What Is Social Shopping and Why Should SMBs Care?

What Is Social Shopping and Why Should SMBs Care?


Social shopping is the latest and greatest adventure in the world of ecommerce.

In a sentence, it combines ecommerce with social media, allowing users to directly buy your products from platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

In the US, the average user spends just over two hours a day on social media, making these platforms fertile ground for online retailers.

Estimates indicate the social commerce market in the United States will grow from $29.3 billion in 2020 to $84.2 billion in 2024, an annual growth rate of 47%.

It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that social shopping is taking off—it takes advantage of enormous social media user bases by effectively putting your storefront right on the platform, taking your business to them as opposed to the other way around.

What’s the Difference Between Social Shopping and Ecommerce?

Ecommerce refers to a dedicated app or website (often both) owned by a business through which customers can purchase goods.

Social shopping takes the business to social media, in effect cutting out the middleman. It’s not just about buying, however, it’s also about involving your products in the social media experience as people share, like, and recommend them through online platforms.

And Consumers Are Onboard with This New Trend?

For the most part, yes, but with some minor reservations.

Around 30% of consumers say they would buy a product directly through a social media platform. It’s not a small number by any means, but it’s not resounding endorsement by consumers either.

But the indications are that the winds are changing in this regard.

Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram have been aggressively moving towards monetizing their social media platforms with huge success.

Instagram, for example, has upended virtually every marketing strategy in the country with the prominence of influencer marketing over the last decade, to the extent that 87% of shoppers believe social media helps them make a shopping decision.

50% of retailers are working to align social media advertising with their overall ecommerce strategy.

Social media is now one of the chief ways businesses encourage consumers to buy their products.

Social commerce just takes it one step further by selling directly on these platforms.

So while it might be easy to dismiss social shopping as frivolous, it’s anything but—it’s quite a natural extension of existing strategies that utilize social media platforms to make sales.

How Are Companies Using Social Shopping?

Social shopping can be used as another outlet by brands, no different to their website or Shopify storefront, but this is really a missed opportunity.

The clue is in the title, social shopping—brands that are being successful with social shopping have applied the social approach; engaging, supporting, and helping users.

The average order value for customers referred from Instagram is $65.00, followed by Facebook ($55), Twitter ($46), and YouTube ($38).

Constant Feedback Loop

This might be a good or a bad thing, depending on your disposition, but the fact is that by selling directly through social media, you’re afforded the opportunity to engage with consumers and customers in a more instant and direct manner than typical review-and-response interactions online.

If you have your products, or even your entire catalogue of products, on social media, and you are sharing posts with social shopping purchase links, you’ll have a lot more feedback and conversation to go off.

It’s common for brands to ask questions of their audiences—this serves two purposes. Firstly, you get to engage with your audience, improving the image of your brand as a business that genuinely cares what customers think.

Secondly, you get a snapshot of what they think about your products. In this image for example, Timex’s social media team asked their Instagram audience about their strap combination preferences, a simple way to get an indication of what’s going down well; especially useful if you’re still developing a product.

Timex instagram post demonstrating customer engagement

Target Younger Audiences

Millennials and Gen Z users are more engaged with social media than any other demographic.

The oldest millennials are quickly approaching 40, so when we say “younger generations”, we’re really talking about a large proportion of the working-age population.

Millennials and younger are more confident in their use of social media, with nearly half of them using social media at some point during a shopping journey.

As the first digitally native generations, these demographics are the primary audiences being courted by brands on social media.

They use social platforms more than any other to aid purchasing decisions, they’re keen to support brands they like, and—unlike other demographics—50% of them say they would use social media to directly buy a product.

In the modern social shopping world, getting your product on social media platforms is a great way of getting in front of younger consumers and moving consumers down the sales funnel as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Example of a brand using Instagram to promote products directly through the platform

Make the Most of Mobile

Being an effective business on mobile becomes an increasingly important consideration each year.

82% of Internet users in the United States have used a mobile device to shop online, and 42% of smartphone users plan to do more shopping from their mobile devices in the coming year.

Many businesses have acknowledged this by getting their products on mobile one way or another, either through a custom dedicated app or through a third-party mobile storefront.

Social shopping is the natural next step to take, and indeed businesses are making headway with it, with 2020 seeing a 20% increase in sales from products sold via social media over 2019.

Bottom Line

Social shopping has taken off the last few years, and even the pandemic in 2020 doesn’t appear to have slowed it down by any significant degree.

66% of brands had tried out a social commerce feature in the last year.

As businesses look to bolster their social marketing strategies, social shopping will be a key fixture for ecommerce brands in the future.

It targets key audiences in ways that other digital channels don’t and consumers feel more and more comfortable each year with the prospect of buying goods and being referred through social media platforms.

There is also the additional benefit of improving customer relationships and engaging audiences directly through social shopping.

Expect it to be a lynchpin of marketing strategies in the very near future.

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