Social commerce is on the rise. According to a new report from eMarketer, the pandemic has fueled a surge in e-commerce across the board, and social commerce in the U.S. has benefitted from that acceleration. By all accounts, it will continue to do so: the prediction is that social commerce will gain even more traction as platforms boost their checkout and shopping functions. What does this news mean for your brand? Read on to learn more.
The Market Is Growing
Social commerce is certainly enjoying a banner year already. eMarketer predicts that in 2021, U.S. retail social commerce sales will rise to $36.09 billion — a whopping 34.8 percent leap that would represent a 4.3 percent piece of the retail ecommerce sales pie. The prediction comes on the heels of a revised 2020 social commerce forecast: from 19.8 percent growth to 37.9 percent growth.
Social Commerce Hot Spots
Because of their focus on images, Instagram and Pinterest have a leg up on displaying merchandise; it’s probably no coincidence, then, that both platforms, as eMarketer points out, “provide the most relevant social commerce experiences for brands today.” Instagram and Pinterest have also been enjoying exceptionally strong growth. And both sites have been very proactive about developing business tools that make it easier to sell products and services online.
For example, Pinterest offers tools such as:
- Product Pins, through which a business can connect its product catalog to Pinterest, filter and organize inventory, create shopping ads, and measure results.
- Promoted Pins, which appear in search results and home feed as regular pins do, but are targeted and boosted to deliver more reach. Users can pin them to boards, comment on them, and share them. Note that after a Promoted Pin is shared once by a Pinner, the “Promoted” label disappears, with repins considered “earned media.”
- Promoted Carousels, which feature two to five swipeable images. This can be a useful format for brands wishing to showcase multiple products or features.
But it’s Instagram that has really rocked social commerce by continuously offering tools that make it easier for brands to use the platform for sales. Consider features such as:
- Instagram checkout, which facilitates simple, convenient, and secure purchases made directly from Instagram. As we’ve blogged, shopping from Instagram means protected payment information is kept in one place. So Instagrammers can shop multiple favorite brands without having to log in and enter intel multiple times.
- Instagram Live, which allows checkout-enabled businesses to sell products through “live shopping.” In live shopping, consumers might be inspired by a creator or brand’s live video content and subsequently buy promoted products in real-time.
Platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok are also making moves to stay competitive. As we’ve blogged, TikTok has been doubling down on social commerce, especially in the arena of livestreaming. Consider the site’s recent collaboration with Walmart, in which shoppers could check out Walmart’s TikTok profile to see fashions highlighted by TikTok creators like Michael Le (it’s worth noting that categories like apparel/accessories really lend themselves to social commerce). Using mobile checkout, consumers could then buy the same products they saw in the livestream.
What You Should Do
Eager to incorporate social commerce into your marketing plan? We recommend that you:
- Do your homework on your audience. Not all social commerce platforms are the same. Pinterest tends to appeal to Millennial women, TikTok to Gen Z and Millennials as a whole. Ask yourself: what demographics am I trying to reach?
- Learn how to use the tools available to you. Each platform will have its own requirements for creating content. In addition, all of these popular sites will require a strong understanding of how to use visuals — it behooves you to make creating powerful imagery a strength. Finally, if you choose to get into live commerce, you’ll need to get really savvy about using livestreaming effectively.
- Make sure you are set up for success. As we discussed on our blog in January, many businesses are struggling to manage the surge in demand that happens when they attract more shoppers with an intent to buy. Make sure your online fulfillment can handle the demand.