A Simple Guide to Social Commerce
What Is Social Commerce and Why Should You Care?
Social commerce refers to the popular practice of selling products directly on social media platforms (such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram) rather than through physical stores or websites. It is one of the fastest-growing trends in the business world. Thus, there are so many reasons to focus on social commerce. In this article, we will unpack everything you need to know about social commerce.
As social media consumption continues to accelerate globally, businesses are beginning to adopt social commerce, which has completely transformed the entire shopping experience for shoppers. From product discovery to checkout, everything involved with shopping takes place directly on the relevant social media platform. The simple see it, click it, buy it mechanism central to social commerce is relatively easy, removes friction from the consumer's journey, speeds up the transaction process, and gives consumers a strong sense of autonomy. This is exactly how social commerce makes shopping much more interactive compared to the typical e-commerce and in-store shopping experiences.
In addition, social commerce creates an incredible opportunity to collect customer feedback and allows business owners to chat with them frequently via comments or direct messages. This way, they can obtain data about exactly who their customers are, their likes and dislikes. Furthermore, since social commerce is the most direct and immediate form of interaction between people and products, it has evolved into a method for generating frictionless social sales.
Another advantage of utilizing social commerce is the fact that Millennials and Gen-Z (18-to-34 age range) prefer to purchase goods on social media. In 2019, 48% of the total internet users in the United States (U.S.) were Millennials and Gen-Z. It is reported that Gen Z spends two to three times more time shopping on social media platforms than the average shopper. The amount of time Generation Z and millennials are spending on social media is what has led to social commerce becoming such a key driving force in online commerce. This largely results from the fact that social commerce emphasizes and promotes individual taste over brands, giving quick rise to new trends preferred by that age bracket. Thus, we can see that social commerce is leading the future of shopping, and we can’t deny the fact that Millennials and Gen Z are undoubtedly shaping the consumer market.
Social Commerce Vs. E-commerce
Presently, both social media and e-commerce platforms are dominating the social commerce landscape. However, unlike traditional e-commerce, social commerce offers the chance to get specific, ready-to-buy products in front of the specific audience that is looking for them. Thus, social commerce has become a popular choice for selling online. It’s simple, convenient, and immediate; it is everything that modern consumers crave. Today, the average person spends over three hours per day online, which in turn feeds into the humongous user bases social media platforms have. Thanks to the larger customer base, it is much easier to drive traffic and engagement with social media which shows enormous growth potential. Thus, it’s crucial to add social commerce to your business strategy if you are planning to sell your products online.
What Are the Best Platforms for Social Commerce?
The overwhelmingly high number of purchases made via social media makes it evident that online social interaction and online shopping are a perfect match. At the moment, only a few of the top social platforms offer social commerce. But as interest and profits grow, we’ll likely see more social media brands integrate shop now options.
As Facebook continues to hold onto its reputation as a strong force in the world of social commerce, it facilitates in-app shopping by provisioning features that allow customers to complete entire transactions within the app itself. For instance, Facebook Shops enable businesses to connect directly with customers and potential customers through Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram Direct. Moreover, they are fully customizable, allowing business owners to alter the interface to suit their brand and create a unique shopping experience for customers.
Set up a Facebook page for your business >
Instagram is a predominantly image-based platform highly popular among online shoppers. In 2019, a study by Facebook revealed that 87% of people surveyed stated that they took action after seeing product information on Instagram, such as following a brand or visiting their website. 54% of respondents said they made a purchase immediately after seeing a product or service on Instagram. Furthermore, the in-app feature of Instagram allows users to explore and shop on the feed. They’re navigated easily to the product detail page, where they can check out without any distractions. Similar to Facebook, Instagram also facilitates in-app features. These factors explain Instagram's continuous success and why consumers and business owners flock to the platform to buy and sell.
Set up an Instagram page for your Business >
Short-form video content is dominating e-commerce and social commerce with easy access to platforms such as TikTok. TikTok is one of the most recently introduced social media platforms that is slowly transforming into an influencer marketing powerhouse. It allows brands to create in-feed videos based on their products to offer an authentic and genuine experience. Since video content is vastly consumed compared to other types of content, consumers now have the choice to easily buy from a brand when they proactively connect with their content and by simply learning product details through videos. These videos are generally produced by influencers who are often paid partners of brands. In October 2020, Shopify officially partnered up with TikTok to help their one million plus businesses drive sales by reaching out to TikTok's younger and seemingly ever-expanding audience.
