Social Commerce: Know the What, Why, Where and How

Person with sunglasses using mobile phone while shopping

Social commerce brings the social aspect of shopping to online users more than ever before. It’s a growing revenue stream for many brands and strives to simplify the online shopping experience to billions of active social media users worldwide.

But what is social commerce, exactly? Is it just a fad, or is it for real? Here’s a quick primer to get you up to speed.

What is social commerce?

Social Commerce, or social e-commerce, is the promotion and selling of products within social media networks.

To expand this social commerce definition, it’s a part of e-commerce that uses social networks to centralize customers’ entire purchase experience with that channel, preventing customers from having to leave these networks at any point during their shopping experience. That includes when they start researching to when they submit their order to when they’re looking for help with their product.

Why is social commerce important today?

The role of social media in our daily lives is continually growing. There are 3.5 billion active users globally (and rising), and we spend nearly two and a half hours on social media daily.

Brands have more opportunity than ever before to get their brand and offerings in front of a targeted set of potential shoppers. At the same time, shoppers benefit from being able to shop using a channel they’re already frequently using while easily being able to leverage the social components they rely on when shopping.

Consider these recent findings:

  • 87% of e-commerce customers say that social media plays a key role in their purchase decisions. (Social Media Today, 2018)
  • 95% of consumers say that online reviews influence their purchase decisions. (Uberall, 2019)
  • 42% of consumers use social networks to research products, with 24% discovering brands via recommendations/comments on social media. (Globalwebindex, 2019)
  • $6.5B in sales brought in by social shopping by the Top 500 retailers in 2017. (Adweek, 2018 via Shopify)
  • 55% of consumers have purchased an item through a social media channel, such as Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. (Avionos, 2018)
  • 40% of those between 36-54 years of age said they were most likely to purchase via social commerce during the 2019 holiday season, more than any other age group. (Astute, 2020)

Social media networks have offered brands the ability to step up their social commerce game over the years. Let’s look at some of these.

Social commerce examples

Traditional social selling focuses on driving traffic from your social media profiles, posts, and ads to your website or landing pages. In recent years, social media networks have looked to centralize all aspects of the shopping and purchasing experience in one place to facilitate the overall customer journey.

Three key players offering this capability include Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Facebook Commerce

With over 2.7 billion active monthly users, Facebook is the most used social media network worldwide. Brands are eager to reach their desired audiences and drive sales from their Facebook presence, with the social media giant expected to bring in over $30 billion in ad revenue in 2020.

Not surprisingly, Facebook has delved into social commerce and selling in the past. Here are some recent examples:

More recently, Facebook Shops launched in May 2020 as a way to “give people a place to experience the joy of shopping versus the chore of buying.” This update intended to give companies the ability to bring a branded shopping experience within Facebook and give customers the ability to research and buy items, all within Facebook.

Facebook Shops also provides the ability for shoppers to interact with the brand using Messenger during their shopping experience, providing an opportunity for brands to leverage Facebook Messenger Bots to assist in the shopping experience.


Instagram Commerce

Also hosting over 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram e-commerce capabilities also provide brands with opportunities to elevate their social commerce game.

Coupled with the launch of Facebook Shops in early 2020, Instagram Shops aims to provide a similar, single-channel shopping experience for the visual-friendly network’s users.

Added with brands’ ability to tag products in posts, they can leverage their Instagram Shop to give customers an interactive way to browse through their collections and move through their purchase journey quickly.

Pinterest Commerce

Over the years, Pinterest has provided visual brands the ability to engage in social commerce, while providing its over 335 million monthly active users a visual and interactive way to shop.

Pinterest started providing its users the ability to buy products directly in the social network with the launch of Buyable Pins in 2015. More recently, Pinterest has also introduced “More like this” and “More from this brand” options to help brands further promote their catalog.

How can I use social commerce for my business today?

A fundamental rule for any brand: Always support your customers on their preferred shopping channels. As we’ve covered, social media is one of these channels and is expected to become even more so in the years ahead.

The crux of successful social commerce is the ability to provide simple and seamless experiences throughout the customer journey, from the research and purchase stages, all the way to post-purchase support.

Determine what social channels your customers are using and optimize your social media strategy to take advantage of that network’s social commerce features. Regardless of whether you choose to point visitors back to your site to complete their shopping experience or leverage the native social commerce features for a given network, always have the customer experience in mind.

Here are some findings that should fuel your efforts:

  • 84% of US shoppers feel it essential to be able to ask sellers questions about what they are buying. (Pew Research, 2016)
  • 73% say customer experience is an important factor in purchasing decisions, placing speed, convenience, knowledgeable help, and friendly service as the most critical elements. (PwC, 2018)
  • 64% of consumers are more likely to recommend a brand to others if it offers simpler experiences and communications. (Siegel+Gale, 2019)

In addition to providing positive social shopping experiences, brands must be there for when they have questions. For example, consider leveraging a chatbot to provide customers an easy and fast way to answer questions about your different offerings, to help them navigate the checkout process, or even to obtain post-purchase support. At the same time, give them the ability to quickly escalate a question to a live agent if they prefer.

Also, be sure always to monitor chatter about your brand on your social media channels, especially if it pertains to their social shopping experience. Ensure your social media management efforts include having the measures in place to escalate negative mentions to an appropriate agent, so that they can reach back out to the user and remedy the issue right away.

How Astute can help

Customers crave great experiences. Always explore ways you can deliver these in your social commerce efforts.

At Astute, we help enterprises all over the world deliver exceptional experiences throughout the customer journey. Learn more about our award-winning AI-driven chatbot and proven social media management software today, or schedule a demo to see them in action.