Every time I see my dad in a new item of clothing or with a new dad-like gadget, I ask him where he sourced it and he enthusiastically replies ‘the Instagram!” A new report from Accenture estimates that 50% of US adults made a purchase via social media in 2021. Well, I’m not surprised. The report focuses on social commerce and predicts the industry will grow three times as fast as traditional ecommerce, more than doubling from $492 billion worldwide in 2021 to $1.2 trillion in 2025. US social commerce sales are expected to reach $45.74 billion by the end of this year (which is in only two months!) with more than a half of the country’s adults making a purchase on social media. 

I’m not an Instagram shopper. I’m a low budget Gen Z kinda girl so I make my purchases at flea markets in Dalston or when I visit my in-laws in Paris, the odd Vinted browse and through fashion industry friends who let me know where to go and which sample sales are hot right now. According to Accenture, those of us who hadn’t made a social media purchase cited a variety of reasons, including preferring to deal directly with a retailer (44%), distrusting platforms with payment information (43%), and being unsure if the products shown were legitimate (33%). I agree with them on that one – we’ve all seen those memes and TikToks accurately depicting that feeling of when you see an item online versus when it arrives looking very much unlike its shiny thumbnail…

Still, signs of interest from consumers are there. Facebook was viewed as the most trustworthy platform for purchases, but only about 45% of buyers said they felt confident there. The study also showed that as brands continue to leverage social media checkout and shopping integrations, tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Zers, who are familiar with and motivated by influencer content, will likely engage with social commerce more often. I found this interesting because, as mentioned, I just don’t shop online. However, I do have the privilege of living in a major city with many nooks and crannies for cute, unique clothing and I happen to be a vintage fiend. I’m also a music artist so I think that pressure to adhere to a ‘branded’ or ‘niche’ aesthetic and not follow trends is all the more apparent. Maybe I’m an anomaly. 

Or perhaps I feel this way because certain brands I’d be into aren’t successfully marketing for social commerce. Luxury brands in particular seem to steer away from mass social commerce as a way to seem exclusive which makes total sense. No one marketing strategy is going to work for every brand—a social shopping experience for athleisure is going to look very different from a campaign for electronics. However, all brands can utilise influencers, consumer calls to action, and user generated content, to successfully compete in the social commerce market. 

Phrases such as “swipe up to purchase,” or “store link in bio,” have become extremely popular calls to action—pushing social media users to purchase the items or services they see advertised on their newsfeeds. But again, such CTAs would seem almost naff if they were to be adopted by niche vintage markets or high end brands such as Acne or Balenciaga who instead market through beautifully curated campaigns featuring Rosalia or the Kim K and her extra long ponytail. 

User-generated content has risen in importance for marketers—with TikTok videos and hashtag challenges providing value for brands. This viewer-friendly content combined with appropriate call to action steps has been a boon for advertisers and marketers alike. In addition to these organic opportunities, companies should keep influencers top of mind when planning their social commerce strategy.

In 2019, Instagram gave some influencers the ability to create shoppable posts using Checkout on Instagram, while Snapchat gave select top-tier influencers a “shop” button. And even TikTok has tapped the social commerce market—announcing its partnership with Shopify in November 2020. 

In regards to trends, China’s WeChat platform will stand as the model US companies and other brands will look to when constructing a social commerce strategy. By allowing merchants to house virtual storefronts on the platform, WeChat functions as a one-stop shop for ecommerce.

While Facebook and Instagram stand as major players in the social commerce space, Pinterest acts as the dark horse. Some of the most popular categories searched on Pinterest have to do with interior design, fashion, and health & fitness—making its contextual relevance for shopping and brand awareness an ideal platform for social commerce. 

While Pinterest drives significantly less engagement than Facebook, it still registers as a key purchase channel because its entire premise is centred around creating inspiration for what to buy.

As for TikTok, even though the app is new to the social commerce industry, its heritage as a Chinese company already gives it a leg up on platform competitors as it has the benefit of understanding what’s worked and what hasn’t in other markets. TikTok’s algorithmic prowess and engaged, tech-savvy user base have potential to unleash rapid growth as it achieves product-market fit. And its recent tie-up with Walmart gives it a formidable ecommerce partner to fuel and fulfil consumer demand.

Categorized in: