What is Social Commerce and How Can You Use It?

Social media is now one of the largest and most active marketplaces in the world. It provides a seamless, focused, and direct customer experience where users can easily discover new products and buy them in a few clicks.  

Selling products directly through social media should never be overlooked. In 2020, the social commerce market was valued at $89.4 billion and was projected to grow to $604.5 billion in the next 7 years. According to 2021 Statista data, 11% of users immediately purchase products they discover on social media while 44% purchase later. This could translate into huge sales for any company across various industries. Thanks to the global pandemic, this trend has risen even more with the EMarketer’s Social Commerce 2021 report estimating the growth of US social commerce buyers to 80 million in 2020 and 96 million in 2022.  

What is Social Commerce? 

Social commerce is the process of selling products directly on social media through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. With social commerce, the entire shopping experience takes place on a social media platform.  

This eliminates any barriers to purchasing such as being redirected too many times or slow loading times on external sites. Platforms have been quick to support this growing phenomenon. Instagram encourages in-app purchases by offering features to save payment details and simplify check-out pages. Facebook has a thriving Facebook Marketplace where buyers and sellers can easily connect and make transactions without leaving the app.  

Why Does Social Commerce Work? 

Purchases on social media are greatly driven by impulse buying, especially when the price is right. While scrolling on their personal newsfeeds, the users are shown products they want together with a “buy now” button to complete their purchase. It’s easy, effortless, and instant. You don’t even need to visit the brand’s website.  

Apart from these customized ads, user-generated content from other customers and influencers plays a huge role in driving social commerce. The younger generation trusts influencer marketing a lot more than traditional advertising.  

Gen Z is more likely to purchase something promoted by their favorite models or celebrities on Instagram. They see the posts by influencers as social proof of the product’s value and credibility.  Posts and stories with shoppable tags and links lead to impulse purchases. 

Where does social commerce take place?  

Social commerce is available to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest. YouTube is also testing features such as shoppable links and tags on video content. With a professional account, users can create a shop on social media and sell their products and services instantly.  

Social commerce is very similar on Facebook and Instagram. On these two social media platforms, you can tag items from your shop on your photos and videos so that users can tap to purchase. When users tap the item, they can easily see the product details including the name and price. Clicking on these tags will take them directly to the social commerce store. This feature works on regular posts as well as Instagram Stories and Reels. You can currently tag up to 30 items on a post.  

Social commerce looks a bit different on TikTok. On TikTok, users can add a shopping tab to their profile if they link it to a Shopify account. Once connected, they can add a tab that pulls products from their Shopify catalog, allowing TikTok users to browse without leaving the app. When they have decided to purchase, it is easy to navigate to the correct online store for checkout. This feature is currently available for TikTok Business accounts in the US. It is being tested in other countries with an expected rollout later in 2022.  

Pinterest uniquely does social commerce too. On Pinterest, there’s a Product Pin that features products that are available to buy from the merchants listed in the Pins. These could lead you to the retailer’s website or purchase the products directly without leaving Pinterest. In the US, there is also a Buy button that can appear below a Pin. This allows you to purchase and checkout without leaving Pinterest using your iOS or Android device.  

Social commerce is perfect for almost all physical products. It has caused breakthrough sales for apparel and accessories, electronics, cosmetics, home décor and consumer goods. However, it isn’t a catch-all strategy that would work for every brand.  

Social commerce is usually not allowed for digital products, events, and services, as well as some prohibited items such as alcohol, selected healthcare products, and subscriptions. Every social media site has its own set of rules and regulations regarding social commerce so it’s best to do your research for your brand. If your product is rejected by a social media platform, they will usually tell you why. They will also allow you to appeal the decision. 

How Can You Use Social Commerce?  

Every social media platform has a different setup when it comes to social commerce. The first step to setting up your social commerce is to see if your products meet the requirements of each platform. Once you’ve identified the right platforms to sell your products on, it’s time to set up your shops.  

Be sure to fill out all the details and create beautiful, interactive, and easy-to-navigate stores to keep your audience interested.  

How to get started with social commerce 

A good place to start is to review which platforms you’d like to use for social commerce and see if your products meet the merchant requirements of each platform. 

If your products are eligible, go through the steps to create your shops, taking good care to create attractive easy-to-navigate social shops with plenty of product detail. Consider utilizing influencers, and advertising, and leveraging your organic content to drive new followers and all-important conversions into purchases. 

For Instagram and Facebook, social commerce setup is done through Meta Business Suite. This powers a single catalog that lets you manage your inventory and sales. Here, you can easily upload product images, names, descriptions, and prices.  

For Pinterest, you need to apply for Rich Pins using the help pages. Once you have been approved, any content on your page will turn into a Rich Pin when a user saves it. These SEO-focused pins are integrated with Shopify, which helps with the correct metadata.  

Rich Pins are divided into – Article Pins (blogs or articles, with a headline and author), Product Pins (selling products, with price and availability), Recipe Pins (cooking tutorials, with ingredients, cooking time, and rating) and App Pins (for app installation).  

TikTok Shopping is a little more exclusive as it is only available for Shopify merchants with a TikTok for Business account. Users in the US or UK can apply for early access to Shopify’s TikTok channel here. 

Once you have set up your shop on any platform, be sure to optimize it for conversion. Focus on keywords and descriptions that are easy to search for, create collections that make your inventory easy to navigate, and integrate shoppable tags into your organic content. These will all go a long way to boosting you towards social commerce success.  

Why Should You Use Social Commerce? 

The trend of consumer behavior shows no sign of slowing down in discovering and buying products on social media. Social media platforms are heavily investing in new technologies to integrate social commerce into their sites. This is one trend where it’s better to start sooner rather than later.  

These tips are just a small part of what it takes to create a social commerce strategy that can truly boost your business. An optimized social commerce strategy will use the right tools and seamlessly integrate it with your content to create an intuitive, enjoyable buying experience for your customers. 

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