Social media has long been used to promote brands, products and services. In the early days of social media marketing, brands would simply post product pictures or videos on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, hoping to grab the attention of their target customers and drive some traffic to their website or online store. Now, thanks to an abundance of social commerce tools, businesses are able to make sales directly on social media.
Social commerce is expanding at the speed of light, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know about social commerce, including what it is, why you should embrace it, and how to get started.
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the practice of selling products directly from your brand’s social media profiles using Facebook Shops, Instagram Shops, Product Pins and other native social media shopping solutions — or chatbots and AI assistants optimized for sales.
Here’s an example from jewelry brand Noemie showcasing what a Facebook Shop looks like:
Note that social commerce and e-commerce are not exactly the same thing. The goal of e-commerce marketing on social media is to drive traffic to an independent, off-platform website or online store.
The difference between social commerce vs. marketing an e-commerce store on social media comes down to where the shopping experience (including browsing products, adding to cart, checking out) happens.
Social commerce is also not the same thing as social selling. The latter is the practice of using social media to identify, connect with and nurture sales prospects. Social selling focuses on networking and relationship building and doesn’t always generate immediate sales.
Why should you care about social commerce?
The biggest benefit to adopting a social commerce strategy is that it helps you convert sales directly on social media in a streamlined, entirely on-platform way.
If a customer discovers your brand or product on social media, they no longer have to leave the platform to make their purchase. This streamlined process removes friction and minimizes the risk of some customers dropping out mid-purchase because of a complicated or lengthy checkout process.
On the other side, 45% of businesses in 2021 wanted to use social media to drive more conversions or sales.
So, social commerce is a win-win for everyone.
Social commerce sales have jumped from $560B in 2020 to $732B in 2021. This trend is expected to continue year-over-year through 2026 (at least).
While originally the major adopters for social commerce were large advertisers and department stores, that’s no longer the case. Facebook and Instagram in particular have set up easy-to-integrate Shop options that are accessible to businesses of all shapes and sizes.
What are the best platforms for social commerce?
Multiple platforms offer native social commerce solutions. Let’s take a look at the networks that offer the most advanced social commerce tools and how they work.
Facebook was the first platform to introduce native social commerce tools, and it’s still a good first choice (especially because you need a Facebook Shop in order to create an Instagram Shop).
Facebook has the following selling features:
- On-Page Shop tab that allows customers to shop collections of your products
- Product catalogs can be synced with Ads Manager to create Dynamic Ads
- You can tag products in posts and videos on Facebook
- You can set up automated chatbots to help customers place orders directly from Messenger (we’ll discuss this more a little later on)
- If you’re new to the platform, you can create a “test shop” to figure out how to manage orders, list products, and more
- Facebook is currently rolling out Facebook Live Video Shopping features, which will allow you to sell in real-time while hosting a Live broadcast
Instagram is another powerhouse for social commerce, with a variety of different sales-optimized features.
Instagram’s social commerce features include:
- In-app Shops with individual product listings, which can expand to show product information and take users through checkout; these shops are accessible through an icon in the main profile view and are highly visible.
- The ability to tag products in posts and Reels. Small shopping bag icons can be added to the content to let users know they can get more product information by tapping their screen.
- Shoppable Stickers, which allow you to add product tags in Instagram Stories for increased reach and engagement
There’s an enormous focus on social commerce on Instagram. In addition to the above features, which brands control on an account level, Instagram has even rolled out a “Shop” tab, which allows users to browse products from different brands. Users can browse products suggested for them by Instagram’s algorithm, search for specific items, or browse product categories.
TikTok Shopping is a social commerce solution allowing TikTok creators to promote and sell products on the platform. With TikTok Shopping, brands and creators are be able to add a shopping tab to their TikTok profiles. The tab will pull products from their Shopify product catalogs, allowing other TikTok users to browse products without leaving the app and easily navigate to the creators’ online stores for checkout.
The feature is relatively new, and it’s currently only available to select Shopify merchants from the US and the UK. TikTok and Shopify have announced that they will be rolling it out to more countries over the coming months.
