Social Commerce provides an integrated experience of social media and e-commerce, allowing customers to check out directly through social media platforms versus being redirected to the retailer’s site itself. As social media continues to grow and evolve, retailers and brands are integrating more of these technologies within their wheelhouse of customer offerings to bridge the gap between platforms that customers are naturally spending an increasing amount of time on with the opportunity to purchase from and engage with retail brands.
The global market for social commerce was estimated to be $559.7 billion in 2020 and is set to grow to $2.9 trillion by 2026, growing 30.8% CAGR over the period.
Shopping through Facebook and Instagram is already a well-established path to purchase, for example, 130 million Instagram accounts tap on a shopping post every month. However, it’s livestreaming that is the stand-out experience, especially in East Asia where it is now a norm for the likes of brands either directly or through behemoth marketplace Alibaba.
In China, it is estimated that in 2022, livestream shopping will account for 20.3% of the country’s total online sales. China has pioneered livestreaming with Alibaba Group’s Taobao marketplace, known as Taobao Live, being the first company in China to combine livestreaming and shopping; this was launched in 2016. Knowledgeable service providers describe and try on product whilst viewers engage with the livestream, asking questions and sharing opinions of the items.
In the West, where livestreaming is less common, influencers are driving a higher proportion of brand engagement and conversion through affiliate advertisements and content. Both live streaming and influencers provide a draw for customers that traditional e-commerce has lacked. This draw is the creation of a live and curated experience for customers to browse and select products whilst comparing them to other products and brands. This is a service-level usually reserved for physical stores, which customers can now reach from any mobile device throughout their day.
Customer support has evolved greatly over the past 2 years, as demand for e-commerce grew and the need for service to be provided remotely increased. Brands are now moving away from some traditional customer support methods (email, online forms, Live Chat) to social applications that are at customers’ fingertips. Boohoo brands (Boohoo, Nasty Gal, …) provide a customer service option via WhatsApp so that customers can remain on a familiar and highly used platform when they have product or order questions, using both the chat and photo options on the app to discuss product questions or issues. Customer service agents then have flexibility in the time to respond (e.g. not immediately) allowing flex in their workloads when there are peaks in demand.
Some companies are also engaging in social commerce through creating chats where consumers themselves can recommend as well as sell products. A.S. Watson, for example, introduced ‘Watsons Mini Store’, a WeChat mini programme, allowing customers to recommend and sell Watsons’ products to their social media followers. Users can also share their in-store experiences. This is great for the customer but it is also a brilliant way for the company to benefit through an increase in word-of-mouth marketing and sales.
Utilising customer behaviour data to target the right products and brands for customers and provide a curated assortment based on social media interactions and data is essential.
Wherever there is product in media, whether it be social platforms, television, streaming services, or print, there is an opportunity to seamlessly connect the customer to opportunities to purchase. The use of data helps to make these opportunities more relevant for the consumer. There are new opportunities for customers to interact with social platforms, increasing engagement and brand exposure. Netflix, for example, has entered the world of social commerce and is selling limited edition clothes based on its shows and brand, creating an additional revenue stream for the company. Netflix also introduced a function called Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party) which enables users to watch shows/movies at the same time as their friends and a chat function allows them to communicate.
The usage of social media provides a perfect opportunity for retailers to capitalise on. The projected increase in the social commerce market demonstrates the scale of this movement. However, social commerce is not without its concerns and many consumers are wary about fraud, security and privacy. In a recent survey conducted by PayPal, 64% of consumers said that security remained a purchase barrier. Companies need to address those fears and reassure the consumer by providing processes and payment methods which are trusted and secure. This needs to be a key focus within the social commerce strategy to make it a success.
This article is part of our 2022 "Crystal Ball" Trend Predictions report. Download the report here and discover more exciting topics we'll be exploring throughout the year.