of the key characteristics of social commerce is its seamlessness. Seamless, in this context, refers to delivering an individualized experience for each customer whenever and wherever they want.
Social commerce meets these criteria in that brands can now have an entire conversation with a customer, instead of shifting from phone to desktop and eventually to a brick-and-mortar store.
To wit, a shopping experience targeted towards the wants and needs of each individual shopper will become the favored solution. While price and quality still matter, being regarded as a cherished customer is an enormous part of the total experience for today’s shopper.
A staggering 75% of consumers are apt to purchase from a brand if its marketing content addresses them by name and offers suggestions based on their buying history.
Brick-and-mortar retailers recognized this long ago and began installing greeters at the entrances to welcome customers. The attention showered on customers went a long way toward building brand loyalty.
Social Commerce vs. Traditional Ecommerce
Traditional ecommerce models require shoppers to go through an excessive number of steps, increasing the risk that they will abandon the entire purchasing process.
Social commerce, on the other hand, centralizes the whole customer journey in one location. Shoppers can locate the products they need, read customer reviews, make any inquiries they might have, and check out – all without leaving the platform.
With fewer steps required to complete a purchase, customers are much less likely to get confused, frustrated, abandon their carts, and leave the site.
It’s important to note that, with social commerce, you still manage your products and market the way you normally do. However, you must take the added step of linking your inventory with the platform and streamlining the journey for customers engaged via social media.
Which Social Media Platforms Have Enabled Social Commerce So Far?
With an overwhelming number of physical stores having to shut down due to government lockdown measures earlier this year, many businesses resorted to ecommerce in order to survive.
Fortunately, many of the top social media sites had already integrated social commerce capabilities into their platforms or were actively working on doing so.
The world’s largest social media platform’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic came in the form of Facebook Shops. This new feature gives businesses the ability to advertise and sell products directly from the Facebook platform.
Brands already utilizing an ecommerce platform on their website, such as Shopify, can integrate it seamlessly with Facebook to sell to their social media followers.
While email boasts the highest return on investment of all traditional digital marketing strategies, social media messaging app sales have now greatly outpaced email.
Open rates and click-through rates of ecommerce emails are, for the most part, relatively low: 15%-25% and 2.5%, respectively. By comparison, Facebook Messenger chatbots generate an astounding 80% open rate and 20% click-through rates on average.
Facebook Messenger’s chatbots come equipped with a number of potent features, including:
- Greeting capabilities and assisting customers to “Get Started”
- Allowing brands to send and receive text/images with customized calls-to-action
- Templates letting customers interact with chatbots with the help of interactive visuals
Facebook “Buy” Buttons
Until recently, brands used call-to-action buttons on social media posts to divert users to a third-party site in order to complete their purchase.
Now, when brands include “Buy” buttons on their social media channel, customers can buy their products easily and then continue on Facebook right where they left off.
Thus far, Instagram has primarily been used for brand discovery – the most recent data indicates that 70% of consumers use the platform to find out about new products. However, Instagram has laid the groundwork towards becoming an ecommerce hub – a smart move considering that more than 200 million users frequent at least one business profile each day.
The Instagram Checkout feature enables shoppers to browse through images and videos of products in their feed. Once they find an item they’re interested in buying, they can click on the post, select the dimensions or colors as applicable, and then pay for their purchase – all without leaving Instagram!
With Instagram’s shoppable posts and Stories features, brands can tag images or videos with the name, price, and description of catalog items that users can then click on to learn more about the product.
Brands can use Rich Pins to sell their products within the platform. Rich Pins are an organic format providing additional up-to-date information about the Pin itself, including the product’s price and availability.
Buyable Pins allow customers to purchase products directly on Pinterest without the platform redirecting them elsewhere. These Pins are distinctive thanks to the big blue “Buy It” button positioned next to the iconic “Pin It” button.
Buyable Pins allow users to see the product’s price, its seller, and read the descriptions. Once shoppers click on the “Buy It” button, they’re automatically directed to the Checkout page within the platform.
It might be surprising to find Snapchat in this list – but after a number of updates, this Gen-Z-favorite platform is making a pass at social commerce as well.
The most interesting – but not necessarily astonishing – thing about Snapchat’s attempt at competing with larger social platforms is the fact that it’s using augmented reality.
Snapchat’s 238 million users will soon be able to use the app’s lens-altering selfies to digitally try on shoes – whimsically dubbed as “shoefies.”
This is a crucial step in the platform’s ultimate goal of enabling users to virtually “try on” a complete wardrobe.
Given that reality-altering lenses are integral to the app and the fact that its users are predominantly Millennials and Gen Zers – the principal drivers of social commerce – Snapchat figures to become one of the leading social commerce channels in the coming years.
Augmented reality (AR) is a powerful tool that ecommerce companies can’t afford to shrug off. Consider that:
- 61% of consumers prefer to shop sites that offer augmented reality
- 49% of online shoppers are willing to pay more for an item if they can preview it in AR
- 45% of consumers state that AR reduces the amount of time spent on making a purchasing decision
The fastest-growing social media site around, especially among younger users, TikTok is also integrating social commerce capabilities into its platform. TikTok recently partnered with ecommerce giant Shopify to integrate in-app shopping features. Thanks to this partnership, brands can create and manage their TikTok marketing campaigns from the Shopify dashboard after installing the TikTok channel app through the Shopify app store.
Brands can create a TikTok Pixel to track actions – such as users visiting their site, adding an item to their cart, and completing their order. Using ad templates designed specifically for ecommerce, brands can also create in-feed shoppable video ads.
Even YouTube, the stalwart video-based platform, is elevating their ecommerce game by implementing a more shoppable ad format. By expanding the call-to-action buttons on video ads, brands are able to drive more traffic to specific product pages. Businesses can sync their Google Merchant Center feed to the video ads to create a browsable display of featured products.