Unlocking the Power of Social Commerce: Tips for Small Businesses

Tips & Tricks
June 5, 2024

Seeking to connect with extensive audiences within your specific demographic? For ecommerce enterprises, few assets rival the significance of social media. With over half of the global population actively engaging on social platforms, and a majority checking in daily, the potential for social media marketing to yield significant returns on investment is substantial. However, despite these impressive statistics, driving sales through social media presents its challenges⁠—one notable hurdle being the task of persuading your followers to transition from a social media app to complete a purchase on your online store.

Nevertheless, this could be less of a hurdle now, all thanks to the rapid expansion of social commerce within the ecommerce realm.

What is social commerce?

Social commerce, sometimes referred to as social shopping, resides at the intersection of ecommerce and social media. Essentially, it involves businesses, brands, and content creators selling directly through sales channels integrated into their social media profiles or their followers' social media feeds.

Over the past few years, social media platforms have introduced various tools such as shoppable posts, on-site storefronts, and dedicated checkouts. These tools enable users to discover new products, explore different brands, and make purchases—all within the confines of their preferred social network.

While the concept of social commerce continues to evolve, one thing remains clear: its profitability. According to Statista, social commerce generated approximately $475 billion in revenue in 2020 and is projected to grow at an annual rate of 28.4%, reaching an estimated $3.37 trillion by 2028.

The roots of social commerce's profitability can be traced back to 2005, when the term was coined by David Beisel, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He coined the term "social commerce" to describe user-generated advertorial content found on ecommerce platforms according to source (The Beginnings of) Social Commerce

“With social commerce specifically, what better way to advertise a product than to have a friend recommend it to you? When a product is directly integrated into becoming content itself, it bypasses the normal filter that consumers put up to ignore or at least be skeptical of the advertising. And when this advertorial content is generated by a friend, a special element of trust is integrated into the advertorial relationship that wasn’t present otherwise.” Source (The Beginnings of) Social Commerce

In essence, it can be likened to a digital iteration of traditional word-of-mouth marketing.

Before the rise of platforms like Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, and during the nascent stages of Facebook's development, the term "social commerce" primarily referred to group-buying sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. However, even at that early stage, Beisal recognised the promising synergy between ecommerce and social media.

Social commerce benefits 

By engaging with your target audience directly on their preferred social platforms, social commerce presents numerous advantages compared to traditional ecommerce methods. If it's not already integrated into your social media marketing strategy, here's why it deserves consideration:

1. Streamlined checkout process: 

In conventional ecommerce practices, social media serves as a conduit to direct traffic to an external ecommerce website for purchases. While this approach can be effective, its primary drawback lies in the friction it introduces to the purchasing journey.

Completing a purchase entails users interrupting their social media browsing, navigating to an external site, and then returning to their original point of engagement. While seemingly trivial, this process imposes just enough effort for many users to opt out.

This additional layer of complexity in the checkout process is what we refer to as "friction." Each added step complicates the purchasing process, providing users with opportunities to abandon their transaction altogether.

However, by leveraging social commerce tools embedded within social media platforms, this friction is significantly reduced. Users encountering your content already possess all the necessary resources to make a purchase directly within the platform. Thus, purchasing from you becomes almost as effortless as tapping the "Like" or "Follow" button.

Prospective customers may still deliberate extensively before committing to a purchase from your brand. However, when they have the opportunity to buy directly at the moment of discovery, the ease of completing the purchase becomes a non-issue.

2. Boost social media interaction while you market your products.

An effective social media marketing strategy must achieve dual objectives: expanding reach to new audiences and nurturing relationships with existing ones.

With social commerce, you can interact with both these audiences concurrently. Posts aimed at building brand awareness can also incorporate purchase options for those in the consideration stage.

What are the strengths of this post?

Highlights the Product: The advertisement showcases elaborately adorned FabFitFun boxes brimming with a plethora of exciting items, providing viewers with a glimpse of the enticing offerings awaiting them upon subscription.

