Social Commerce: What is it?

It’s estimated that the average person will spend about five years of their life on social media. Little wonder then that retailers are taking to the social networks to sell their wares! This post will take a look at social commerce and explain exactly what it is, where you can do it, and why it works.

What is social commerce?

In a nutshell, social commerce simply refers to buying and selling on social media sites and apps. While the mechanics of this varies from platform to platform, the key idea is that a purchase can be made within the social media environment.

It’s important to point out that its not the social media platform that’s doing the selling, it’s the retailer. Rather the social media platform acts as a conduit, and provides the retailer with a shopfront within the specific social media environment.

This feature comes in different forms on different platforms, which we’ll look at below.

What is a social commerce platform?

A social commerce platform is simply a social media platform on which retailers (or any business users) can sell products. The big three are currently Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Pinterest “Shop the Look” pins allows shoppers to find items exactly the same as or similar to items in a post pinned in this way. Facebook’s “Shop Now” stores are more similar to traditional retailer online stores, but the shopper can browse without having to leave the app, though the shopper will be directed to the online store to complete their purchase. 

Instagram features “digital price labels” which essentially allow you to build your own storefront on Instagram. These put a small bag icon next to posts which links to the product website. Instagram also recently introduced a feature which gives users the option to checkout directly on Instagram (without the need to leave the app)

While in its relative infancy, social commerce is set to grow quickly. 60% of user claim they discover products on Instagram, wile a third of users say they’d be happy to shop through a social media platform.

Why does social commerce work?

Reduces friction associated with online shopping: Users just have to hit a few buttons without the need to input payment. With comments next to the product, the research phase is also shortened.

Enables online retailers to reach new markets: The speed and ease with which retailers can directly test new markets make social commerce a viable long-term strategy.

Generates buzz around new products: Shopping is a social activity. Showcasing products directly to vocal potential customers can create lots of buzz.

Enables retailers to offer streamlined stores: Social media platforms provide in-depth analytics reports and tracking tools which allow retailers to tailor their offerings to their audiences.

Allows for personalized customer experience: Social media platforms also have lots of personalization features which can improve the efficacy of ads and posts.

Adds another channel for customers: Social commerce enables retailers to reach customers via their preferred outlet.

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