5 Emerging Trends in Social Commerce You Need to Know About

 In Ecommerce

Social media is a powerful tool because it is already integrated into people’s daily lives. Advertisers used to focus on television and the radio because that’s where consumers tuned in, but they’re now more invested in what’s happening on social networks. The pace is faster, it’s more interactive than the content you could passively consume, and AI-driven algorithms track your usage to show you the content you like best.

Leading brands can insert their own content, and it’s seamless and doesn’t interrupt your experience. They can even add in a checkout option for shoppers to use and voila, they’ve just made it possible to sell completely on a social media channel.

It’s no surprise that ecommerce brands were quick to notice how social media could be monetized, but it happened so long ago and so seamlessly that it’s hard to remember what the platforms were like before. Soon, we won’t remember what it looks like now. Social media—and, with it, social commerce—is always changing. Here’s what you need to know to stay ahead of the game.

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A Quick Refresher on Social Commerce

Social commerce is the umbrella term for marketing, promoting and selling products (or services) via social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Though once a new phenomenon, it’s now so integrated into the experience of using these platforms that most of us don’t even notice it anymore. It’s nearly impossible to scroll through your feed without seeing an overt advertisement or a more subtle post from a brand or an influencer, and that’s the point. There is a constant stream of suggestions to buy, and consumers respond in droves.

Take a look at the latest interrupt your experience. to see what we mean.

Social Commerce Statistics for 2020

2019 was a big year for social commerce—Instagram Checkout launched, Snapchat unveiled Instant Create for lightning fast advertisement creation and TikTok began to allow advertising on the platform. Many of these sites tapped into their potential as legitimate sales channels, and the numbers reflect that.

Don’t believe us? We’ve put together this massive list of social commerce statistics you need to know in 2020.

  • The global social commerce market is projected to have a compound annual growth rate of 34% through 2021. (Technavio)
  • Ecommerce sales are on track to surpass $735 billion by 2023. (Statista)
  • Social media referral traffic to ecommerce stores has increased by 100% year-over-year since 2018. (Buffer)
  • 30% of shoppers interviewed by Forbes said they’d purchase directly from a social media platform.
  • Social networks influence 74% of consumers’ purchase decisions. (ODM Group)
  • More than 50% of Millennials are willing to buy from social media. (Blazon)
  • The first product sold on Snapchat, the Air Jordan III “Tinker,” sold out in 23 minutes. (TechCrunch)
  • Consumers spend 2 hours and 15 minutes on average scrolling through social media, and 28% spend at least “some time” discovering new brands and products.
  • 80% of Internet users have made a purchase online, and 50% browse online shops daily.
  • 71% of consumers prefer online shopping to brick-and-mortar browsing.
  • After buying online, 71% of customers will recommend the brand they purchased from.
  • 63% of social media users trust influencer recommendations. (Forbes)
  • 87% of customers say social media has helped them make a past purchasing decision.
  • 25% of consumers look to social networks for advice when they go clothing shopping.
  • Influencer marketing will drive $9.7 billion in revenue this year. (Influencer Marketing Hub)
  • One-third of Instagram users have bought something from the platform. (Instagram)

Clearly social commerce isn’t just a fleeting fad. It’s time to go all in and invest in this powerful sales tool.

Why Invest in Social Commerce?

Sure, you can see the impressive results from adding social media into your ecommerce strategy, but how does it happen? We’ll let you in on a little secret: Social media can take your online store from a basic ecommerce website to a fully developed and recognizable brand.

The first way this happens is via reach. There are an estimated 3.6 billion social media users, and you can reach them for free by posting to your profiles. You’ll get the name of your business in front of new eyes every day, and any number of those users can be converted into customers. The possibilities are nearly endless!

Posting is much more effective when you’re focused on brand development. Social media is the place to turn your brand into a “persona” with memorable attributes like a defined voice and an aesthetic or color palette. That way, when consumers see your posts, they’ll know right away that it’s your brand even without looking at the original author. Think about it like this: Which brand comes to mind when you think of red and yellow and zeitgeist-y memes? Did you think of McDonald’s? It’s a large-scale example, but the same ideas apply even for small online stores.

When you utilize social media, you also get access to a space where you can test ads for low cost. (It’s one of our top strategies for ecommerce growth!) Everything from imagery to copy to CTA placement can be tested on social before running on more expensive platforms, meaning you’ll get maximum ROI out of your advertising spend. Additionally, you’ll get more data from your ad performance reports. Use it to make smarter marketing moves that will best grow your business.

Need even more info on social commerce? Don’t miss our related guide, E-TAILING IN A SOCIAL SHOPPING WORLD: 5 WAYS TO WIN BIG.

Now that you’ve got the basics of social commerce down, let’s take a look at some of the emerging trends you need to know about.

Trend 1: In-App Checkout

Social commerce now has solid momentum, and social media platforms are capitalizing on it by making in-app shopping as seamless as possible. As we’ve mentioned on the blog numerous times, frictionless checkout boosts ecommerce conversions because there are fewer opportunities for consumers to hit a snap and abandon their carts at the last minute. Cart abandonment is a $4 trillion problem—every year—so every conversion matters.