Irresistible Offer: Who can resist a fantastic deal? This advertisement presents an opportunity to receive a box valued at over $160 completely free of charge! It's almost too good to be true, but it certainly captures people's interest and encourages further exploration.

Timely Campaign: In celebration of Women's History Month, FabFitFun demonstrates its solidarity with female-founded businesses while seizing the opportunity to cater to the heightened demand for women-centric promotions.

3. The social commerce market is vast.

Segmenting social media users based on their followers, likes, or interests simplifies the process of targeting your desired audience. However, if you're not utilizing social commerce features, you're likely overlooking numerous potential sales opportunities.

The number of individuals who have reported making purchases via social commerce has been steadily increasing. Statistics indicate that by 2024, the adoption rate of social shopping will approach nearly 25 percent, with continuous expansion predicted in the following years. Consequently, revenues generated from social commerce are expected to soar, exceeding one trillion U.S. dollars by 2028. This significant increase marks a substantial jump from the already impressive figure of over 570 billion dollars recorded in 2023.

As more businesses embrace social commerce, the ability to make purchases directly on social media platforms will transition from being a luxury to an expectation. Embracing social commerce now will position you favourably to adapt to this trend and prevent missed sales opportunities.

4. Harness Social Proof in Your Sales Efforts 

Social proof, a psychological phenomenon, underscores our inclination to rely on the opinions of others when making purchasing decisions.

Within the realm of ecommerce, social proof manifests through various channels such as product reviews, customer testimonials, case studies, public endorsements, and awareness of a product's popularity. If you've ever been influenced to watch a movie or TV show because of widespread discussion about it, you've witnessed the potency of social proof.

Given that social media often serves as the initial point of contact for many users, prominently displayed social proof becomes a valuable asset for attracting followers and cultivating an audience. When leveraging social commerce, this social proof becomes equally valuable for driving sales.

Encourage customers to share pictures or videos showcasing your product. Solicit reviews or endorsements from influencers with highly engaged followings. The mere sight of satisfied users enjoying your product can compel others to follow suit.

Additionally, your social commerce posts serve as a form of social proof. As online shoppers observe their peers liking, commenting, and sharing your posts, they become more assured in their decision to purchase your product.

In 2021, a TikTok user named Trinidad Sandoval posted a video showcasing the effects of an eye cream from the skincare brand Peter Thomas Roth. The video quickly went viral on both TikTok and Twitter. The unexpected popularity of this simple video, which depicted Trinidad's morning routine, led to a complete sell-out of the product. The retailer noted that the amount sold within less than a week equaled what would typically sell in six months. This case exemplifies the significant impact of user-generated content and its potential to drive sales.

5. Catering to the growing population of mobile shoppers is increasingly vital for online retailers. 

To tap into the growing trend of mobile ecommerce and leverage the dominance of social media platforms in driving sales, transitioning from a mobile app to mobile-friendly websites with robust social commerce integration is paramount.

With mobile ecommerce sales soaring to $359 billion in 2021 and projected to represent 44.2% of total retail ecommerce sales in the US by 2025, it's clear that mobile devices are becoming the go-to shopping channels for consumers.

However, rather than solely relying on mobile apps, focusing on mobile-friendly websites offers several advantages. Firstly, it ensures accessibility across various devices and platforms, catering to a broader audience. Secondly, it aligns with the browsing behavior of consumers, who spend a significant portion of their mobile internet time within social media apps.

By integrating social commerce features into mobile-friendly websites, retailers can seamlessly engage with users where they spend most of their time online. This integration enables direct product discovery, seamless checkout experiences, and personalized recommendations, leveraging the targeted advertising capabilities of social media platforms.

Having a mobile-friendly website increases the likelihood of users making a purchase by 67%. The majority of users are more inclined to make a purchase when the website is mobile-friendly. This underscores the significance of businesses having a mobile-friendly website to enhance the chances of converting potential customers.

