The average person will spend five years of their life on social media – the equivalent of 1,825 days or 43,800 hours.

The average person will spend five years of their life on #SocialMedia - the equivalent of 1,825 days or 43,800 hours. #ecommerce #EcommerceStats Click To Tweet

And that’s just based on current collective usage. Research shows that the number of hours per day we spend on social media is actually increasing. It probably won’t be long before five years turns into six. And who knows how big the number will get?

Depending on your perspective, this news might be good or bad. You might think social media is a wonderful, democratizing force in a world traditionally dominated by “big media”. Alternatively, you might see it as an attention-sapping scourge that’s stealing our lives.
Value of global shopping orders by traffic source chartThe value of ecommerce traffic from social media in Q3 was 73.83 billion. Source.

But whatever your personal opinion, one thing is certain. As an online retailer, social commerce represents a huge opportunity. While the phenomenon is still in its infancy, more and more people are making purchases without ever leaving their favorite social platforms. And on the platforms where purely native experiences aren’t yet possible, many customers are keeping cross-site travel to a minimum.

Social media platforms are introducing buying features at a pace that’s sometimes difficult to keep track of. And those new to the game, like Instagram, are prepped to become some of the busiest marketplaces online.
Share of consumers that purchased directly via social mediaResearch gathered in May shows that 18% of consumers have made a purchase directly on social media. Source.
In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what social commerce is, how it works, which platforms are most important, and how to take advantage of this fantastic new opportunity.

And if you’re thinking, “Oh no! Another online store for me to manage!” then fear not. The truth is that selling products through social media sites and apps – whether Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook – is a fast and straightforward process.

Here’s a guick list of what you’ll find in this article about social commerce:

1. Just What Is Social Commerce?
2. What is a Social Commerce Platform?
3. How to Sell on Facebook
4. How to Sell on Facebook
5. How to Sell on Instagram
6. Why Does Social Commerce Work?
7. How to Use Social Media Platforms for Commerce
8. Conclusion

Dig in!

Just What Is Social Commerce?

The term “social commerce” refers to the activity of buying and selling on social media sites and apps. Simple enough, right?

The term #SocialCommerce refers to the activity of buying and selling on social media sites and apps. #ecommerce #tips Click To Tweet

The way social commerce is implemented on specific platforms can vary, and we’ll look at some of the differences in a moment. But the key point is that purchases can be conducted partly or wholly within the social app or website.

It’s also important to note that It’s not the social media companies doing the selling. It’s online retailers like yourself. Customers are able to purchase products from retailers without having to interact directly with them (or while keeping the interaction to a minimum).

Prominent examples include Pinterest “Shop the Look” pins, Facebook “Shop Now” stores and an Instagram “digital price labels”. Instagram also recently gave users the option to checkout directly on Instagram (without the need to leave the app). And while this Instagram feature is currently limited to a small number of brands, it likely that there will be a bigger rollout in the future.

It’s important to remember that social commerce is still in its infancy. Companies like Facebook are still experimenting with the best methods to enable buying and selling through their platforms. They are testing, implementing, and discontinuing lots of new features. Because of this, it remains to be seen exactly what the finished social commerce experience will look like for users.

Nonetheless, there is a very big opportunity for online retailers. And joining the party sooner rather than later will give you a competitive advantage over the long-term.

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What is a Social Commerce Platform?

A social commerce platform is simply a social media platform on which retailers (or any business users) can sell products.

As far as online retailers are concerned, the “big three” to be aware of are Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Twitter has since canceled features that allowed users to shop through the app and site directly but will likely introduce new ones in the future.

Because of the early-stage nature of social commerce, significant amounts of research about buying activity are not available. However, early data is positive. 60% of users say they discover products on Instagram, for example. And one-third of shoppers say they would be happy to make a purchase directly on a social media platform.
Other apps like Whatsapp can be used to make purchases, but these are generally geared more towards services – like ordering a takeaway – than products.

How to Sell on Facebook

Buying activity on Facebook centers on Facebook Stores. These are native stores that can be accessed through business and fan pages.

To get started, you first need to set up your store. If you use a well-known ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce, this process can be streamlined significantly, as a number of automated integrations for uploading your products are available.
Online shopping via Facebook A typical example of a Facebook Store (Goth Rider).
Once you’ve uploaded products to your store, you can also tag products in posts and videos, enabling users to click through to your store to make a purchase. It’s also possible to advertise products from your store on chat.
Tagging Facebook post with shopping bag icon An example of a tagged post from ELECTRIC. You can see the small shopping bag icon in the top left corner of the image.
In the vast majority of cases, stores are meant to showcase a selection of products rather than your entire catalog. Organizational features like collections make navigating Facebook stores easier for customers, but they are not designed to handle extensive catalogs. The likelihood is that, as a retailer, you will create a mix of posts that advertise both products on your main site and those in your Facebook store.

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How to Sell on Pinterest

Product Pins” and “Shopping Ads” (formerly “Buyable Pins”) are the main Pinterest shopping features. “Shop the Look” pins, which can be used to showcase multiple products on a single image, are a variant of Product Pins.
Pinterest product pinAn example of a Pinterest product pin. Source.
You’ll need to create a business account and link it with your product catalog. You can then display images of products along with the price and stock level. A CTA will appear below the image that allows interested users to click through to your site.
"Shop the look" option via PinterestA “Shop the Look” pin which includes multiple products. Source.

