Why Should E-Commerce Brands Offer Social Shopping Opportunities?

Imagine scrolling through your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest feed when suddenly there’s a sponsored post that catches your eye. Maybe it’s a dress that’s perfect for an upcoming wedding, a new dog food that will improve your aging chihuahua’s stiff joints, or a sleek console that’ll make the perfect holiday gift for any gamer. Fortunately, the post includes a “shop” button that takes you immediately to the item’s product page. In seconds, you’re able to complete the purchase in the app. And there it is: another successful social shopping transaction.

Unlike traditional social media marketing, social shopping lets customers checkout directly from social platforms. Beyond targeted ads and shoppable posts, it can also include livestreams, AR/VR experiences, and in-app stores that make it easy and fun for people to purchase products or services that grab their attention and may also be recommended or inspired by friends, family, and influencers they trust.

The term “social shopping” has existed for over a decade, and yet some retailers have been more cautious about jumping on the bandwagon, perhaps out of concern that social shopping may soon hit its ceiling. But its impact on e-commerce can no longer be ignored. This is especially true now as companies like Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube are continually developing new online shopping features to streamline the entire experience.

Social Shopping by the Numbers

In the wake of the pandemic, people are spending even more time on social media. In December 2021, TikTok surpassed Google as the world’s most visited website.

As a result, social shopping opportunities are rapidly expanding, and a growing number of consumers are embracing them. A recent poll performed by Sprout Social found that about 8 in 10 business executives expect to be selling their products or services via social platforms within the next three years.

According to Statista, in 2020 there were 80 million social buyers in the US, a 30% increase over 2019. In 2021, 68% of consumers made at least one purchase from social media, and a whopping 98% said they planned to make at least one purchase through social shopping or influencer commerce in 2022.

In fact, in 2022, US social commerce sales are expected to reach $45.74 billion.

Looking even further ahead, by 2025 social shopping is expected to become a $1.2 trillion channel, growing at a rate over 2.5 times faster than traditional e-commerce.

If we look at the stats in terms of specific platforms, the numbers support this rosy prediction. A recent study by Constant Comment and Chadwick Martin Bailey surveyed Twitter users who follow at least one brand on Twitter, and 50% of them said they are more likely to buy from brands they follow on Twitter.

In addition, according to Statista, more than 200 million Instagrammers visit at least one Business Profile daily, and 80% of weekly Pinners on Pinterest say they have discovered a new brand or product on Pinterest.

In 2019, Amazon launched Amazon Live, an interactive livestream shopping service, as well as “The Drop,” a style section led by prominent influencers.

And let’s not forget Facebook. Two-thirds of its roughly 2.9 billion active users visit a local business’s page at least once per week. That’s probably why 54% of marketers who use Facebook rate it as the most important social network for marketers.

Finally, investigating social shopping’s effect on e-commerce worldwide shows that it is truly a global phenomenon. According to Apptopia’s data shared on Marketplace Pulse, in 2021, Singapore’s Shopee and India’s Meesho, two e-commerce platforms, became the first and third biggest global shopping apps.

What Social Shopping Experiences are Consumers Enjoying Right Now?

The beauty of social shopping is that it enables any individual, company, or brand, from small business owners and influencers/entrepreneurs to large corporations, to make direct connections with potential customers. Here are just a few of the many examples of social shopping changing the e-commerce landscape:

Taking advantage of Instagram’s prowess as a visually driven social channel, brands like Uoma Beauty offer multiple social shopping options, such as this shoppable post that allows users to buy products directly from its Instagram page.

Founded in 2018, Verishop positions itself as a kind of digital shopping mall that gives consumers access to thousands of independent brands via one centralized “shop the feed” option. They currently have just under 85,000 followers.

Peter Thomas Roth’s Eye Tightener got over five million likes and over 34 million views on TikTok after a user gave it a positive review.

And then there’s Nike. To try and reach more Gen Z women, they recently tested out a community-based app called NbG, (Nothing but Gold) in private beta mode to bring together content on style, sport, and self-care, and make it a snap to shop directly within the app.

How Can Social Shopping Work for Your Brand? 

Social shopping makes it easier for your brand to meet potential customers exactly where they are. Once those customers like what they see, social shopping streamlines the purchasing process. This element is key, because more than half of all internet traffic is from mobile devices, and mobile users are more likely to abandon their cart before checking out than desktop users. That’s where social shopping comes in: it makes it easier to create single pathways to purchase, helping to prevent abandoned checkouts. Once those purchases go through, it’s also easier for consumers to leave reviews and feedback in one centralized location, which can help attract new buyers.

There are currently multiple opportunities to create new types of shopping experiences that will engage influencers and consumers alike. And while it’s worth taking the time to craft a social commerce plan that complements and reflects your specific brand and product type–an experience that features skincare products might look very different than one focused on electronics–there are a range of approaches that will work for most retailers.

It starts with knowing your target consumer and then picking the platform that’s most likely to attract them. Here are three quick ways to get started:

Facebook’s social commerce tool, Facebook Shops, is a great entry level option because the Shops are free to set up. They’re also hosted within your Facebook business profile for seamless integration.

Instagram Shopping is equally easy to set up and directly linked to your Facebook Shop. Users first link their Instagram business account to their Facebook business profile. Then they can either upload a current product catalog or create one.

Product Pins are shoppable posts that look like regular Pinterest pins but include pricing and availability information. These are not as direct as some other shopping options, but they do take the user to a product page where they can quickly complete their purchase.

Whatever form it takes, social shopping keeps things simple yet exciting for consumers, leading to more engaging experiences that have the potential to foster and maintain brand attachment, loyalty, and trust.

Of course, social shopping is still evolving and how it will ultimately compare to traditional e-commerce platforms remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it’s poised to become an integral part of any modern brand’s suite of sales and engagement tools.

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