What are the optimal social commerce platforms for retailers?

With nearly every significant social media platform investing in social commerce features, retailers have a plethora of options to choose from when deciding on tools for online sales.

If you're venturing into selling through social commerce, here are the top platforms to consider:

1. Facebook 

Boasting nearly three billion active users, Facebook stands out as an excellent choice for businesses aiming to expand their reach to a global audience.

Integrating social commerce into your Facebook ad strategy can serve as an effective method to capture impulse sales from users who may have interacted with your content but hesitated to make a purchase.

Through Facebook Shops, businesses can establish personalised storefronts on their Facebook pages. Users can peruse products from their dedicated Shop tab, which curates items based on their past purchases, search history, and preferences, thus delivering a tailored customer experience aimed at connecting your products with users most inclined to buy them.

You'll also have the capability to engage with customers directly via Facebook Messenger, offering a distinctive opportunity to deliver personalised customer support and conduct sales through instant messaging.

💡PRO TIP: You can seamlessly import products into your Facebook shop directly from SHOPLINE. Additionally, given that both Facebook and Instagram are under the ownership of Meta Platforms, it's possible to synchronise storefronts on both platforms. Learn more here >>

2. Instagram 

Instagram's shopping features encompass dedicated storefronts, product tags enabling you to showcase items from your catalogue within posts or ads, and a Shop tab to optimise product discovery for potential interested users.

Similar to Facebook shops, users utilising Instagram shopping can explore products from numerous stores directly via the Shop tab situated on the app's bottom taskbar. From there, they can navigate through storefronts and product pages across various brands.

Brands and products are tailored to users based on their interests, follows, likes, and past purchases—signifying that your products stand a strong chance of being presented to users genuinely interested in making a purchase.

Given Instagram's emphasis on visual branding, industries such as fashion or cosmetics have a significant opportunity to leverage visual appeal as a means to distinguish themselves from competitors.

3. Pinterest

Neglecting social commerce in your Pinterest marketing strategy could result in missed sales opportunities. While social commerce might be an optional feature on other platforms, on Pinterest, it's indispensable.

What sets Pinterest apart is its unique user base, with a substantial portion actively seeking shopping experiences. According to Pinterest's Feed Optimization Playbook, 75% of individuals who use the platform weekly express a perpetual inclination towards shopping. Additionally, these weekly users are 40% more inclined to express a fondness for shopping compared to non-users.

This distinctive user behaviour on Pinterest translates to a large pool of potential customers eager to discover and purchase new products. Particularly in industries like fashion and home décor, Pinterest thrives as a hotspot for product exploration.

One notable feature of Pinterest is its ability for users to find and save products of interest, allowing for future purchases even if they don't buy immediately.

Moreover, brands leveraging Pinterest for sales can utilise buyable pins. These pins function as embedded Buy buttons directly within product images, offering users a seamless pathway to add items to their shopping cart.

Moreover, buyable pins seamlessly synchronise with products in your SHOPLINE store, automatically adjusting whenever there are changes in pricing or stock availability.

As your products gain traction with increased repins, clicks, and purchases, Pinterest might designate them with a "Best-seller" label, enhancing visibility in the "Popular" discovery pages.

💡PRO TIP: Incorporate the Pinterest app into your online store to start utilising Pinterest's buyable pins feature. Learn more here >>

4. TikTok

As of 2022, TikTok has over 1 billion monthly active users worldwide, making it one of the largest social media platforms globally. TikTok's audience primarily consists of younger demographics, with a significant portion falling into the 10 to 29-year-old age group. According to Statista, approximately 62% of TikTok users are aged between 10 and 29 years old.

