What is Social Commerce?

2020 social media advertising

If the past holiday season was any indication, social commerce is set to surge. According to research from Smartly.io, a social media advertising automation platform, consumers are now shopping via social media. And social advertising influences their purchases. So, what exactly does social commerce include?

What is Social Commerce?

Social commerce is the term for the buying and selling of items and services on social media networks. Back in 2015, Small Business Trends noticed the growth of social commerce activities. Social networks offered “Buy It” buttons for businesses to add to their pages in time for the holidays.

Since then, businesses have found phenomenal success with social commerce from shoppers reaching out to learn more about a product to taking orders and payments through a social app.

It’s smart to create a social commerce strategy since studies show social networks influence 74 percent of consumers’ purchasing decisions.

Social commerce examples are numerous, including:

  • Providing chat boxes so consumers can ask about products and services
  • Groups pages and forums for buying and selling
  • Making electronic payments available via social networks
  • Listing local products on Facebook Marketplace
  • Product Pins with prices displayed on Pinterest
  • Buyable Pins to buy products directly from Pinterest
  • YouTube videos with Google shopping ads below
  • Coupon codes and links to products on Instagram

What Works in Social Commerce?

When Smartly.io asked consumers what top factors influenced their decision to buy a product through a social media ad, 35 percent said a compelling or engaging video, animation or image mattered the most, followed by customer testimonials (32 percent) and influencer participation (26 percent).

Because social media is all about the visuals, the most popular product categories for social selling are apparel and accessories (17 percent), electronics (15 percent), beauty/wellness (11 percent) and home goods (10 percent).

What is Social Commerce?

What Are the Main Platforms?

Buffer.com says the key social commerce platform players are Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Snapchat recently added a shopping channel called “Shop and Cop,” which allows mobile users to browse products and buy directly in the app instead of being directed to a separate website. Other platforms offer social commerce features such as:

  • Facebook: In addition to buying ads on Facebook, businesses can also change the template of their pages to a shopping template. After providing a few details about your business such as what you sell, where you’re located and how payment is accepted, you simply add a product and you’ve created a Facebook Shop. Adding a product is also easy, you just need a title, product details, an image, and inventory and shipping info.
  • Instagram: Because Instagram is owned by Facebook, once you set up shop on Facebook, Instagram social commerce just takes a few more steps. Make sure the Instagram account is a business account and connect to your Facebook account through the settings. In Facebook you need to connect to Instagram through the Facebook Ads Manager settings.
  • Pinterest: Last year, Pinterest rebranded its third-party partner program “Pinterest Partners” to initiate more shopping experiences. Partners now provide services such as advertising, content marketing, measurement, creative and shopping in more categories. WooCommerce is now a Pinterest Partner and helps businesses set up e-commerce experiences.
Social Commerce PlatformDescription
InstagramInstagram is a prominent social commerce platform, offering features like Instagram Shopping. Businesses can set up shops on Instagram, and users can browse and purchase products directly through the app. To get started, ensure your Instagram account is a business account and connect it to your Facebook account via settings. Integration with Facebook Ads Manager allows for efficient management of ads and promotions.
PinterestPinterest has rebranded its third-party partner program as "Pinterest Partners" to enhance shopping experiences. Partners now offer services such as advertising, content marketing, measurement, creative solutions, and shopping features across various categories. Businesses can leverage these partnerships to set up e-commerce experiences on Pinterest and reach a wide audience interested in discovering and buying products.
FacebookFacebook offers robust social commerce capabilities. Businesses can create Facebook Shops by customizing their page templates. After providing essential business details, such as products, location, and payment methods, adding products to your shop is straightforward. You'll need product details, images, inventory, and shipping information. Facebook also provides opportunities for advertising and promoting products directly to users.
SnapchatSnapchat has introduced a shopping channel called "Shop and Cop," enabling mobile users to browse and purchase products within the app. This feature streamlines the shopping experience by eliminating the need to redirect users to external websites. Snapchat's innovative approach to social commerce offers a unique platform for businesses looking to engage with a younger, mobile-savvy audience.

What is Social Commerce?

Benefits of Social Commerce

With billions of users and the numbers growing daily, social media platforms are a must for any successful growth strategy. Plus, since social media increases website traffic, social commerce efforts can lead to a higher search engine ranking.

The benefits don’t stop there. Social commerce puts your brand in front of consumers on a frequent basis.  And it gives consumers the opportunity to communicate with your business—to ask questions and get product advice. Use social commerce to build solid relationships and engage with prospective customers.