Similar to TikTok, YouTube shopping enables businesses to create videos so that users can explore products and buy them immediately. Purchasing is possible even while the video continues to play.
Similar to Instagram, Pinterest is also an image-based platform. Features such as product pins allow businesses to display their stock information and product prices from their Pinterest shops. Pinterest also permits brands to move their product catalog to the platform, recognizing the need for an online catalog.
How Can You Utilise Social Commerce?
If you want the best out of social commerce, you need to utilize your content. This is one of the most vital components of a successful social commerce strategy. With thousands of brands shifting to social media platforms, you need to stand out to garner the attention of consumers. There are several ways to ensure your content is utilized. Listed below are a few we've hand-picked to help you get an idea.
Keep in mind that aesthetics play a major role in the success of social commerce. Social media is a predominantly visual-centric platform. If your social media account isn’t visually appealing, things could get a little difficult. Try and spruce up your product photography, make sure your posts are organized, and try to follow a color theme. Ensure that your product photographs are of high quality. Also, stick to vertical imagery because a large portion of consumers engages on social media platforms via their phones. So they're going to want to see you use vertical images.
Videos: Social commerce video content should be between 6 and 15 seconds long.
Text: The copies should be kept short. Around 100 or less would do for headlines and titles, while no more than 500 characters would do for descriptions.
Overlay: Use an overlay to make the products stand out.
Captions: Using captions increases reach and product accessibility. Therefore, it has become a mandatory component of social media content.
Filters: Use filters to make your product stand out, but don't use so many that users aren't sure what they're supposed to be looking at.
Logos: Include your brand logo in every post. Make sure it's visible and not hidden in a corner.
Pros and Cons of Social Commerce
Benefits of Social Commerce
- Establishes Direct Contact Between Sellers and Shoppers
Social media platforms allow sellers to communicate and interact with customers directly. This allows customers to like, comment, and share the content you post on your social channels among their social circles.
- Ability to Cater to a Global Audience
Go global! With social media being accessible to everyone on the planet, business owners can market their products and services to any audience.
- Trustworthy Reviews & Feedback
Social media allows real users to place real-time reviews for products and services. This increases personal connection and trustworthiness.
- Increases Brand Interactions
Being active on different social media platforms allows sellers to engage with customers beyond purchases. In addition, venturing into social commerce allows business owners to promote their content through as many social channels as they like. The business is no longer limited to a specific audience.
- Access to Mobile Shoppers
One of the most crucial benefits of social commerce is the fact that it attracts the interest of mobile shoppers. The term ‘mobile shoppers’ refers to a segment of shoppers who make their purchases through smartphones. They browse through products and services through their mobile. According to research, more than ¾ of the 5 billion social media users access platforms through smartphones and/or tablets. This behavior is quite prevalent among generation Z. A 2021 Consumer Culture Report by 5WPR found that Gen Z spends 43 minutes more on online shopping than they did before the COVID-19 outbreak. (1)
Disadvantages of Social Commerce
- It’s Made for Shoppers, Not Sellers
Social commerce was primarily created for the benefit of shoppers. Therefore, it is quite disadvantageous for businesses. This is largely due to the sellers losing the web traffic and clicks because the entire process is focused on a certain Social Media platform.
- Time Consuming
Social media requires constant content to ensure a consistent level of interactions with the audience. Therefore, businesses that utilize social commerce have to put in a lot of effort to develop interesting and engaging content. Therefore, keeping up with the content and interactions can be quite time-consuming for businesses.
- Low Organic Reach
Getting sales highly depends on advertising. The organic reach is slowly dying and ads dominate social media platforms. It may differ between platforms, but the fact is, that ads are the main selling tool.
- Reach Is Limited to Social Media Platforms Only
Social commerce is only limited to social media platforms. Although social media has a huge reach, it is limited in terms of obtaining reach from audiences that aren't social.
Introducing the 5 C’s of Social Commerce
While social commerce broadly encompasses any online shopping activity where e-commerce merges with social interaction, there is a comprehensive framework of five factors that enables business owners to nurture the ability to transform their social media presence from a cost center to a profit center. The 5C framework of social commerce is as follows: content, community, commerce, context, and connection. Now, let’s break down the 5 C framework and take a closer look at each component, what they entail and how to make use of them for the benefit of your own online business.
The first step of the framework prioritizes the importance of creating purposeful and tailor-made content in collaboration with the relevant social media platforms to communicate the products and services. The main goal is to attract potential customers and convert older consumers that are already in the marketing funnel. This is all about dominating social media feeds to gain the interest of your audience and deliver a high-quality user experience. In doing so, it delivers high-quality and tailored content through social channels to each group. The purpose of this is to increase interest and deliver a great user experience for customers.
