January 15, 2021 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Social media was supposed to plateau in 2020, at least that was all the experts said, then came Covid-19, and those predictions went out the window. About 51% of US social media users had considerably increased their social media use by mid-2020, according to eMarketer, and this was just the precursor to the increased acceptance and use of social shopping.
Social Shopping is a process that allows social media users to buy products on social media platforms without ever having to leave. This means that brands can sell directly on their handles and pages instead of just advertising and redirecting traffic to their websites.
The first indicator of how major social shopping is poised to become is how many social media platforms are innovating their own system of social shopping and encouraging in-app purchases.
Facebook’s Social Shopping Evolution
Facebook has already put in a lot of work to turn their Facebook Pages into shops over the years. This feature allows brands with active pages to sell directly on the platform. This, in tandem with the Facebook Marketplace, which already enables peer-to-peer.
Recent statistics show that 15% of Facebook’s almost 3 billion users use Facebook to shop. This is a massive uptick from just three years ago, and it reveals a considerably greater comfort level amongst social media users towards social shopping.
Building on this obvious comfort, Facebook recently launched its Instant Experience feature. Facebook describes this new feature (formerly known as Canvas) as built to “capture the audience’s entire attention with engaging videos, and photos, enabling them to swipe through carousels, tilt to pan and explore lifestyle images with tagged products-all in a single ad.”
The selling point is the ability to click on tagged products and proceed to purchase.
Instagram’s Social Shopping Evolution
Instagram is clearly the largest visual social media platform, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t feeling the competition from Tiktok.
Instagram rolled out its Instagram Checkout feature in May 2019. This feature allowed a select few brands to receive payment in-app from users. They have since made that feature available to all eligible businesses within the US alone.
Buoyed by Tiktok’s relentless growth and influence in the eCommerce space, Instagram started experimenting with Live Shopping sometime back in October and have now announced their final system with the Instagram Shopping in Reels a few days ago on December 11th, 2020. This system gives direct competition to Tiktok’s Shippable Reels.
This exciting new feature allows both businesses and content creators to tag products on their reels. The tags reveal a “View Product” prompt on shoppable reels or a “Branded Content” prompt, which Influencers use for transparency when working with brands to promote their products.
The tags could lead straight to the product and enable direct purchase or to an off-app site.
It is easy to predict this new feature’s success based on the already enthusiastic level of commercial activity already on Instagram and especially during the pandemic.
Instagram Influencer and eCommerce veteran James Perry who has been deeply involved in the Instagram commerce space from the inception and has trained over 100 social media entrepreneurs, explains the immense potentials of this evolution;
“The greatest challenge we have had over the years has always been that loss of enthusiasm that occurs within that the split second between when customers click our links and when they are redirected to our sites. This phenomenon is, in my opinion, responsible for a great percentage of funnel abandonments. The possibilities that Instagram’s social shopping offers eliminate that split second and enhance the comfort levels users have with making purchases. ”
The potential is, in my opinion, too huge to ignore.
Pinterest’s Social Shopping Evolution
Pinterest has always been a go-to platform to discover new ideas and products, but their recent strides have tilted towards offering a shoppable experience for users as well. Pinterest launched its Verified Merchant Program (VMP), which gives a “Verified” badge to vetted brands.
The system is built to confer a “trustworthy” status on these brands that are vetted and accepted while building trust within their users. These brands can add a “Shop Tab” to their profiles and can showcase price and availability information in their pins.
It is largely believed that this is just the first step in Pinterest’s social shopping evolution, and it is easy to see why.
Many other social media platforms have also edged into social shopping with Tiktok’s highly publicized Shopping Reels and with Snapchat jumping in with its visual search feature. To think that these are only initial innovations in Social Shopping is intriguing, to say the least, and is worth getting excited over.
Why Should Marketers Get Excited?
- Social shopping capitalizes on a buyer’s moment of peak buying intent, which is when they see an ad, view a video or image. If they can also buy in-app, it is likely to increase conversions.
- It capitalizes on customer’s trust in social media platforms. Social media users trust Facebook (for instance) to be a neutral arbiter in the event of a dispute. It, therefore, makes it easier to purchase within a Facebook page than an external site.
- Social Shopping blends seamlessly with User Generated Content. 81% of customers build trust for purchase from another customer’s post or even comment within an ad (usually a friend on social media). Imagine the prospects of integrating UGC’s with shoppable posts so people can purchase right from their friend’s posts. It’s an exciting prospect.
- Its immense contribution towards customer success/service is clear by eliminating the distrust that comes up when customers are redirected from the app.
These are major reasons to get excited about the evolution of social shopping. There are also a few reasons to be concerned.
These social media platforms will get a greater share of online commerce to add to their already great influence is a bit worrying. However, the need to jump on this trend, in my opinion, far outweighs the reasons to be wary.