What is Social Commerce? The Top 8 Reasons Brands Need It

The way consumers interact with brands has changed. In today’s digital world, customers begin their online shopping experience at the edge. That is, instead of beginning the online shopping process on a webpage and checking out with the brand site checkout, customers now find products elsewhere, usually social media and then move to checkout.

This new reality presents fresh challenges and opportunities for retailers, and success in this space comes down to a creative and dynamic social commerce strategy with tried and true best practices.

So what is social commerce? Why should retail brands be excited by it? And, most importantly, what can they do to succeed in their social shopping strategy? 

Dig deeper > 5 min read

What is social commerce?

Social commerce refers to the purchase of products or services using social media or messaging apps. This includes purchases made directly through social media by using the checkout functionality within the social media platform. 

It also includes purchases made after navigating from social media to a brand site and completing the transaction using the checkout there. 

The definition of social commerce can also stretch to any transactions agreed to on social media but completed elsewhere, such as C2C purchases through platforms like Facebook Marketplace.

Social commerce vs. eCommerce

Social commerce is a subset of eCommerce but they are not the same.

  • eCommerce sales — All online shopping purchases made on a website or branded app, including those made on social media
  • Social commerce sales — Only the purchases made online through social media, be that in-app (i.e. Facebook Shops) or after redirecting to the brand site

Everything retailers need to know about social commerce

Social commerce is growing — and it’s growing fast. This probably isn’t much of a surprise given that over half of the world’s population use at least one social media platform. 

Not only are more people using social media, but they are also using it to discover and purchase new products.

As the above numbers demonstrate, social commerce is the next evolution of the eCommerce ecosystem and one which brands should be looking to invest in sooner rather than later.

If you’re still not convinced, we’ve brought together the top 8 reasons why brands need to be using social commerce as a part of their marketing and sales strategy.

1. Increase brand awareness

Research from SimplicityDX’s new State of Social Commerce Q3 report indicated that 52% of respondents primarily turn to social media to find out about new products or see how new products are being used.

This was in contrast to the 13% who said that they think social media is a great way to purchase new products.

The disparity between these numbers highlights an important point — social media may not be the place where you will see a huge uptick in sales. But it is the place to get your products and services noticed. With 59% of people making purchases from brands they are already aware of, it is crucial to raise the profile of your brand as much as possible. And social media is a great way to do this. 

From there, it’s a case of seamlessly moving shoppers from your social channels to your brand site, as 71% of respondents said that they prefer to complete their purchase on the brand site, rather than through social media. 

2. Build trust and humanize your brand

Building on the previous point, increasing your brand awareness increases the trust consumers have in your brand. In a world where word-of-mouth reviews and positive associations play a huge role in whether shoppers purchase from your company or not, trust is everything.

This is particularly true for younger generations. Our research revealed that trust in both social media platforms and brands is at an all-time low for Gen Z.

pie chart about social media trust

Figure 1: A graph showing Gen Z trust in social media platforms with their personal data. (Source: SimplicityDX State of Social Commerce Q3 report)

pie chart about consumer trust of social and retail with their data

Figure 2: A graph showing Gen Z trust in brands and retailers with their personal data. (Source: SimplicityDX State of Social Commerce Q3 report)

A strong and authentic social media presence can help to both build trust and humanize your brand in the eyes of consumers, making them feel as though they are interacting with — and purchasing from — a peer or friend, rather than a faceless organization.

3. Increase website traffic and stay top of mind

The difference between social media marketing and social commerce comes down to the ability to purchase. And that’s why it’s important to make your social posts shoppable.

Ensure you upload your product catalog when you start selling your products through Facebook Shops, Instagram shopping, TikTok, etc. This will give you the ability to tag the products that appear in your posts, allowing shoppers to be directed to the product detail page with just one tap of the ‘Shop now’ button.

You can also create collections to organize your products and help potential customers to find exactly what they are looking for.

A shoppable storefront works as a landing experience that bridges the gap between social and commerce. It is designed to continue the social experience that first attracted the potential new shopper to your brand. And, as such, these pages include the perfect mix of social, brand, and shoppable content to engage and entice interaction on your brand site.

Landing pages typically have a bounce rate of 60 - 90%, with social pages having a bounce rate of over 50%. By creating a shoppable storefront, you can go some way to reducing that bounce rate by providing an experience that makes the customer journey as engaging and satisfying as possible. ( we will be talking more about how to create shoppable storefronts very soon so watch this space)

By ensuring the products advertised are available for purchase with one click, inventory and pricing are accurately reflected on your socials, and the journey to the brand checkout is as frictionless as possible, you can reduce bounce and start seeing more conversions and sales. 

4. Boost social proof with influencers and livestreaming

Livestreaming is a new strand of social commerce, but one that's growing rapidly — especially among young social media users. Livestream shopping purchases increased by 76% globally between March 2020 and July 2021, and the global market is now projected to be worth $500 billion in 2022.

In our own research into livestream shopping, we found that 43% of Gen Z (born 1997 - 2012) had attended a livestream shopping event, with a further 25% saying they would consider attending. Of those that had attended, 56% had made a purchase.

And while it's digitally-native Gen Z showing up most for livestream shopping, Gen X shoppers aren't far behind. 31% of Gen X (born 1965 - 1980) have attended a livestream event, half of those having made a purchase.

This growth in livestreaming events is being seen across all social platforms but particularly on TikTok; TikTok users are 50% more interested in viewing branded LIVE content than non-TikTok users and 50% have purchased an item after a LIVE event.