Pinterest’s audience is made up of demographics that are highly profitable to ecommerce retailers, especially in the fashion space. So it’s a platform that is well worth exploring if you haven’t already. Pinterest says that 80% of users have made a purchase based on content they’ve seen on the platform.

Pinterest says that 80% of users have made a purchase based on content they've seen on the platform. #SocialCommerce #ecommerce #socialmedia Click To Tweet

How to Sell on Instagram

Instagram gives retailers the option to include links to products on their posts and stories.

The features aren’t available everywhere, but if you’re in an English-speaking country, then you’re more than likely good to go. There is a review stage and you will have to meet some criteria, but, in essence, the process involves linking your business profile to your catalog, after which you will have the option to create shopping posts and stories.
Product tags on Instagram post and storiesProduct tags can be included on posts and stories. Source.
When clicked, “tags” (which include price and discount information) will take users to another mobile page with a CTA that links to your ecommerce site.
The buying process on Instagram is simple and intuitive.The buying process on Instagram is simple and intuitive. Source.
The Instagram checkout feature is also worth mentioning here. While it’s currently being tested with only a handful of brands, it’s likely to have a fuller rollout in the near future. So keep your ears open.
Ecommerce checkout at Instagram Instagram is testing immersive checkout features at the moment. Source.
One final point. Instagram as a platform is experiencing significant growth and activity when it comes to social commerce. The most recent data shows that 130 million users click on shopping tags every month. This is an increase of 40 million compared to figures from September.

Why Does Social Commerce Work?

Social commerce works for many reasons. Fundamentally, it leverages the fact that shopping is a social activity. Traditional, friction-creating barriers to purchase, like lengthy checkout processes, are also removed.

Here are some of the key reasons that social commerce is proving so successful:

  • Reduces friction associated with online shopping – Most users just have to hit a few buttons without the need to input payment or address details, which are already stored on the social media platform. Because reviews and comments are directly visible next to the product, the research phase is also shortened.
  • Enables online retailers to reach new markets – The speed and ease with which retailers can directly test new markets make social commerce a viable long-term strategy. Facebook, or example, has one of the best advertising platforms in the world, with unparalleled targeting and testing features.
  • Generates buzz and conversation around new products – Shopping is a social activity. Showcasing products directly to vocal potential customers can create lots of buzz and excitement, creating urgency and FOMO (fear of missing out).
  • Enables retailers to better meet customer needs with streamlined stores – Social media platforms provide in-depth analytics reports and tracking tools which allow retailers to tailor their offerings to their audiences. Storefronts on social media platforms are much more limited than full ecommerce sites. This means that retailers need to be selective about which products they promote. But this can have a positive effect. Armed with data about their social audience, retailers can provide only the most-desired items.
  • Allows for personalized customer experiences like retargeting – Social media platforms also have lots of personalization features (like Facebook retargeting) which can improve the efficacy of ads and posts.
  • Adds another channel for customers – Some customers simply don’t like shopping on ecommerce stores, preferring to stick to their social media apps. Social commerce enables retailers to reach them via their preferred outlet.

When you couple all of these practical benefits with the fact that social media is one of the top sources of product reviews and the most-favored resource for product research on the web, the power of social commerce becomes abundantly apparent.

How to Use Social Media Platforms for Commerce

You’re likely already convinced of the benefits of social commerce. But how can you design your own campaigns for maximum effect?

Here are a few practical tips to keep in mind:

  • Recognize that social commerce works best in conjunction with other parts of a social media strategy – A robust social media strategy should engage users, build relationships, and provide compelling content that isn’t just product-focused. Social commerce that’s built on a foundation of engaged, active users is much more likely to be successful.
  • Continually test new features – You should pay attention to, and test, all shopping-related features, including Facebook Messenger advertising, Instagram story tags, “Shop the Look” Pins and so on. Keeping ahead of new releases will enable you to hone in on those features that drive the highest level of engagement.
  • Streamline With Automation – Wherever possible, use technology to automate tasks. Omni-channel ecommerce software is a must!
  • CollaborateInfluencers represent big opportunities. ROI can be very high when coupled with frictionless buying options, such as when an Instagram influencer shares a post with product links.
  • Create compelling content – Content should provide a mix of product recommendations, entertainment, and practical value.
  • Focus on your best, most user-relevant products – You have limited space to show products on social media, so focus on proven products that you know will appeal to your fans.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt about it. It’s still early days for social commerce.

But it’s growing. Fast. And can boost your ecommerce conversion rate.

And the retailers set to benefit most are the ones willing to get ahead of the curve now.

The key word is testing. If you’re not already experimenting with the latest commerce features, then there’s no time to waste.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter provide you with unparalleled access to huge markets. Practically all retailers should be able to come up with a cost-effective and manageable social commerce strategy.

Now, time to get to work on that Facebook store.

Why Not Get in Touch With Growcode?

If you’re interested in omni-channel ecommerce optimization, why not get in touch with Growcode? We’ve worked with hundreds of retailers to launch and optimize their social commerce strategies, completely removing the need for in-house developers and designers in the process.

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Growcode Ecommerce Blog / Ecommerce Strategy / Social Commerce: What It Is, How to Use It in Your Business, and Why It’s Important

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