Shopping has always been an inherently social activity, and traditional e-commerce took the charm away.
But even the internet couldn’t stop people from bringing their friends with them to shop online.
And this is where social commerce comes in.
So, what exactly is social commerce? And why should you care?
What is Social Commerce?
Social commerce by definition is the integration of e-commerce with social media platforms.
Simply put, it means buying and selling on social media.
Social commerce is growing. In fact, it has been growing since a long time now. And it’s not about to stop anytime soon.
A study of thousands of American buyers revealed that 30% of online shoppers said they were likely to buy through a social media platform, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat.
The study also revealed that millennials, who represent about one-fourth of the US population, love ‘social shopping’. Around 67% of millennials said they preferred shopping online than in-store.
This is also why millennials are referred to as the real force behind the growth of social commerce.
Here is a detailed look at some of the most popular social commerce channels according to the study:
Community-style social commerce sites like Polyvore and Wanelo also have the potential to bring in sales for some businesses. Although less popular than most other platforms, they are great for some niche brands with a very specific audience.
Facebook is the most popular social commerce platform out there, and for good reason too. It has the largest user base, which offers businesses a lot of exposure.
Not only was it the first social network to introduce the ‘Buy’ button, the platform also gives businesses an option to open up a ‘Shop’ directly on their Facebook page.
But this isn’t the only reason Facebook is dominating the social commerce space.
It also offers amazing advertising features, like advanced targeting and analytics. Facebook ads are very popular. In fact, around 58% of consumers engage with Facebook ads once a week before deciding to buy from small businesses.
Customers can also pay directly through Facebook, which makes ‘f-commerce’ extremely convenient for both buyers and sellers.
Pinterest has always been a favorite of retailers.
This comes as no surprise, especially because of its targeted consumer base of women aged 18-30. The visual platform features product Pins from tons of brands and businesses, and even handicraft sellers.
But that’s not all.
Pinterest now also offers ‘Buyable Pins’, which allow customers to buy products directly on the platform without being redirected to another website.
Businesses can promote these pins, and add details to it like product photos, availability, price, and a ‘Buy it’ button to attract more customers.
No wonder Instagram is also catching up to the growing social commerce trend. It offers much higher engagement than Facebook and Twitter.
Another reason Instagram is getting popular for shopping activities is that it is built for mobile users. Most of the social commerce taking place these days is on mobile devices.
But when it comes to shopping features, Instagram is still lagging behind.
After introducing the ‘Shop Now’ button, which takes users to the brand’s website to make a purchase, Instagram is currently in the process of rolling out their new ‘Product Tag’ feature.
This feature will let brands add multiple product tags to photos displaying prices and clickable links. Users can click on the links to view more details about the products and buy them through the brand’s website.
Currently, the Product Tag feature is only available to some businesses in the US. Let’s hope Instagram makes it available for everyone soon!
How Social Commerce Can Benefit Your Business
Social media is a place where people can easily share their opinions and recommend brands to their friends and family. It offers the greatest tool to businesses and marketers: word-of-mouth.
But that’s not the only reason social commerce is growing so rapidly.
Most social networks now offer amazing tools for both buyers and sellers. Payment methods, listings, ads, analytics, ‘Buy Now’ buttons, it’s all there.
In short, social media has changed the way people shop online.
And businesses need to keep up.
In case you’re still wondering why social commerce matters, here are some incredible benefits it has for businesses:
1. Drive Authentic Engagement
Social networks open the doors for two-way communication between brands and customers. It allows businesses to relate, not just sell.
Not only is your content regularly showing up in your customers’ news feeds, they are also able to interact with it by liking, commenting, tagging their friends, or sharing it among their circles.
Better yet, brands are able to respond to them.
For e-commerce businesses, this offers a lot of opportunity. It brings brands closer to customers and helps them connect on a more personal level.
Check out this great example of how the online furniture store Wayfair used user-generated content (UGC) on Instagram to engage its customers:
Wayfair posted images of its customers using their products along with an attractive caption to lure in more customers. That’s an excellent strategy to make existing customers feel special, and a great way to showcase their products in actual real-life context.
Engaging content like videos, polls, and contests are also do wonders to make your audience engage with and feel connected to your brand.
Throw in personalized ads, customer appreciation, and easy feedback and response, and your customers will eventually start to feel like they are part of your family, instead of just your customers.
2. Get More Happy Customers
Imagine going out shopping with your friends, and getting their opinions before you buy something. Chances are, you’ll be much happier with your purchase than if you bought it on your own.
This is exactly how social commerce works.
On social media, customers are more likely to read reviews, opinions and comments posted by previous customers before making a purchase decision. They are much more aware of what to expect when they hit the ‘Buy’ button.
Check out how this hotel has enabled Facebook Reviews on its page:
Customers who stay at the hotel leave reviews, ratings and details about their stay there, so newcomers can take a look and get a better idea of what to expect.
This ultimately leads to informed purchase decisions and higher customer satisfaction. For e-commerce store, this also significantly reduces the chances of customers returning the products they buy.
3. Build Deeper Trust & Loyalty
Here’s the truth. People trust other people more than brands.
If you have a lot of satisfied customers leaving good reviews and comments about your business on your social media page, potential customers are more likely to trust you and buy your products.
On the other hand, your existing, satisfied customers are more likely to make repeat purchases.
Here’s another cool fact: 4 out of 10 people follow their favorite brands on social media.
Even if they aren’t loyal customers yet, they are offering brands an opportunity to develop deeper trust and better relationships with them, ultimately winning their loyalty.
Here is how Bershka, a fashion retailer, uses Instagram Stories to build better relationships with their customers:
Posting behind-the-scenes footage and live stories like Bershka can help your business come across as more human and transparent. It can help your customers relate to you and make them feel a special connection with your brand.
4. Enhance Customer Experience with a Frictionless Checkout
Some social networks like Facebook and Pinterest let people buy directly through the platform, instead of redirecting them to a website where they have to sign up or fill out long, boring forms every single time.
Take Pinterest’s checkout process for example. You browse the platform, see something you like, press the ‘Buy’ button, and make your purchase right then and there. The payment process is a breeze. Shopping is seamless.
This frictionless checkout made possible by our favorite ‘Buy’ button can greatly enhance the customer experience. It’s simple and easy. Especially when compared to the traditional e-commerce checkout process.
5. Boost Average Order Value
Integrating social commerce with your existing channels is a proven strategy to increase sales.
It’s also a great way to increase your average order value, the average dollar amount a customer spends upon placing an order from your store.
Shopify studied the AOV of multiple social media platforms. Here’s what they found:
Surprisingly, Polyvore had the highest AOV of all platforms, followed closely by Instagram.
The point is, social media can convince shoppers to spend more.
First of all, it’s so easy! Customers can seamlessly shop directly through their smartphones, regardless of where they are.
But more importantly, all the social proof around your brand and its products can greatly influence the purchase decisions of your customers. Think reviews, testimonials, general discussions, pictures, and more.
6. Make More Sales via Mobile Shoppers
93% of social media users access social through mobile.
And social commerce makes it possible for them to purchase your products on the go.
Think about it. Nearly all social media platforms are optimized for a great mobile experience. Plus, mobile devices are super handy, and can turn passive social browsers into excited, spontaneous customers. Imagine how significantly this can boost your sales.
Plus, mobile shopping also makes it easier for customers to compare products or consult their friends and family regardless of where they are.
This can also explain why Instagram, a social platform built especially for mobile, has a much higher average order value than others platforms, like Facebook.
7. Get Shared & Recommended
Customers can easily share and recommend your brand on social media if they are happy with your products. This helps you gain more popularity and customers, and that too free of cost!
Social commerce offers a lot of opportunity for businesses who strive to keep their customers happy.
But remember, where happy customers can drive more sales, unhappy ones can do the complete opposite by leaving bad reviews and badmouthing your brand.
Sometimes, even the best brands can find themselves a victim of bad customer feedback. The key is to deal with it effectively.
Here is a great example of JetBlue Airways showing us how to handle negative customer feedback professionally:
What makes this response so great is how the company responded and compensated for the customer’s loss immediately. Plus, the empathy in their response also shows the customer they care.
If you focus on great customer service and sell products that people will be likely to share and recommend to their peers, social commerce can do wonders for your brand’s image, popularity and sales.
8. Reach a Global Audience
That’s the thing about social media. It has no geographical boundaries.
For online businesses targeting an international audience, there’s no better platform to promote and sell their products on than social media.
Just imagine, Facebook alone has over 2 billion users worldwide, and the platform is also available in 101 languages.
The best part is, you can tailor your ads to target customers from anywhere you want.
People from all over the world come together to discuss their interests on social media, and brands are no exception.
Social commerce makes expanding your market and going global seem like a breeze compared to traditional e-commerce.
The opportunities for businesses to grow with social commerce are endless. The key is to do it right.
Social commerce is a trend that’s not going to stop growing anytime soon, and businesses have started to realize the importance of integrating it with their existing channels.
To keep up with the competition, you need to come up with a solid social commerce plan and strategy. People are changing the way they shop online, and you need to make the most of it before it’s too late.