That’s why social media platforms are making it possible to complete purchases without ever leaving their smartphone apps. It’s all well and good to be able to link out to an Internet page, but that interrupts the social media experience. The results are far better when shoppers can buy the items, they see with just a few taps and then get right back to scrolling.

Instagram Checkout is one in-app social commerce feature that has seen great success since its launch last March. Deutsche Bank estimated it’s already worth $10 million, and there is sure to be additional growth now that BigCommerce sellers have access to the feature. Instagram Checkout joins the Pinterest “Buy” button and Facebook’s in-app shopping ads as the trend toward seamless social checkout continues.

Trend 2: New Sales Channels

The social media landscape evolves quickly, and there is always the possibility that new platforms will pop up out of nowhere. A prime example of this is TikTok, which many see as the replacement of the now-defunct video platform Vine.

TikTok became the unexpected MVP of 2020 with its choreographed dances and short form “edutainment” content, but just last year it was relatively unknown outside of Gen Z. The timing was impeccable, as some TikTok creators can now link to the products in their videos. It’s the platform’s first foray into social commerce, and it shows how quickly new sales channels can be created and deployed.

Trend 3: Peak Influencer Marketing

New social media channels mean the rise of new influencers is not far behind. Indeed, TikTok is full of creators that already have millions of followers, and most of those followers are Gen Z and Millennials who have a combined $3 trillion of buying power. As an e-tailer, you can’t ignore the emerging influencers, but you’d be remiss to not pay attention to the more established “generation” of social media content creators.

Bloggers were some of the first “influencers,” writing about lifestyle topics and pointing readers toward products that they used. Instagram was a natural successor and inspired these creators to distill their content and place a greater focus on visuals, which are the centerpiece of the platform. Now, there are plenty of platforms on which to build a following, and some of those followers will engage with a creator’s content across multiple platforms. That’s part of the reason influencer marketing is so successful creators can tap into the larger social media landscape and are not limited to one platform. In fact, it’s so successful that it has some of the most impressive ROI of any marketing tactic. Here’s a quick snapshot so you can get the idea:

  • Marketers see around a $7.65 return for every $1 they spend on influencer marketing.
  • 84% of respondents say influencer marketing is an “effective” strategy.
  • Of those, 67% plan to increase their budget for it because it was so effective.
  • Only 14% of the most-watched beauty videos on YouTube were created by the industry brands—Influencers created the remaining 86%.
  • Influencers are more trustworthy than traditional celebrities, according to 70% of teenage YouTube users.
  • There is a 2x increase in purchase intent when consumers on Twitter see posts from both brands and influencers.
  • Nearly half of Twitter users (49%) say they rely on recommendations from influencers, and 40% have made a purchase solely based on a tweet from an influencer.

In short, influencers are everywhere, and we’re expected to hit the peak in the coming years.

Trend 4: High Demand for Rich Visual Content

The rise of social commerce is largely driven by Millennials and Gen Z, who are looking for more personalized and curated shopping experiences that they can’t get in brick-and-mortar stores. One major advantage of social media-based browsing is the rich visual elements (photos and videos) that accompany products and showcase them more creatively than physical stores do. These elements can give shoppers a better idea of how these products are used and how they can fit into their lifestyles.

E-tailers can also use media to further their branding efforts and attract shoppers with their aesthetics. Eye-catching visuals can be the difference between consumers shopping with your brand or your competitor, so expect demand to rise. The competition is about to get even more fierce.

Trend 5: Brand Engagement via Messaging Apps

Social media has made brands (ecommerce and otherwise) more accessible to everyday shoppers. The “personas” make brands more like peers and less like faceless corporations, which means shoppers are more likely to initiate contact. Keep an eye out for a greater focus on private messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, Snapchat and others.

We’re already seeing Messenger bots send coupons and promotional information to Facebook users who “Like” the associated page. The logical next step would be bots that can facilitate transactions via the messaging service.

Honorable Mention: Digital Detoxes

Burnout and digital detoxes are not unique trends to social commerce, per se, but they do impact this sector. More and more consumers are temporarily (or permanently) deleting social media apps to focus on human connection and boost their mental health. Some platforms have issued their own responses—Instagram hides “like” counts from everyone but the original poster, and Facebook is limiting political content, as examples. Also, nearly all the platforms are placing greater emphasis on non-branded content.

There is a trend toward minimalism when it comes to social media, and it is something to keep in mind. For e-tailers and marketers, this means fewer opportunities to hook prospective customers. However, it forces you to create solid content for your social channels that consumers want to engage with. That will set your brand apart.

Social Commerce Is Here to Stay

Social media is an immensely powerful tool for retailers to use to sell their products. Now that it’s such a popular way to shop online, hardly anyone can argue it is unnecessary. Quite the opposite: social commerce is here to stay, even if we aren’t yet totally sure where it’s headed. The best we can do is watch the trends and be prepared.