Despite the continued hype around social media, retailers are still figuring out how to best drive sustainable e-commerce purchases via social media. In 2015, we saw major developments including Pinterest’s launch of the “Buy it” button  and Instagram’s expanded ad program. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube also made their sites and apps more eCommerce-friendly with the addition of new buy buttons.
While social commerce may still only drive a small fraction of retail sales, small businesses can’t ignore its impact. According to  the Internet Retailer’s Social Media 500 report, the top 500 retailers earned $3.3 billion from social shopping in 2014, a 26 percent increase over 2013, well ahead of the average 16 percent growth rate for eCommerce. Analysts predict the jump in 2016 may be even greater. Keep a close eye on these three platforms.
Think Pinterest is still for Etsy shop owners and recipe swappers? Think again. As of October 2015, there were more than 60 million “shop-able” pins on Pinterest. The company announced plans to expand its buy button program  so any commerce company that uses software from Bigcommerce, IBM Commerce, and Magento can now add the “buy button” to their Pinterest pins. Pinterest already has full integration with Shopify and Demandware, along with popular retailers like Macy’s, Nordstroms, Bloomingdale’s and Wayfair, reports  Fortune.
Pinterest users’ average order value is $123.50 , which is about 126 percent more than Facebook users’ $54.64 average order value, reports a  2014 study by Javelin Strategy & Research. And while major retailers like Macy’s are making big waves on Pinterest, there’s still a place for smaller businesses or companies with a non-traditional retail business model.
Online consignment store Swap.com  uses its Swap Pinterest boards to showcase fun swap ideas, like baby shower gifts, DIY projects and seasonally-appropriate boards for back-to-school and holiday shopping. Pinterest is still big for lifestyle curation and brand development. Small business owner Hannah Krum, aka “The Kombucha Mamma” uses her boards  to share everything from her favorite whole food recipes with Kombucha Kamp to her passion for fermented drinks and smoothies.
Instagram is the hottest social media network around and it’s ads represent a massive opportunity for driving a highly engaged audience to relevant product pages, including the new Instagram Partner Program  for business users. Nike Women’s Instagram  feed masterfully integrates its content into inspirational posts featuring female athletes. Nike wisely skips text overlays that would otherwise make the ad feel too much like a product pitch and instead lets the images do the talking.
With hashtags like #ootd (outfit of the day), Nike’s ads are instantly searchable and generate a huge following; plus, the company has launched a dedicated “Instagram Shop” where followers can purchase the gear seen in the Instagram posts. The shop looks identical to the Instagram feed, when users click on a photo in the shop’s gallery, they’ll be taken to the product pages for each item.
Non-retail brands can get in on the action, too. Even without a product to showcase, non-retail brands can succeed at building brand awareness by creating aspirational content. American Express does a great job of targeting adventurous Millennials with its Instagram posts showing aspirational adventure travel and user-generated content for “member moments .” Who wouldn’t want an American Express card to take them on a travel adventure?
The social media behemoth continues to innovate the social media commerce and ad-targeting space. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Facebook rolled out a new targeting platform that lets brands zero in on users who are highly engaged with shopping, including during the coveted Black Friday to Cyber Monday period. Instagram advertising, which is closely linked to Facebook’s platform, is also offering the same targeting options. The new audience segment can be accessed through Facebook’s self-service ad dashboard; go to the “Seasonal and Events” category and then select the “Behaviors” section. This targeting option is reminiscent of Facebook’s Super Bowl ad targeting earlier in 2015 with the “Big Game” segment.
Social commerce is set to explode in 2016. From small businesses to major retail brands, social is already driving much bigger increases in retail traffic than any other online channel. Retailers who want to maintain their edge — or get on board for the first time — will need a diversified approach that includes Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.
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