In October 2021, eCommerce giant Alibaba had begun to lead up to its annual "Singles Day" Cyber Monday-like shopping extravaganza in China. Two of China's top celebrity streamers, Li Jiaqi and Viya, went live to showcase some products, and sold US$3b worth of goods in 12 hours.
Order a pizza on Messenger. Try a new pair of glasses with a Snapchat Lens - and purchase instantly from there.
Welcome to the world of Social Commerce.
What is Social Commerce?
For some time now, social media has influenced customers. Explore feeds have become the new window shopping. Brands present an ideal lifestyle as opposed to just a product range. Celebrity influencers make these lifestyles irresistible and customers want a piece.
In April 2022, there were 4.65 billion active social media users worldwide, making up 58.7% of the global population (Hootsuite). On average, those users spent two and a half hours a day on social platforms (GlobalWebIndex).
Social Commerce takes social media for brands and customers to the next level by blending eCommerce purchases and social experiences. It blurs the line between the traditional stages of a marketing funnel.
It's not just about clicking through a shopping ad to a brand's website anymore. It's about purchasing that product in the same app you discovered it on. Customers can now be converted in an instant, directly from the platforms they browse from. The entire shopping experience can happen on social media platforms.
⬇️Discovery (Explore feeds)
⬇️Research/Consideration (discussing with friends)
🔄Sharing the purchase after (content, tagging)
It enables a truly 'multiplayer' shopping experience: celebrity live streams, local second-hand marketplaces, gamification and Augmented Reality, brand Direct Messaging & comments, group buying, user generated content/reviews, etc. it's immersive, connected and it's conversational, as Social Commerce should be.
Sandie Hawkins, TikTok's GM of North America Solutions, on Social Commerce, sad "It's the evolution of word of mouth...and it's flattening the funnel." (Twitter, Whalar).
Doing Social Commerce Right
At the very heart of Social Commerce are people. The most important thing to focus on when exploring opportunities in this space is to keep your customers top of mind.
What will enhance or simplify their shopping experience? Where are they spending their time on social media? Who are they following? Are their friends on the platform with them? It's different for every brand, but it has to be the starting point.
What platforms are the best for Social Commerce?
Let's take a look at the social media platforms enabling Social Commerce for brands.
You only have to look at hashtags like #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt (with over 8B views) to appreciate the attention TikTok's been able to capture, and the influence it has on customers. According to TikTok, 39% of users have discovered a product or brand on TikTok they didn't know about before (TikTok). The biggest short-form video platform has also made strides recently with shoppable video ads, live streams (almost semi-infomercial) and creator commissions.
In 2018, Facebook went up against Google, Etsy, Amazon, and others when they launched Facebook Marketplace. From its early days as a peer-to-peer marketplace, the platform has evolved into a new channel for merchants to have their own commerce home on Facebook (and Instagram) in one place - customise the design, and let customers purchase in-app.
The original visual platform. For some time, Instagram Shop and Shoppable posts have been the social commerce standard. Users didn't have to remember to visit that brand's website later, or go back to that tab. Now the whole checkout experience can be completed in-app, where Instagram Checkout is enabled. More recently, Shop-enabled Livestreams and Reels have created new opportunities for Social Commerce content. Even the Shop feed has made its way into the main app navbar.
Other players include Pinterest (with their Buyable Pins), Snapchat (with Bitmoji fashion), YouTube, Twitch and Discord.
Which brands are doing Social Commerce well?
Brands that win with Social Commerce deeply understand their customers, and the unique role social media plays in their buying behaviours. Brands like Nike, GymShark, ASOS, Mecca, Outdoor Voices and Frank Body all stand out as leaders in this space.
True Protein and Culture Kings' mobile sites, featuring story highlight features.
Brands that excel in social commerce are having a two-way conversation with their customers. They are creating for them and vice-versa…
Social Commerce Trends
Looking at Social Commerce in 2022, there's some trends that are worth exploring.
Gen Z Buying Behaviour
Generation Z, born from the late 90's to the early 2010's, are leading the way as customers with Social Commerce. As true digital natives, spending 8 hours a day online on average, and more socially aware than ever, they've got high expectations of brands.
From GlobalWebIndex, we know they care about diversity and inclusivity. Around half say helping int he environment is important to them. Gen Z are 22% more likely to say they've stopped following a brand online in the past month. They're also early adopters; nearly 40% of GenZ like to be the first to try new things.
They're also fed up with traditional advertising. Brands need to show they understand Gen Z's - just 15% say they feel represented in the advertising they see. That's a challenge, and also a massive opportunity for the right brands.
They're also the generation now heading into the workforce. With increasing spending power, Gen Z are worth paying attention to in your Social Commerce strategy.
China's Mega Apps
If you want to understand how Social Commerce may continue to evolve, you only have to look to China. Their two major lifestyle super-apps, WeChat and Alipay, had launched mobile wallets integrated into their social messaging apps as early as 2013.
Anyone looking to purchase products online, manage their finances, browse insurance plans, get takeaway or order a taxi can do so from the app - right alongside chatting with their brother, boss, or best mates.
Social Commerce has become so deeply interwoven in their core social experiences, connecting online and offline sellers in the process. Similar apps exist across Asian markets.
Investing in Social Commerce
So is Social Commerce worth investing in for businesses? Here's 3 key considerations worth exploring:
Customer attention is on social media. This is an opportunity to appear in new places, in front of new customers - on Explore feeds, curated grids and in feeds with evolving algorithms (which we know that users have already bought). And meet those customers who are seeking out brands who are embracing the visual, conversational world of social commerce.
Better Conversation Rates
Integrated Social Commerce experiences lower the risk of abandoned shopping carts. With less distractions and less friction through the checkout process, shoppers stay on track to buy more often.
Drive Social Proof
It's easier to close the loop with customers and encourage the creation and sharing of user-generated content (UGC) and reviews when social platforms are tat the core of the whole experience. The comments section is the new reviews feed, and Story Highlights are the new look-book.
To conclude, it's worth noting that Social Commerce is still relatively early. Sales via social media are expected to almost triple by 2025 globally.
If you're a brand looking to explore opportunities in this space, Instant has a suite of social commerce tools to further reduce friction in your customer's experiences, integrated into your existing eCommerce platforms.
Social Commerce is an enormous opportunity to embrace a new multiplayer shopping experience - meet customers where they are and weave content, community and commerce together.