For instance, businesses that are interested in connecting with the audience at a more personal level can leverage social media to show an authentic side of their business and post-behind-the-scenes content.
Behind-the-scenes, content humanizes the business to the audience, as they’re showing the audience the life cycle behind the product or service that the business sells. Behind-the-scenes content showcases the brand's unique personality and gives users a good idea of the people that create the products they love.
Secondly, community refers to the unique feeling of being part of a bigger group that social commerce creates. The utilization of social media platforms in social commerce makes users a part of a community that has its voice and say in things related to the brand. So, there’s a feeling of being a part of something bigger and much greater. The stronger the community feeling, the more successful your brand would be due to greater loyalty from your customer base. This is very often seen in the success of luxury brands. Major luxury brands are sharing values, building audience engagement, and becoming cultural curators. The impact of a sense of community and social identity on brand love has immense effects on brand advocacy on luxury brands. People don’t buy luxury for logical reasons, but for emotional reasons. Being a part of a community gives customers the emotional and social validity to keep purchasing the brand’s products. Moreover, the feeling of being a part of a community attached deep emotions to the brand lifestyle or the advertised product, making the purchasing decision easier regardless of the price of the product.
You can build a community by developing an affiliate program to reward loyal customers and people who refer customers to your business. This would allow your customers to receive a payout for each person they refer. However, indirectly, you're building a bigger and better community for your brand.
Thirdly, it is pivotal to utilize the correct social media channels to convert brand awareness into demand and fulfill the needs of the brand. It allows customers to browse through the product range and make purchases without going through the hassle of visiting individual websites to process their transactions. It’s efficient, easy, and quick!
The top four social media platforms to sell products online are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. However, there are other platforms such as TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. Regardless of the abundance of efficient social media sites that business owners can use to sell their products, it's important to identify the best-suited ones for the brand. This decision would typically depend on the following questions:
- Where does your target audience hang out online?
- What kind of content do your customers like to consume?
- Where is your target audience more likely to engage with online ads?
- Once business owners figure out the answers to these questions, they can easily decide on
- the most suitable social media platform to sell their products.
The fourth component of the framework refers to spreading awareness about special events related to your business such as sales, deals, and promotions. Social media helps sellers grow and nurture their relationships with customers. Providing context helps give a comprehensive insight into everything in the world that can impact your business and its marketing strategy. Social media is a great tool to spread awareness about such special events because it delivers immense information from diverse perspectives within a very short period. Context helps marketing on social media become more personal. The more personal the approach, the better the results. Prioritizing context also helps build trust. The more business owners contextualize their messages, the more customers feel that they relate to the brand. Context matters now more than ever!
The fifth and final component of the framework is all about forming and strengthening the relationships that benefit the business in the long run. Building connections is key to success in the digital realm, with those connections then facilitating greater brand awareness, and promoting further reach, based on passionate, engaged response and activity. This includes business-to-business relationships, business-to-customer relationships, and customer-to-customer relationships. Investing in relationships with consumers directly impacts business revenue and strengthens customer loyalty. The stronger these relationships are, the better the business would do within the marketplace. When customers feel connected to brands, more than half of consumers (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor.
Connection is the new currency. Consumers want to learn more about the people behind their favorite brands. 70% of consumers, for example, report feeling more connected when a brand’s CEO is active on social media. Additionally, 72% of consumers report feeling similarly when employees share information about a brand online.
Benefits of the 5C’s Model for Social Content
- Improved Engagement
- Continuous Audience Growth
- Improved Revenue
- Create a Customised Social Shopping Experience
Let’s get Started
Social commerce is the modern mall. It is a powerful sales weapon that can be incorporated into your marketing strategy along with your ShopOnCloud online shop as the secret to your success. Now that you have a strong grasp of what social commerce is, it’s easy to see how more companies will take advantage of it soon. However, this does not mean that every business has to sell through social media. Of course, you can opt for other platforms and available options depending on your needs.
If you want to put your brand on the global digital map, social commerce is something your business should be paying attention to. You'd be surprised at the value it adds to your company!
1. We Are Social. “More than 5 billion people now use the internet.” We Are Social, 28 April 2022,
https://wearesocial.com/jp/blog/2022/04/more-than-5-billion-people-now-use-the-internet/. Accessed 25 May 2022.