Regarding shopping on TikTok, while specific statistics on the number of people who shop directly on the platform may vary, TikTok has been increasingly focusing on e-commerce integrations and features to facilitate shopping experiences for users. The platform has introduced features such as the TikTok Shopping tab, which allows users to discover and purchase products directly from creators' videos.

You can easily  connect your online store to TikTok For Business with SHOPLINE. With just one click, manage your TikTok assets effortlessly, including automatic syncing of products and Pixel installation. No need to deal with spreadsheets—sync your store's products directly to TikTok Shop and organise them into categories hassle-free. Plus, conveniently manage TikTok Shop orders within your store, making fulfilment a breeze. With SHOPLINE, tapping into TikTok's e-commerce potential is simple and straightforward.

With TikTok shopping, retailers can seamlessly tag products in both their organic content and paid TikTok ads. This simplifies the process for interested customers, enabling them to transition effortlessly from discovering your product to making a purchase.

How to Utilise Social Commerce Effectively: Tips and Strategies

Social commerce trends are ever-evolving, but there are key practices that can optimise your selling experience on social commerce platforms.

1. Select the Appropriate Social Commerce Channel for Your Product:

Every retailer has unique needs, so it's essential to choose the right social media platform for your business. Consider the demographic makeup of your brand’s audience and align it with the platform that best caters to them. For instance, if your target market is Gen Z, TikTok's sales channels might be ideal, while Instagram could be preferable for millennials. Focus on the platforms where your audience is most engaged to maximise sales potential, rather than spreading efforts too thinly across multiple platforms.

2. Harness the Power of Live Streaming:

Live Streaming is an effective way to showcase your product's unique features and differentiate your brand from competitors. For creators, it offers a chance to connect deeply with followers, showcasing personality alongside products. Viewers can engage in real-time, ask questions, and receive all necessary information for making a purchase. Facebook even offers live shopping features, allowing viewers to buy directly from the stream. With 70% of US internet users frequently watching live streams expressing willingness to purchase from streamers they follow, the opportunity for sales via livestreams is substantial.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Live Stream Shopping >>

3. Utilise Instant Messaging for Customer Engagement:

When selling online, customers often have inquiries about products. While you can't livestream around the clock, keeping instant messaging channels open ensures swift communication. 

Live chat support boasts the highest customer satisfaction levels, an impressive 79% of businesses reported that integrating live chat into their operations led to enhanced customer loyalty, increased revenue, and boosted sales.

Live chat adds a personal touch to the sales process and offers convenient customer support. This availability builds familiarity with your brand, enhancing brand loyalty and reducing cart abandonment rates. Additionally, personalised messaging can be used for promotions, product announcements, and post-purchase interactions, fostering stronger customer relationships.

4. Drive Growth through Influencer Partnerships:

Influencer marketing remains a potent method for boosting sales, with the industry projected to reach $16.4 billion in 2022 according to the The State of Influencer Marketing 2024: Benchmark Report. Influencer endorsements carry significant weight with their engaged audiences, often leading to increased social engagement and online sales. Partnering with influencers can provide access to a highly receptive audience, amplifying your brand's reach and driving growth in online sales.

All this engagement also plays favourably with algorithms. When more users interact with your posts, there's an increased likelihood of those posts reaching new users who could potentially be interested in your product.

Moreover, you don’t necessarily have to collaborate with significantly large influencers for influencer marketing to yield benefits. Micro-influencers often exhibit higher engagement rates compared to their larger counterparts, which is particularly valuable for fostering a sustained, long-term engaged audience.

The future of ecommerce lies in social commerce. While many ecommerce trends may come and go, social commerce is here to stay. As social media platforms continue to integrate social shopping functionalities, users will increasingly expect a seamless way to purchase products as soon as they discover them.

For small businesses, social commerce presents an opportunity to reach customers on par with larger competitors. By experimenting with social commerce strategies now, you position yourself for future scalability.

Ready to explore social commerce with SHOPLINE? Start now and unlock the potential of selling directly through social media platforms.

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