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What Is Social Shopping? What Every Ecommerce Business Needs to Know in 2021

What Is Social Shopping? What Every Ecommerce Business Needs to Know in 2021

social shopping

Brands are always looking for new ways to connect with consumers and drive more sales — and social shopping offers you the best of both. In 2021, the future of this unique sales channel is looking brighter than ever. But are you ready to take full advantage of everything social commerce has to offer?

In this article, we’re sharing everything you need to know about this powerful ecommerce strategy, including exactly what to do in order to get it right and examples of stellar sellers who are already killing it in social commerce. Check it out!

The scoop on social shopping

  • So what is social shopping?
  • How social commerce works
  • Here’s why social shopping matters for your business.
  • How to get started with social shopping
  • 9 social commerce best practices
  • How 6 top brands are slaying the social shopping game

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You get social, and you get shopping. But what exactly is  social shopping?

You already know all about how social media redefined marketing and advertising. But now, it’s changing the next phase of the buyer’s journey through social shopping

In case you haven’t heard the term “social shopping” (also known as social commerce) here’s a quick definition: 

Social shopping is the act of discovering, exploring, and purchasing products on social media — without ever leaving the platform. 

The key component here is “without ever leaving.” With social shopping, buying happens in the same place that users go to connect with friends and family, get inspired by influencers, and keep up with their favorite brands.

The idea is you’re selling more, because you’re selling in the exact same place (and in the exact same way) that your users are used to.

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How social commerce works

Though the specifics vary from platform to platform, the idea behind social shopping is fairly simple. Brands create compelling social content featuring their products, and then offer users a direct way to purchase those products within the social media platform. 

Social shopping features can include: 

  • Product tags or stickers on shoppable posts and videos
  • Swipe-up links on shoppable stories
  • Profile tabs for in-platform storefronts
  • Third-party apps and plugins (such as comment selling)

With these features, social media users can add items to a cart, continue shopping, and complete checkout without leaving the platform. And brands can sell directly from their social media posts and pages, rather than advertising and redirecting traffic to their website. 

Here’s why social shopping matters for your business

Of course, social media is already a powerful platform for large and small brands alike, for everything from paid advertising to product reviews. But social shopping increases that power even more.

Social shopping leverages the immersive and personalized experience of browsing social media to drive sales seamlessly by removing the friction in the buyer’s journey that’s caused when a user has to go to a different site to complete a transaction. That can make a huge difference in the fast-moving world of ecommerce where buyer behavior is constantly changing. 

A seismic pandemic shift

In the last decade, consumer preferences have trended toward highly visual content (including images and videos) and mobile-first experiences. 

The popularity of image- and video-centric social media platforms has grown significantly over the past decade. (Source)

But these trends have accelerated in the wake of Covid-19 with 51% of US adults reporting considerable increases in their social media use. (This is no surprise to anyone who contributed to the explosive growth of TikTok in 2020.) Pandemic-induced lockdowns also triggered a huge spike in ecommerce sales — equivalent to ~5 years of projected growth in just three months:

Ecommerce sales grew dramatically as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source)

Social shopping empowers brands of all sizes to capitalize on these trends by meeting buyers where they already spend time, connecting with them authentically, and creating a frictionless shopping experience.

And it promises to be a highly lucrative channel: Social commerce is an $89.4 billion market right now. But that’s not all: It’s set to reach $604.5 billion by 2027. 

That’s an opportunity you just can’t afford to miss. 

Social shopping statistics

Still not sold on social commerce? Here are some statistics to keep in mind: 

How to get started with social shopping

The specifics of setting up social shopping will vary depending on whether you’re opening a Facebook Shop, starting with Instagram Shopping, creating a shop on Pinterest, or connecting 

TikTok to your Shopify store. And while it might seem intimidating, the reality is that if you’ve already got an online store and a social media presence, you’re more than halfway there! 

9 social commerce best practices

Many of the same principles that apply to designing your ecommerce website, executing your social media marketing strategy, and engaging with social media followers apply here as well — because social shopping is at the intersection of all these activities. 

Here are nine tips to help you get started on the right foot with social commerce:

1. Create authentic, engaging content

High-quality photos and videos are an absolute must for social commerce…but with a twist. While you definitely need standard product shots for your in-platform shop, shoppable posts, stories, and videos are an entirely new ballgame when it comes to social commerce.

You’ve probably heard the advice to include lifestyle, in-action images along with standard product shots, but social commerce allows you to take this to the next level. Showing your products in a relatable setting can increase customer interest and confidence in your brand. 

