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The Advancement Of Social Commerce: Should E-Commerce Brands Care?

The global growth of e-commerce has reached the world of social media. It’s safe to say that so far it’s a match made in heaven.

Social commerce in a nutshell is the use of social media as a channel to allow customers to purchase products directly from their news feed. It’s shopping brought to the native social media experience, and it makes perfect sense that it came about and continues to grow: Statista says a whopping 66% of the UK population are active social media users as of January this year, and 57% of them are on mobile.

Social media as an entity is no longer just one component of a customer’s purchase journey. It’s becoming an e-commerce platform in its own right.

Image showing the main social media apps on a phone screen. These are the ones that social commerce is really growing through.

The main players in the social commerce game are Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, with Pinterest and Snapchat close behind. Each of these platforms provides its own unique user experience, but the bottom line is the same. Each one gives brands the power to leverage hordes of highly inspired, engaged users. This is the primary reason why social commerce is arguably no longer just a trend or a fad. In fact many think it’s the next e-commerce revolution.

The current social commerce experience

Social commerce is still more or less in its infancy, with brands testing the waters and finding out what works for them. Users too are learning how to interact with this relatively new e-commerce opportunity as Octavio Maron, executive director at Fetch, explains:

“There’s a lot of friction from the user to go through the steps [to purchase] because there’s also this learning curve of buying something on this new platform.” [source]

However, the user experience on platforms like Instagram has certainly become more streamlined in 2018. After clicking on the “shop now” icon, users see a product description and any the details of any other products featured in the post. Then they have the option of clicking through directly to the site to make their purchase. The social commerce customer journey has become simplified thanks to Instagram’s Shoppable features and Facebook catalogues, while also making it easier for brands to track sales leads directly from social media.

As regards the numbers, Statista put worldwide social commerce revenue at $30 billion back in 2015, but have published no further statistics since then. Assuming there has been growth, this still a relatively small proportion of the global value of m-commerce at $460 billion. Although predictions indicate that social commerce looks set to reach $165.59 billion by 2021, giving a sizeable market share.

Image showing people using social media on their phones at a train station. Social commerce let's users shop at exactly these kinds of moments in the day.

Why should brands care about social commerce?

There are a plethora of reasons why online brands should care about social commerce:

  • It drives traffic to retail websites. Even if users don’t make a purchase, your brand made an impression which could be nurtured into a purchase at other digital touch points.
  • It increases brand reach. The billions of social media users logging in everyday are actively browsing for products like yours and they’re poised to buy.
  • It increases trust among customers. Social media is where people go to share things with friends and, well, be social. It’s a channel through which people feel comfortable expressing themselves and it’s this that allows you to create a deeper relationship with them by offering them the opportunity to shop your products within the native app experience.
  • It is a key component in the omnichannel experience. Social media is essential in omnichannel, and if shoppers spot something they love in the news feed, social commerce lets them click straight through to the website, ensuring one seamless, smooth purchase journey.
  • It thrives on community. Building a strong brand community on social media will almost definitely increase repeat purchases and drive new customers by creating an experience that users want to share in and a brand they want to grow with and follow.

The bottom line is that social commerce lets brands reach a highly engaged audience through a familiar channel, simplifying the path to purchase from social media to checkout.

So, is it really the next big thing?

The facts point to a yes. Social commerce is growing and it’s here to stay.

Social media is a powerful tool and brands are extending that influence into the e-commerce sphere. They are using it to their advantage to drive conversions and website traffic.

In terms of activity, Facebook currently commands the biggest market share. The platform enables retailers to have entire product catalogues, order management capabilities and more, all within the platform.

While it’s true that social commerce won’t work for some business types, it’s booming among others. The biggest sectors benefiting from the boom are retail, apparel and electronics, and users and brands alike are enjoying the unique shopping experience that social commerce provides.

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