What is social commerce? The trends and platforms to know
Most people spend an average of two hours and forty-two minutes on social media each day—and many aren’t on it to simply catch up with old friends, share awkward family moments, or upload cat videos. They’re there to shop.
According to a survey by The Influencer Marketing Factory, 82 percent of respondents said they’ve discovered a product on social media and purchased it directly from their phones. What’s more, 97 percent of Gen Z consumers use social media as their top source of shopping inspiration.
With an estimated worldwide social commerce market of around $475 billion, it’s no wonder why merchants worldwide are optimizing their social commerce capabilities. And while China leads the way in social commerce, the U.S. is catching up fast. eMarketer predicts that the U.S. social commerce market will hit $45.74 billion in 2022, a projected increase of nearly 25 percent from last year.
So, what is social commerce, anyway, and how can you catch onto this surging trend as an online store owner? This guide will offer you a social commerce definition and loads of helpful hints to give you a jump start. You’ll learn:
What is social commerce?
Let’s start with what social commerce is not.
It’s not about promoting your products on social media and driving potential buyers to your site.
Rather, modern-day social commerce entails bringing the entire shopper journey onto social media. In other words, with a social commerce strategy, you strive to bring your products—or your entire catalog—to your shoppers within their social-channel-of-choice.
Let’s look at a typical social commerce buying experience:
A shopper logs into his or her favorite social media app
While still in the app, the shopper discovers your product and learns about its features through posts, stories, videos, and other interactive elements
The shopper then buys the product without every leaving the app
While you can use clicks, shares, and likes to measure your reach, true social commerce is measured by looking at both engagement metrics and revenue. The more successful you are at selling products in-app, the higher your potential profit.
The difference between eCommerce and social commerce
eCommerce and social commerce are related, but different. While eCommerce covers any transaction completed online—social commerce only includes those purchases made within a social network’s platform.
Social commerce gives you the chance to integrate your products into the type of content that social media users crave, such as videos that show your shoppers using your product, or polls that allow consumers to vote for different product styles or options. And nearly every eCommerce merchant is getting into the social commerce game. According to a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Sprout Social, 73 percent of businesses already participate in social commerce, and 79 percent expect to do so in the next three years.
Want more insight into social commerce usage for small, mid-size, and enterprise merchants? Read our Q&A with Sprout Social CEO Ryan Barretto.
Benefits of social commerce
Find the right customers
Each social media channel is its own community, giving you plenty of new markets to tap into. Does your product appeal to people of all ages? Facebook, which has pretty consistent reach across all ages, may be the right channel for you. Aiming for customers ages 25-34? That age group represents 33 percent of users on Instagram. TikTok is a smart channel to promote products geared toward younger people, with nearly half (48 percent) of its users younger than age 30.
Get more competitive vs. the big brands
Traditional media requires big budgets, giving larger enterprises the leg up. But social media levels the playing field, helping merchants of all sizes get the message out about their products at a far lower cost. In social, budget doesn’t win the day. Content does. Consider using one or several of these new tools found on social media platforms to help you get ahead of your competitors.
Create simpler buying experiences
Today’s buyers expect frictionless experiences. That means they want to make as few clicks, taps, or swipes as possible when buying their favorite products. Social commerce delivers this kind of simplified and convenient customer experience, removing redundant steps and reaching buyers in a place they already frequent.
Boost your mobile strategy
In 2020, nearly 45 percent of all eCommerce purchases in the U.S. were made on a mobile device. But mobile devices traditionally have higher cart abandonment rates. Social commerce can help you close this gap for two reasons: social media users are already on their mobile devices (nearly eight in every ten social media users access their favorite platforms exclusively on mobile) and in-app shopping creates a simplified path-to-purchase.
Generate social proof
Consumers typically aren’t shy to boast (or complain) about products online. As you use social media to promote your products, you can invite honest feedback to share with your product development team and/or to showcase on your site as social proof. This type of user-generated content is a natural extension of social commerce.
Emerging social commerce trends
User’s favorite social channels help them embrace the future now. If you want your products to lead the social media conversation over the next few months, consider developing a future-forward strategy using one of these two hot social commerce trends:
Live stream commerce
From try-on hauls to makeup tutorials, influencers have historically led the social media conversation and been the driving force behind buzzworthy products. Today, many influencers and brands are doing this with livestreams on social media platforms. Hosts go live on an app and showcase their favorite products, while potential customers react, comment, and ask questions in real time. Customers can also buy or save products featured during livestreams. Live stream shopping started in China but is making fast inroads in the U.S., so much so that Facebook launched Live Shopping Fridays in 2021, featuring well-known brands like Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and Sephora.
Augmented reality (AR)
“How will that couch fit in my living room?” In the past, shoppers could only know the answer by getting out a tape measure. Nowadays, they can use their phones to virtually “set” an item inside their house and better envision how it would look in real life. From Snapchat to TikTok filters, AR is taking the world by storm. Both Snapchat and Pinterest have launched AR-fueled virtual try-on tools over the past year, giving merchants new ways to up their social commerce game.
