Social commerce: what it is and how to do it

Social commerce is crucial to understand for any marketer looking to drive business growth. This guide delves into everything you need to know.
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Did you know that a live shopping event on TikTok brought in a week’s worth of sales for Mallows Beauty?

Or that Anthropologie saw a significant surge in searches – an increase of more than 1,057% year-on-year – and capitalised on this using social commerce? 

There’s a lot of value in curating a social commerce presence. McKinsey believes it’s an emergent shopping transformation that makes it easier for people to purchase goods wherever they may be – online, on their phone, on social media, or on a whim.

It’s already immensely popular in the East, and this trend is swooping on over to the rest of the world very quickly. 

Everything you need to activate social commerce

In this post, we talk about everything you need to know about activating social commerce and getting the most value from your social presence.

What is social commerce? 

Social commerce is, very simply, the ability to buy and sell items from within social media channels. It takes the immediacy and vibrancy of social media to a whole new level by allowing users to interact with your store or your products and then purchase them immediately.

Frictionless, simple, and smart, it really is a very clever way to build a brand and market share while delivering an amazing customer experience. 

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Social commerce vs. e-commerce

Social commerce is very specifically selling items and services via social media channels. E-commerce is used to describe all forms of buying and selling items and services online.

E-commerce includes websites, social channels, email, mobile platforms, SaaS platforms, and everything in between. Social commerce zooms right in to connect with people at the very edge of their engagement – on social media. 

Social commerce platforms 

Most social media platforms have social commerce functionality. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest have established social commerce features, YouTube, Meta, and TikTok are trying out different solutions, and Twitter is also looking at different social commerce options. 

TikTok social commerce functionalities

TikTok Shop is the in-app social commerce platform for TikTok sellers and users. The platform describes it as an ‘e-commerce solution integrated within TikTok’, and it offers people three ways to connect with their favourite brands.

Sellers can start a live shopping event and buyers can just tap on the products and buy them while watching; brands can use shoppable videos that offer the same feature – tap and shop; or users can shop directly from a brand or creator account within TikTok. You can also use the TikTok affiliate marketplace to boost sales and revenue streams. 

Instagram social commerce functionalities

Instagram Shopping offers you the ability to create content that’s interactive and engaging and which allows shoppers to make purchases in real time. As this is such a visual platform, you can create really immersive experiences for your shoppers. A recent survey by Instagram found that half of the respondents used Instagram to shop every single week.

Using it is simple. You create a storefront, customize it with collections, themes, trends, or new arrivals, add in product details, and then allow people to checkout using the app. Instagram now lets people checkout within the app rather than forcing them out to your website, which really streamlines the experience. You can also add in product tags to make it easy for people to find you and your products.

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Facebook social commerce functionalities

Facebook probably has the most advanced social commerce solution on the market as it’s been around for a while. There’s Facebook marketplace, Meta Pay, and a highly developed advertising ecosystem. Facebook Marketplace is primarily a customer-to-customer space, but brands have also benefited from having a presence there.

Facebook Shops is a more brands-focused shopping space that’s designed to make social commerce as smooth as possible for brands and customers. However, it’s worth noting that Facebook and Instagram are both phasing out shops that don’t use their checkout tools. It’s a very convenient social commerce platform, though, as users can just tap on an ad and buy what they want in-app without having to ever leave the platform.

Twitter social commerce functionalities

Twitter launched its social commerce function in June 2022 in collaboration with Shopify. Entitled the Twitter Shopping ecosystem, it allows you to make it simple for customers to find and buy your products on the social platform. Using the Shopify app, users can onboard Twitter Shopping Manager, automatically sync their inventory, and highlight their products for more traction.

The shopping ecosystem includes Shops, Spotlights, Live Shopping, and Product Drops. Each one of these functionalities allows you to engage with your customers in different ways.

Pinterest social commerce functionalities

Pinterest also moved its social commerce capabilities into high gear in 2022 with a bunch of cool features designed to help brands connect with shoppers. The Pinterest API allows brands to add a catalogue and share accurate pricing information in real time.

Brands can add shoppable Pins that allow users to engage in real time, add shopping tabs to their profiles, and use videos to create engagement with shoppers. Earlier in 2023, Pinterest announced that it plans to increase its social commerce capabilities this year so that anything and everything on the platform can be shoppable.

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YouTube social commerce functionalities

Clambering aboard the social commerce bandwagon alongside Pinterest and Twitter, YouTube has set about creating frictionless shopping experiences. Along with Twitter and TikTok, YouTube has also partnered with Shopify to allow creators to link their products within videos.

YouTube Shopping automatically syncs products to YouTube so users can make purchases from live streams and videos. People can shop while they watch, and brands can pin their products and win!

Social commerce examples

Social commerce can be found in multiple different applications and approaches. The following are the most common:

  • Tappable links in videos and photos
  • In-app purchases via social posts or videos
  • Pinned shopping tags with in-app checkout
  • Shoppable videos
  • Live streams and product drops
  • Influencer content that uses social commerce functionality to be shoppable on demand
  • Adverts that connect to direct shopping

Social commerce trends

There are some key trends emerging in social commerce this year:

  1. Influencers and micro influencers will continue to gain shopping traction and increase brand reach
  2. Increased access to 5G will see experiences become more virtual and immersive with mixed reality experiences
  3. If companies can embed trust on social platforms, then shoppers will engage

Social commerce statistics

Here are some of the most impressive social commerce statistics to date:

  1. 63% of consumers bought from social media in 2021, and this stat is expected to increase
  2. 78% of consumers are willing to buy from a brand after a positive experience on social media
  3. 8 out of 10 brands expect to be selling via social by 2025
  4. Social commerce sales are expected to grow by 30% to a $68.92 billion price tag in 2023
  5. 62% of buyers have used Facebook to make a purchase
  6. Users engaging with shopping on Pinterest have increased by 215% year-on-year
  7. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are going mainstream and this will influence social commerce engagements. AR is set to exceed 100 million users, and 56 million people in the US experienced AR on social media in 2022
  8. 67% of Gen Z users want a digital avatar to represent their body shape and type before they buy
  9. 33.3 million US consumers will shop on TikTok in 2023
  10. 63% of Irish and British consumers have bought something on social media

Social commerce strategy

You can use a variety of different strategies to get your social commerce working and your customers engaging.

Skullcandy used social commerce to launch its 12 Moods campaign on Instagram and YouTube. Users could tap and purchase directly from the campaign.

The Body Shop’s strategy was to use images and vibrant colours on Facebook and Instagram shops to transform their digital stores into social engagements that made shoppers feel like they were part of an experience.

You can enhance your social commerce strategy by establishing what your audience is saying about your brand using social media sentiment, and then using that to create a campaign that really resonates with your audience.

Vamp has plenty of tools to help you manage your social commerce campaigns, including our social media calendar, our in-depth list of social media agencies to help with your campaigns, a complete list of social media management tools and social media analytics tools, and lots more besides. 

Find out more about Vamp and get started with your next campaign today.


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