As you ramp up your social commerce efforts, it’s important to take an omnichannel approach to drive sales. Consumers may learn of a new product or service through social media, but actually make the purchase elsewhere.

Keeping track of sales and studying the metrics on your social commerce campaigns can help you  improve marketing strategies and boost brand recognition.

Implementing Effective Social Commerce Strategies

Developing and implementing effective social commerce strategies is crucial for businesses looking to maximize their online presence and sales potential through social media platforms. Here are key steps to consider:

  • Identify Your Target Audience: Understanding who your customers are and where they spend their time on social media is crucial. Tailor your social commerce efforts to platforms where your target audience is most active.
  • Leverage User-Generated Content: Encourage your customers to share their experiences with your products. User-generated content like reviews, unboxing videos, and product usage posts can significantly influence potential buyers.
  • Utilize Influencer Marketing: Partnering with influencers who resonate with your brand can help you reach a larger audience. Influencers can showcase your products in a more relatable and authentic manner, driving sales.
  • Offer Exclusive Social Media Deals: Create special offers or discounts exclusively for your social media followers. This not only incentivizes purchases but also encourages more users to follow your social media profiles.
  • Invest in Social Media Advertisements: Paid social ads can help you reach a broader audience beyond your followers. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook offer advanced targeting options to reach potential customers based on their interests, behaviors, and demographics.

Overcoming Challenges in Social Commerce

While social commerce offers numerous opportunities, businesses may encounter several challenges. Addressing these effectively is key to a successful social commerce strategy:

  • Maintaining Consistent Brand Messaging: Ensure that your social commerce initiatives align with your overall brand message and values. Consistency across platforms helps in building a strong brand identity.
  • Handling Customer Service Efficiently: Social commerce can lead to an increase in customer inquiries and feedback. Establishing a responsive and efficient customer service system is essential to address queries and resolve issues promptly.
  • Navigating Platform Limitations: Each social media platform has its own set of rules and limitations for commerce. Stay updated with platform policies and explore creative ways to showcase your products within those constraints.
  • Ensuring Data Security and Privacy: With the increase in online transactions, safeguarding customer data is paramount. Implement robust security measures and comply with data protection regulations to build trust with your customers.

Measuring the Success of Social Commerce Efforts

To ensure that your social commerce strategy is delivering the desired outcomes, it’s important to track and measure its performance. Here are metrics and tools to consider:

  • Engagement Rates: Monitor likes, comments, shares, and views to gauge how users are interacting with your social commerce posts and ads.
  • Conversion Rates: Track the percentage of social media interactions that lead to actual sales. This helps in understanding the effectiveness of your social commerce campaigns.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Calculate the ROI of your social commerce initiatives by comparing the revenue generated from social media sales to the investment made in social media marketing and advertising.
  • Customer Satisfaction and Feedback: Collect and analyze customer feedback from social media to understand their satisfaction levels and areas for improvement.

What is Social Commerce?

The Future of Social Commerce

The landscape of e-commerce is continually evolving, and social commerce is no exception. As we step into the future, several trends and developments are poised to shape the world of social commerce:

  • Integration of Augmented Reality (AR): Augmented reality is set to play a pivotal role in the future of social commerce. Imagine trying on clothes virtually or visualizing how a piece of furniture fits in your living room through your smartphone. AR experiences will become increasingly common, enhancing the shopping process and reducing uncertainty about online purchases.
  • Enhanced Personalization: Social media platforms are becoming more adept at leveraging user data to deliver personalized shopping experiences. Tailored product recommendations, dynamic content, and individualized offers will become the norm, making shopping more relevant and engaging for users.
  • Live Shopping Experiences: Live streaming and real-time shopping events will gain popularity. Brands and influencers will host live sessions where viewers can interact, ask questions, and make purchases directly during the broadcast. This immersive shopping experience will bridge the gap between online and offline retail.
  • Social Commerce and Sustainability: As environmental consciousness grows, social commerce platforms will emphasize sustainability. Brands that incorporate eco-friendly practices into their products and messaging will appeal to socially conscious consumers. Expect to see more eco-friendly products and initiatives promoted through social commerce.
  • Voice Commerce Integration: With the rise of smart speakers and voice assistants, voice commerce will become integrated into social commerce platforms. Shoppers will be able to use voice commands to search for products, compare prices, and make purchases seamlessly.
  • Advanced Chatbots and AI: Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence will become more sophisticated in handling customer inquiries and assisting with purchases. They will provide personalized product recommendations, answer questions, and offer support, enhancing the overall shopping experience.
  • Social Payment Solutions: Integrated payment options within social platforms will simplify the checkout process. Users will be able to make purchases without leaving their favorite social apps, increasing convenience and reducing cart abandonment rates.
  • Expanding Social Networks: While platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest have been pioneers in social commerce, emerging social networks will also enter the arena. Keep an eye on new players that may offer unique opportunities for brands to connect with their target audiences.
Future Trends in Social CommerceDescription
Augmented Reality (AR) IntegrationAR will enable virtual try-ons and product visualization, enhancing the online shopping experience.
Enhanced PersonalizationSocial platforms will use data for tailored recommendations and offers, making shopping more relevant to individual users.
Live Shopping ExperiencesLive streaming and real-time shopping events will allow interaction and immediate purchases during broadcasts.
Social Commerce and SustainabilityBrands will emphasize eco-friendly practices, and eco-conscious products will gain prominence in social commerce.
Voice Commerce IntegrationVoice commands on social platforms will enable users to search, compare, and make purchases via voice assistants.
Advanced Chatbots and AIAI-powered chatbots will offer personalized product recommendations, answer queries, and enhance the overall shopping experience.
Social Payment SolutionsIntegrated payment options within social apps will simplify checkout processes and reduce cart abandonment rates.
Expanding Social NetworksEmerging social networks will enter the social commerce arena, providing additional opportunities for brands to connect with their target audiences.

What is Social Commerce?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is social commerce?

Social commerce refers to the practice of buying and selling products and services through social media platforms. It involves using social networks as a means to discover, research, and make online purchases.

How does social commerce work?

Social commerce typically involves businesses setting up online shops or integrating e-commerce features into their social media profiles. Users can browse products, read reviews, and make purchases without leaving the platform.

What are some examples of social commerce?

Social commerce examples include buy buttons on Facebook and Instagram, shopping tags on posts, influencer collaborations, and live shopping events on platforms like TikTok and YouTube.

What are the benefits of social commerce for businesses?

Social commerce offers businesses the advantages of reaching a vast audience, personalized marketing, increased brand visibility, and the potential for higher conversion rates. It also facilitates direct communication with customers.

Are social commerce and e-commerce the same thing?

While both involve online buying and selling, social commerce and e-commerce differ in terms of platform. E-commerce typically refers to online shopping on dedicated websites, while social commerce takes place within social media platforms.

Is social commerce secure for making payments?

Social commerce platforms prioritize security and often partner with trusted payment gateways. Ensure you shop from reputable sellers and use secure payment methods to enhance security.

What role does user-generated content (UGC) play in social commerce?

UGC, such as reviews, images, and videos posted by customers, can significantly impact purchasing decisions. It builds trust and authenticity around products and brands.

Can I return products purchased through social commerce?

Return policies may vary among businesses. Always check the return and refund policies provided by the seller when making a purchase through social commerce.

How is social commerce evolving in the future?

The future of social commerce is expected to incorporate augmented reality, enhanced personalization, live shopping experiences, sustainability initiatives, voice commerce, advanced AI-powered chatbots, integrated payment solutions, and the expansion of social networks involved in buying and selling.

What should businesses do to succeed in social commerce?

To succeed in social commerce, businesses should focus on creating engaging content, building strong relationships with customers, embracing emerging technologies, staying updated with trends, and providing excellent customer service within social platforms.

Image: Depositphotos.com

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

8 Reactions
  1. This is where you sell through social media. It has worked even in the old Friendster days. And it continues until today.

  2. Well, a very good post with informative information. I really appreciate the fact that you approach these topics from a standpoint of knowledge and information.

  3. Yes!
    No doubt, this post is very helpful. Thanks for sharing useful, unique ideas with us.

  4. Thank you so much admin for sharing your ideas with us. It’s very useful information for us.

  5. I LOVE using LinkinBio in tandem with later.com for ecommerce social media work. If you’re posting the same content/products accross multiple platforms it provides a single link for users to scroll, shop, and click to the online store to purchase.

  6. A lot of people simply use social media for “search”, especially during the holiday season for finding products to purchase, and brands to source.

  7. this is very good article, i have searched so many areas abou these content, finally got the right one, thanks for the writeup.

  8. i got complete idea about socila commmerce from these

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