Top social commerce platforms
Facebook ranks as the top U.S. social platform. Nearly 74 percent of shoppers use Facebook to discover brands and products, compared to 41 percent who discover them on a brand’s website. It’s easy to get started with Facebook. They let you create online stores, called Facebook Shops, entirely for free. All you need is a Facebook business profile.
A Facebook Shop allows you to feature your products on the platform’s mobile app so customers can buy them via the Facebook app or your website. Facebook also allows businesses to create collections within their shops and to run targeted ads for people who are interested in their products. And they allow brands and influencers to tag products within news feed posts.
If you use Wix, you can also connect your Facebook Shop directly to your account , enabling your team to manage all of your multichannel selling activities and products from one place.
Instagram ranks as the second-most popular social commerce platform in the U.S. with 32.4 million buyers. Because Facebook (Meta) owns Instagram, you can easily link your Instagram Shopping profile directly to your Facebook Shop.
Instagram also offers several unique social commerce features, including:
Instagram checkout, which allows for in-app purchases
Shoppable ads, stories, videos, and reels, which showcase products and invite users to make a purchase
Instagram drops, which allow you to draw attention to new products or limited-time offerings
Today, 89 percent of Pinterest users are actively searching for purchase inspiration, making Pinterest a valuable social commerce platform for those who sell apparel, interior design-related items, or health-and-fitness products. Product pins allow shoppers to save their favorite items, and Pinterest Shopping List lets them put those pins in one place for easy access. Pinterest additionally includes AR tools and personalized product recommendations. Discover more benefits of Pinterest for Business.
The biggest up-and-comer in social commerce, TikTok, is creating plenty of buzz. Videos with the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt have earned more than 4.6 billion views, and brands like Halara have been put on the map by TikTok trends. In the case of Halara: though less than a year old, this DTC brand receives nine thousand monthly visitors thanks to its TikTok-first strategy. TikTok offers users in-app purchases, live shopping, and a variety of shoppable ad types, including Hashtag Challenge Plus Ads that let you create a hashtag to promote a trending product. These are all lucrative ways to make money on TikTok.
If you’re selling to people from a younger generation, Snapchat is a wise choice. An estimated 73 percent of Snapchat users are between the ages 18 and 24. Snapchat allows businesses to tag products in a sponsored post, run shoppable ads, and showcase product catalogs. They’re heavily investing in AR, using their in-app feature called Lenses to help users perform virtual try-ons.
3 brands that are killing it with social commerce (with examples)
Get inspired by these three brands that are killing it with social commerce and driving great business outcomes as a result.
A Spanish women’s apparel brand, Wix merchant CeliaB uses social commerce to unveil their latest collections of fun, passionate, and timeless clothing. Their colorful designs light up their Instagram and Pinterest feeds. Meanwhile, their Facebook Shop lets shoppers browse, view, and buy dresses, tops, leggings, and accessories with just a few taps. CeliaB integrates its Facebook Shop with its Wix storefront using our native Facebook Shop integration functionality.
02. Ivory Paper Company
What’s compelling about planners, stationary and goal organizers? Plenty if you’re shopping on social media with Ivory Paper Company, a Wix user.
In addition to having Instagram and Facebook shops, the company infuses personality into its social feeds, talking to consumer pain points and also giving users an inside look at the inner workings of the company through entertaining and enthusiastic posts, reels, and videos.
You know those fun cat videos that make headlines on social media—Wix user PETKIT has found a way to turn them into a social commerce powerhouse. A seller of smart pet supplies, PETKIT sells on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, where their delightful videos bring smiles and attract followers even before they’re introduced to one of PETKIT’s products.
Tips for building a successful social commerce strategy
Whether you’re running your own online store or selling products through a third-party retailer like Amazon, you can use social commerce to increase your revenue and extend your brand. A few tips to build a successful social commerce strategy:
Choose the right platforms
You don’t need to be (and likely shouldn’t be) on every social media platform. Rather than taking a spray-and-pray approach, look at the demographics of each channel and prioritize the channels that attract your target shopper.
Choose the right products
Consider whether your products are the right fit for social commerce. If you sell apparel, accessories, electronics, home decor, cosmetics, or impulse buys that are often purchased on the spot, social commerce will likely pay big dividends. If you sell products that require a longer path-to-purchase, social commerce may not help you make direct sales, but it still plays a role in keeping your products top-of-mind with your target audience.
Yes, social commerce is all about driving revenue, but a hard sell won’t work. Your shoppable ads and other content should be conversational in tone and feel like they’re from a friend, not from a corporate marketing department. Social media is, after all, rooted in the idea of being social. Be personable. Be engaging. Let your brand sell itself.
Watch your feed for reactions and comments. When a buyer requests help or more information, respond quickly. Find ways to give customers incentives for posting reviews. Make sure that the experience you give your customers on social media offers the same level of attention and responsiveness as on any other channel.
With easy integrations, ready-made social posts, and more, the Wix eCommerce platform is designed to help you become a social commerce superstar. Start now.
Head of Outbound Marketing, Wix eCommerce
Bogar leads thought leadership and outbound marketing for Wix eCommerce. He has an extremely soft spot for all things eCommerce, retail, tech, content, and marketing.