Social commerce is the latest, and potentially the most effective, sales channel strategy – combining the benefits of social media with the convenience of an online marketplace.
While social commerce is still in its infancy, it’s expected to grow exponentially over the coming years, making now the perfect time to get started and established before everyone else.
In this guide to social commerce, we’re exploring all the social platforms you can sell on now and in the future.
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the process of selling products directly on social media platforms, using a native shopping cart and checkout.
The immediate benefit of social commerce is that it’s frictionless. Customers can scroll through their social media feed, discover products, add them to their cart, browse more products, ask questions, complete the checkout process, and receive shipping updates – all without ever leaving the app, clicking a link, or creating a new customer account.
However, a seamless customer journey isn’t the only benefit of selling on social media. Other highlights include:
- Letting existing customers shop on their terms;
- Reaching new audiences through curated shopping feeds; and
- Combining your marketing, advertising, support, and selling activities in one platform.
The top social platforms you can sell on now
Social commerce is still in the early stages, and while many platforms are testing out shopping tags, buy buttons, and in-app checkouts, two platforms have released these features to all sellers: Facebook and Instagram.
Selling on Facebook
In May 2020, Facebook announced the launch of Facebook Shops. You can now create an immersive shop front on Facebook for users to explore product collections, add items to a basket, and complete purchases through the Facebook checkout.
The predominant features of Facebook Shops include:
- Connection with your loyalty program, so users can collect and track reward points.
- Tracking updates via Facebook Messenger, so customers can use Facebook throughout the entire customer journey.
- Customization of your storefront with different layouts, colors, fonts, and product collections.
Best suited for
Facebook is popular with slightly older audiences, with 84% of 25 to 30-year-olds and 79% of 30 to 49-year-olds using the platform. It also has a pretty even mix of users visiting from urban, suburban, and rural locations.
This makes Facebook Shops suited to everyday products covering categories including homeware, clothing, baby items, children’s clothes, and electronics.
How to get started
The easiest way to sell on Facebook Shops is by connecting your Shopify store through Commerce Manager. From here, you are prompted to install the Facebook pixel, sync your catalog, create collections, and design your storefront.
Instagram launched Instagram Shops at the same time as Facebook, providing online sellers with another social storefront to engage and convert customers on.
The key features of Instagram Shops include:
- A shop tab on your Instagram profile, where customers can explore collections and purchase products.
- A curated @shop feed where Instagram connects new audiences with your products and collections.
- Order and tracking updates via Instagram Direct.
Best suited for
This makes Instagram Shops an effective channel for stylish and trending product collections covering fashion, jewelry, and homeware. The curated shopping feed also makes Instagram a powerful tool for targeting niche interests with relevant products.
How to get started
To sell via Instagram Shops, you must open a Facebook Shop first. This means that connecting and syncing your Shopify account is the easiest method for creating a shop and uploading products.
Once you’ve created a Facebook Shop, you can open your Instagram sales channel from your Business settings and create collections to curate your storefront.
Social commerce platforms to watch
With Facebook and Instagram Shops already proving popular and successful for online sellers, other social media platforms will follow their footsteps shortly.
While you can’t sell directly on these channels yet, it’s an excellent idea to learn about what’s coming and start developing a presence on the platforms now.
In November 2019, Snapchat released a native checkout feature for five influencer brands: Kylie Cosmetics, KKW Beauty, Beís, Pratt Daddy Crystals, and Bhad Bhabie. Users can visit a Shopify-powered store within Snapchat to browse products and make purchases from these select accounts.
Snapchat plans to extend this feature to other influencer brands shortly, with the hope that eventually all online sellers can add a native shop to their profile.
In April 2019, TikTok was reportedly trialing a “shop now” button in collaboration with Hollister. Clicking the button brought users to a native shopping site where they could browse other products and make purchases.
Little has been heard since, but there are rumblings that TikTok is working hard to up its eCommerce game, and the virality of the platform suggests that it will be successful.
In April 2020, Pinterest launched a new way to shop on the platform, with Shop tabs. The new tab on the Search and Pinterest boards helps users find in-stock items from retailers and tap shoppable pins that link directly to your checkout page.
While Pinterest hasn’t announced a native shop feature yet, it’s definitely moving in that direction.
Further reading: What are Pinterest ads and when to use them
A word of caution before you go
Social commerce is an exciting channel for any online seller, but before you start, it’s important to remember that social platforms are social channels.
If your products aren’t of the best quality, your deliveries not of the fastest speeds, or your customer care not of the highest standards, customers will complain on social media, for everyone to see.
Only once mastering the basics of product sourcing, order management, and fast fulfillment, are you ready to explore the world of social commerce.