2. Don’t just lurk — engage! 

We often think of social media as an opportunity for consumers to keep track of brands they love, but the reverse is true as well: Social media is an opportunity for brands to connect and engage with their fans and followers. 

Social media is teeming with opinions, likes, dislikes, and valuable feedback. Truly, it’s like a focus group that you can tap into any time. So use social media to listen strategically and learn from users. 

Perhaps even more importantly, social media is a place to build authentic relationships with your followers — the people who are most likely to become vocal advocates for your brand.

3. Encourage reviews

No matter how perfectly you pitch and advertise your products, odds are that word-of-mouth and honest reviews will carry more weight in consumers’ minds. Remember, 93% of consumers say online reviews have an impact on their purchase decision.

Consumers want to hear about real experiences with your products, which means honest reviews from previous customers can help increase interest, build trust in your brand, and provide clear insight into your customers’ experience. For potential customers, zero reviews can be just as off-putting as bad reviews — so go ahead and encourage past purchasers to review your products. 

4. Put the focus on customers

Social media offers you the opportunity to share the love with your fans in a whole new way. Using your platform to showcase user-generated content (UGC), whether by reposting or sharing in Stories, can be a great way to connect authentically, build relationships, and inspire more followers to create their own content featuring (a.k.a. marketing) your products. 

5. Connect with micro-influencers

Consumers trust the honest opinions of real people far more than they trust traditional advertising — which is why influencer marketing has been such an enormous boon for many brands. But you don’t have to get Kim Kardashian to take a photo with your product to reap the benefits of influencer marketing. 

In fact, research has shown that it’s actually “micro-influencers” — those with fewer than 35k followers — who have the highest engagement rate with their audiences (about 5.3%). In combination with a strong social shopping strategy, micro-influencers can drive serious traffic to your in-platform storefront. 

6. Keep it on-brand

No matter where customers buy from your business, they should have a consistent, on-brand experience. And while many brands let their hair down a bit on social media, that doesn’t mean you completely forego your brand identity. From the visual aesthetic of your posts to the voice of your captions and the feel of your live posts, your followers should still be able to recognize your brand if you want to stay connected with them and drive more sales. 

7. Consider the context

Ecommerce stores require different strategies from their brick-and-mortar counterparts because people shop differently online than they do in-person. The same holds true for social shopping — it’s a specific context with its own specific behaviors. 

Whereas a visitor to your ecommerce site is actively seeking out your brand or a particular product, social media users aren’t typically coming to the platform in a “shopping” frame of mind. They may be bored or distracted and looking for entertainment more than a new pair of shoes. In this context, consumers are more susceptible to impulse buying behavior — which means you’ll probably see more conversions when you feature lower-priced items compared to more premium products. 

8. Offer social media support

Wherever your customers are shopping, you want to offer them a convenient way to get support and service if they need it. So if they’re shopping on social media, you should also have a way for them to contact customer support via social media (ideally in the same platform) if needed. 

9. Leverage your data

Your social media accounts are a goldmine of valuable information about your followers. As you incorporate social shopping channels into your business, leverage the data you have through your advertising and engagement data so that you can more effectively target your audience and provide the right offers at the right moment. 

How 6 top brands are slaying the social shopping game

The most savvy brands are taking advantage of social shopping — many of them on multiple platforms at once. Here are five familiar brands who are leveraging the power of social shopping to drive more sales on the platforms consumers like best:

ZARA – Facebook Shops

ZARA’s Facebook shop delivers the same on-brand experience as their own ecommerce website.

ASICS – Facebook Shops

ASICS leverages Instagram shopping and product tags in photos on their page.

Warby Parker – Instagram Shopping

Warby Parker paired this AMAZING self-portrait (and user-generated content) with Instagram Shopping tags to showcase one of their fans as well as their products.

Sephora – Instagram Shopping & TikTok

Sephora partners with an influencer to deliver an engaging product demonstration and review on their Stories — and tags the featured product to help direct users to purchase.

Studio McGee – Pinterest & Instagram

As one of the pioneers of Instagram interior design content, it’s no surprise that Studio McGee takes advantage of shoppable content on Instagram and Pinterest for their product line, McGee & Co.

Walmart – Pinterest

Even massive retailers like Walmart are in on the social shopping game with pins that cater to the style of the platform — showcasing products in a real-life setting, rather than sparse product images.

Social shopping is more than a trend

The influence of social media on modern life is only expanding, particularly as growing generations of digital natives increase their buying power. For the ecommerce industry, social commerce offers an incredible opportunity to create better shopping experiences for customers — and drive greater success as a result.

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