As social media platforms grow and evolve, so do the ways in which people use them. One of the largest areas of growth has been the increasing number of people who use social media to browse, research, and buy products from brands that have established digital storefronts on each platform. This has become known as social shopping and it’s now a must-do for businesses who want to boost sales and maintain a steady presence online.
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What is Social Shopping?
Essentially, social shopping combines ecommerce with social media, allowing users to directly buy your products from platforms like Instagram and Facebook. It’s done via specialized posts with links to product pages. Some platforms, like Instagram and Facebook, allow you to set up shop pages which give you access to all the ecommerce tools you need to sell on the platform.
In the US, the average user spends just over two hours a day on social media, making these platforms fertile ground for online retailers to find their target audience, engage with them, and let them buy all in one space.
Estimates indicate the social commerce market in the United States will grow from $29.3 billion in 2020 to $84.2 billion in 2024, an annual growth rate of 47%.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that social shopping is taking off—it takes advantage of enormous social media user bases by effectively putting your storefront right on the platform, taking your business to them as opposed to the other way around.
What’s the Difference Between Social Shopping and Ecommerce?
Ecommerce refers to a dedicated app or website (often both) owned by a business through which customers can purchase goods.
Social shopping takes the business to social media, in effect cutting out the middleman. It’s not just about buying, however, it’s also about involving your products in the social media experience as people share, like, and recommend them through online platforms.
Social Shopping Features on Every Platform
Social media is a versatile tool and every platform brings something unique to the table. Twitter is shorter form and posts age quicker, meaning its good for real-time communication, while Instagram focuses more on visuals and likes which naturally lends itself well to ecommerce and social shopping. The most effective businesses for social shopping find ways to make the most of each different platform and its features.
Social Shopping on Facebook
Shopping on Facebook is extensive. So much so that many businesses choose to host their entire ecommerce presence on it and use Facebook in place of a website entirely. Here are some of the key features Facebook provides to businesses:
- Built-In Shopping Experience: With Facebook, you can quickly build a shopping experience right onto your business page to highlight products, share posts about them, share news about your business, and directly communicate with your audience.
- Easy Customer Engagement: Facebook Messenger allows businesses to directly chat with interested consumers, helping them answer questions, find specific products, and relieve any snags in the process.
- Meta App Integration: Because they’re all connected from being owned by Meta, your Facebook shop can easily be used and shared on Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Messenger.
Social Shopping on Twitter
Twitter is one of the least shopping-friendly platforms out there, not because it isn’t a good place to advertise products, but mostly because it lacks many of the most useful features of more shopping-focused applications. Here’s a quick rundown of what Twitter has to offer ecommerce businesses looking to implement social shopping:
- Twitter Shops: Allows merchants to showcase products from their store, but the payment option is not Twitter-hosted but rather hosted on your own ecommerce site.
- Shop Spotlight: A carousel-style post on your profile featuring five products in your Twitter Shop.
- In-App Reminders: For exclusive releases or timed drops, businesses can use Twitter’s feature to allow consumers to receive a reminder when a product goes live.
Social Shopping on Instagram
Like Facebook, Instagram is a very shopping-friendly application. Because it’s almost purely a visual medium, it’s the perfect place to showcase new and exciting products with pictures and videos through a shop page, highlighted product post, or ad. Here are some of the main features:
- Customizable, Integrated Shop: Similar to Facebook again, Instagram allows you to build a shop-specific page with product posts, stories, collections (customized shop posts with curated selections), product detail pages, and an integrated checkout system that allows customers to buy right on the app.
- Easy Ads: Easily take your most successful or top product posts and make them ads, extending their reach without having to set up ads from scratch.
- Findable Features: Instagram stories, search functions, hashtags, topics, tagging, and sharing features make it easy to get your products in front of more people and new potential customers.
Social Shopping on Pinterest
Though you can’t complete the checkout process on Pinterest, like you can on Instagram or Facebook, it’s still a good place to promote your products and drive traffic to your ecommerce website. Here are some of the features that make Pinterest worth it for social shopping:
- Product Pins: Unlike standard pins, a product pin brings a new format designed to highlight your product with a description, price, availability, and other details. Product pins can also be uniquely searched for to help people find what they’re looking to buy and get their pins in front of users with commercial intent.
- Lists: Pinterest users can save pins they like onto organized lists for later use. That means if someone stumbles onto your product but doesn’t act immediately, there are ways for them to find it again later.
How Are Companies Using Social Shopping?
Social shopping can be used as another outlet by brands, no different from their website or Shopify storefront, but this is really a missed opportunity.
The clue is in the title, social shopping—brands that are successful with social shopping have applied the social approach; engaging, supporting, and helping users.
The average order value for customers referred from Instagram is $65.00, followed by Facebook ($55), Twitter ($46), and YouTube ($38).
Directly Engage with Your Audience and Customers
This might be a good or a bad thing, depending on your disposition, but the fact is that by selling directly through social media, you’re afforded the opportunity to engage with consumers and customers in a more instant and direct manner than typical review-and-response interactions online.
If you have your products, or even your entire catalog of products, on social media, and you are sharing posts with social shopping purchase links, you’ll have a lot more feedback and conversation to go off.
It’s common for brands to ask questions of their audiences—this serves two purposes. Firstly, you get to engage with your audience, improving the image of your brand as a business that genuinely cares what customers think.
Secondly, you get a snapshot of what they think about your products. In this image, for example, Timex’s social media team asked their Instagram audience about their strap combination preferences, a simple way to get an indication of what’s going down well; especially useful if you’re still developing a product.