TikTok Shopping takes advantage of the “TikTok made me buy it” movement, tapping into an incredibly enthusiastic market that’s ready to purchase the items they see going viral.
Learn more about TikTok Shopping.
Facebook and Instagram might be the obvious choices for many a brand’s social commerce stores, but don’t discount Pinterest too hastily.
A massive 83% of Pinterest users have purchased a product based on something they saw from a brand on the platform.
And if you’re a small business or you’re creating eco-friendly products, the timing has never been better to create a social commerce store on Pinterest.
That’s because the company has recently reported increases in searches for ‘zero waste products’, ‘eco-friendly living’, and ‘support small business’ of 93%, 108%, and 351% respectively.
If you’ve already got an ecommerce store set up, then creating a shop on Pinterest is easy.
Using Pinterest catalogs, you can upload your entire product range to the platform and instantly create shoppable pins that can rapidly boost your social commerce sales.
4 tips and tricks for effective social commerce
Ready to jump on board the social commerce train? Here are four helpful tips before you dive in headfirst.
1. Lower-priced items sell better
If you’re selling luxury furniture or high-end appliances, you might not have the same results through social media commerce as lower-priced retailers.
The same is generally true for ecommerce in general, with orders averaging $140, depending on your region. But with the average shopping order through social shopping stores being $79, it’s clear that lower-priced products perform better.
If you’re selling a variety of products at different price points, then you’ll want to use your ad spend for lower-priced products.
Don’t forget to grab an email address at the point of purchase though, so you can upsell a bigger ticket item later on!
2. Create an automated bot checkout
Back in the ‘good old days’, customers were guided through the buying journey by a real-life sales rep.
This was not only great for keeping service levels high, but it prevented distraction and shopping cart abandonment.
When it comes to buying through a social channel, buyers typically don’t have that same shopping experience, unless you implement an automated bot checkout.
Use a tool like Heyday to engage with your customers on their preferred channels and convert customer service conversations into sales.
Heyday is an AI chatbot for retailers that integrates your online store with your social media channels. It allows you to automate as much as 80% of your customer support conversations. When customers reach out to you on social media with questions regarding your inventory or order tracking, the chatbot assists them in real-time (and passes more complex inquiries over to your support team).
Heyday can also help you boost sales by automatically sending out back-in-stock and price-drop notifications to customers who had previously expressed interest in a product.
3. Integrate social commerce into your ecommerce platform
Part of the pain of keeping up with the latest trends is the fact that every time a new platform or avenue comes along, you’ve got to invest hours incorporating it into what you’re already doing.
And so, you’re probably thinking “is social commerce really worth all the time and effort?”
Well, the short answer is yes, it is. But there’s also a smart workaround:
Find yourself a way to integrate your new social commerce stores with your existing ecommerce platform.
Integrating data across platforms has never been easier; it’s why 51% of marketers are doing it.
Plus, if you’re regularly making changes or updating your catalog (which you no doubt will be), then you’ll want to make sure that any changes you make are synced across every platform you’re live on.
These are all highly popular eCommerce platforms, and you can connect your inventory directly to a Shop so that updated pricing, product information, and availability is synced in real-time instead of requiring manual updates.
4. Partner with influencers to boost social commerce sales
Influencer marketing has been around for a while now, and with around 30% of CMOs increasing their focus on this channel, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
One of the greatest benefits of investing in a social commerce campaign is that using influencers becomes super easy. They can use the likes of shoppable tags on Instagram to push buyers straight to your store, promoting products directly.
This creates a seamless experience for the consumer, where they might see a Story from an influencer promoting a product, click through, and decide to purchase right there and then.
And with 70% of US-based internet users following influencers on a given social media channel, the opportunity to expand your reach is huge.
With both users and brands loving the social-first, in-app shopping experience, social commerce isn’t going anywhere. The trend is still on the upswing, meaning you’ll want your brand to jump on board so you don’t get left behind.
There’s nothing to lose, so take a look at getting started right away!
Want to learn more about ecommerce advertising? Check out our guide here.