Much of this growth is being driven by influencer marketing. 64% of Gen Z find that influencers are most useful when finding new products and 48% think that influencers are most useful for recommending new products. On TikTok, this activity is easy to track by browsing the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag!

What brands should bear in mind, however, is that an influencer’s power is best used to aid discovery and inspiration — only 36% of our respondents agreed that influencer marketing was useful for choosing products.

This again highlights the importance of directing shoppers to your brand site. Social media is a great place for potential customers to find out about your products and services —  and with the Shopify Collabs app on offer to help connect your brand with influencers, retail brands can easily find the right influencers for the job. But the low trust seen in both social platforms and influencers means that it is still preferable (for both you and your customers) to complete their purchase on your online store.

5. Target and re-target your audience

Social media provides a unique opportunity to engage on a much more personal level with your customers. As we touched on earlier, good use of social channels can help to boost your brand awareness and create meaningful connections with consumers.

By forming a deeper connection with your target audience, you are able to send them much more specific content and deliver the products they are looking for right to their feeds. 

But with this targeted advertising comes an important consideration: migrating shoppers to your brand site to complete their purchase. Not only is this what most shoppers are looking for, as previously discussed, but it also has big benefits when it comes to ROI.

If a customer completes their purchase through the social media app directly, without being diverted to your own storefront, you are unable to capture their data and re-target their business in the future without needing to rely on paid advertising campaigns.

With it now costing $29 for each new customer acquisition, it is crucial to ensure you have a seamless migration from your social posts to your brand storefront to allow for the capture of customer data. 

6. Learn more about your customers with user-generated content

The deeper relationship you are able to build with your customers on social media is advantageous in other ways. Namely, you can see what they are really looking for and how you can best deliver the products or services that they want and need.

Social media is the perfect place to leverage the power of user-generated content (UGC). By sharing and liking content produced by your fans, you can not only get an idea of what is of interest to them but also build brand awareness and trust at the same time.

Consumers are 2.4x more likely to view UGC as authentic when compared with brand content, giving your brand a greater sense of relatability and trustworthiness in the eyes of shoppers.

You also have the ability to make UGC shoppable by tagging your products in these posts. This way, not only are you building brand awareness but also capitalizing on the inherent authenticity and trustworthiness of UGC to drive sales.

7. Share your best and most engaging creative content

Engaging with your fans and the content they are producing on social media goes the other way too. By cultivating a community through your social networks, you are also able to deliver relevant, creative content right to your customers.

With factors such as the death of third-party cookies and the introduction of IOS 14.5 contributing to rising marketing costs, having the ability to get your content in front of your customers is invaluable.

A thriving fan base on social media reduces the need for spending on paid ad campaigns as customers who follow your socials will see all of your content as soon as you post it. Social media also presents the opportunity to explore other kinds of content that may not work as well on other mediums. 

Video content, for example, is a highly effective form of marketing that works perfectly in tandem with the environment offered by social media. In fact, Facebook is the most popular video platform, second only to Google. Social media provides an opportunity to diversify your creative content and engage with customers in new and exciting ways.

As discussed above, the video-centric nature of TikTok leads to users being twice as likely to make a purchase on the app when compared to other platforms. A strong portfolio of diverse, engaging, and shoppable content will keep your brands in the minds of consumers and your products in their baskets.

8. Boost sales

With a good social commerce strategy, all of the things we have discussed above work in concert to drive customer acquisition and boost your sales.

The eCommerce shopping funnel has changed. It is no longer enough to produce content and expect customers to come to you — you now need to be where the customer is. And social media is the way to do this.

Customers now start their journey at the edge, so you need to be positioned to exploit that change in behavior. Increased brand awareness, consistently tagged and shoppable posts, and an optimized landing page experience will allow you to take advantage of the new eCommerce funnel and grow your business like never before.

Optimize your social commerce strategy: 3 pitfalls to avoid on social commerce platforms

Social commerce is undoubtedly key for brands, but not at any cost. Done badly, a poor social media strategy can negatively impact your reputation and brand. 

Here are a few common pitfalls to avoid when building your social commerce strategy.

1. Too much friction in the customer journey

While most shoppers want to complete their purchase on the brand site, 81% of customers reported poor experiences when migrating from social media to the brand site. This is due to things like broken links, poorly optimized landing pages, and slow loading times.

It’s imperative that every stage of your customer journey is as frictionless as possible to avoid customers bouncing from your product page — a problem that constitutes the biggest eCommerce leak today.

For more ideas on creating a frictionless customer journey, have a look at this article from our blog.

2. Poor inventory management

According to our research, 98% of customers reported recent stock and availability issues when shopping through social media. 

Brands often do not effectively synchronize their social media promotions with the actual inventory, leading to frustrated customers and scores of returns to process.

Mitigate this issue by directing traffic to your brand site, uploading your product catalog, and pausing promotions if demand outstrips supply. For more tips, read our dedicated best practices article here.

3. Not making your posts shoppable

We mentioned this earlier but it’s worth stressing again: making your posts shoppable is one of the most important things you can do for a social commerce strategy.

If customers can’t easily find your products and be directed to the product detail page, they are far more likely to abandon their purchase altogether. Make it as simple as possible for your customers to discover and purchase your products by utilizing the tools social media provides.

If you’re looking to optimize your social commerce efforts, head over to our blog for everything you need to know about taking your social commerce strategy to the next level.

Read more about our insights on social commerce.

Key Considerations for your Social Commerce Strategy

Social Commerce for Retail?

Shopping at The Edge – The New eCommerce Reality

Top 6 Social Commerce Trends for the 2022 Holiday Season

When is the best time to post on social to encourage eCommerce sales?

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