It’s no secret that eCommerce brands have seen phenomenal growth throughout the coronavirus pandemic. In the UK alone, online sales grew by 36.6% year-on-year in 2020, which IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index state is the most significant expansion since 2007. This level of growth shows no signs of slowing down as worldwide projected eCommerce sales for 2022 are set to increase by 5.4 trillion US dollars.
As eCommerce growth continues to soar, the popularity of social commerce (Scommerce) has also seen a significant boom. Those within the industry will be more than familiar with the term, but for those wondering what social commerce entails, we’re here to explain.
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the process of selling products via social media as opposed to via a website or app, as is the case with traditional eCommerce. Consumers can purchase items directly through social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok and Instagram and instantly be taken to a checkout page. Once the payment is complete, the consumers can immediately jump back into scrolling through their social media app.
With more social media platforms embracing the trend of social commerce, it’s estimated by Business AM Live that products sales via social media will expand to 604.5 billion US dollars by 2027. Data conducted by Stock Apps show that 15% of e-commerce brands are currently involved in social commerce, whilst 25% are looking to start soon.
What are the benefits of social commerce?
Social commerce is a valuable tool that can significantly benefit both consumers and businesses alike.
From a consumer perspective, buying products via social media is a convenient and smooth experience and is very much in keeping with today’s fast-paced society.
Purchasing this way is an alternative to purchasing products via a website which often involves having to set up an account and input personal details, an inconvenience that leads 35% of consumers to abandon their shopping cart. Furthermore, 27% of consumers believe that most checkout processes are complicated and take too long. The beauty of social commerce is that it streamlines the checkout process allowing consumers to purchase products in just a couple of clicks.
Whilst social media was once merely an outlet for users to stay in touch with friends; more users are turning to platforms to discover new brands and products. A study that covered 21,000 Instagram users between the ages of 13-64 found 83% of users relied on the app to discover new products and services. 31% of users stated they went on to follow relevant brands after being introduced to them via social media, paving the way for potential repeat business further down the line.
The communicative nature of social media means that brands can connect with audiences in a more meaningful way. Social shares and likes are an excellent way for brands to become more well-known and introduced to new audiences, whilst reviews and comments make it easier for brands to gain feedback and customer insight.
Social commerce has lifted the veil for online businesses, with brands now clearly seeing who is purchasing their products through various engagement methods. As a result, businesses can easily target audiences with specific products and services which is likely to be of interest to the consumer.
Tommy Torjesen, Founder of Cavai, highlights the importance of brands being able to create experiences that consumers can engage with. Social commerce gives businesses the insight to create a more personalised non-intrusive experience for consumers, which are in keeping with their lifestyle and interests.
Who are the key players in social commerce?
Social commerce was kickstarted in 2016 with the launch of Facebook Marketplace, which incorporated an eBay like shopping experience into the social space. Following the e-commerce boom during the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook and Instagram included shops that allowed businesses to create a digital storefront within the app.
The stores have proven to be a success, with 18.3% of US adults making purchases through Facebook shops in 2020, with consumers spending an average of 55 US dollars each time. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that Smart Insights has since revealed that one in four businesses now sell on Facebook.
The introduction of shops on Instagram has been a game-changer for businesses. Instagram’s algorithm effectively tailors content, brands, and products to users based on interests and activity.
Hootsuite found that out of 1 billion Instagram users, 130 million users engage with shopping posts each month, with 50% then heading over to the brand website to make a purchase.
Tik Tok, however, has seen a significant surge in the success of its social commerce efforts. In 2020, the app was recognised as the world’s most popular app, and in January 2021, it was revealed that users spent a whopping 128 million US dollars through the app.
Last year saw Tik Tok partner with Shopify, with over one million merchants selling on the platforms. The collaboration has placed Shopify sellers in front of new, younger audiences, helping to drive further sales significantly.
Another social platform to join forces with Shopify recently was Pinterest, with the platform’s ‘product pins’ making it an ideal partnership to help drive further sales. Pinterest’s format prioritises discovering a range of ideas rather than focusing on one singular product, helping consumers discover various new items.
Which is the most popular country for social commerce?
Whilst social commerce has seen steady growth across the globe; the trend remains particularly popular in China. Data from eMarketer has forecast that social commerce sales within China will grow to 242.41 billion US dollars this year, accounting for 11.6% of total eCommerce sales.
China has been ahead of the game when it comes to social commerce. WeChat, the country’s most popular social media app, has incorporated social commerce since 2018.
WeChat’s success has prompted other popular social media messaging apps such as Snapchat to catch up on social commerce efforts in a bid to outperform their rivals.
Social commerce is undoubtedly a valuable tool to leverage e-commerce brands and provide a convenient yet meaningful experience for consumers. It’s crucial, however, that brands remain flexible with digital trends consistently changing and new platforms and features emerging. Adapting to new trends whilst prioritising customer experience will continue to be the key for brands of today.