All it takes is one click to kickstart a relationship between a consumer and your brand. Social shopping links the online culture and e-commerce worlds—and it’s not going anywhere. Over one-third of consumers expect their use of social to purchase products and services will increase through 2024.
There’s no time like the present to reach consumers through social media. Thanks to social shopping, businesses can start demonstrating the bottom-line, revenue impact of that reach.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- What social shopping is and why it’s huge for brands
- The different types of social shopping
- A round up of expert predictions for social shopping in 2022
What is social shopping?
Social shopping is the intersection of social media and online shopping. Users make purchases from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, either in the apps themselves or after clicking through to a product web page.
Social platforms mimic the in-person experience of browsing in physical malls and stores with techniques like group buying, messaging and interactive content.
Social shopping centralizes a consumer’s touch points with a brand all in one place, from discovery and engagement to actual purchasing. It’s a convenient way to meet consumers where they are, turning browsers into buyers.
What social media shopping does for brands
Social shopping is a win-win for brands and consumers. Purchasing doesn’t have to be a separate event. In many instances, consumers can buy without leaving their chosen platform. Both consumers and brands benefit from the accessibility and conversational opportunities social media offers. Other advantages include:
- It increases conversions by removing friction. Buyers don’t need to leave the comfort of their home, office or commute, nor do they have to talk with multiple salespeople to buy from a brand. They also don’t have to leave the social media platform they’re on. In just a couple of clicks, buyers can access a product page and move to purchase.
- You can bake social proof into campaigns. Customer reviews are one of the most influential sources on purchasing decisions. Social shopping makes it easier for consumers to buy your product and share authentic feedback all in one place. Even better, you can weave this social proof into your future marketing campaigns for added credibility.
- You’ll have better data about what works. The more time consumers spend on and buy from social, the more social becomes a trove of insights about your target audience. With the right tool, you can quickly glean actionable information to serve your consumers better. Sprout, for example, makes it easy to identify which types of social content convert best and monitor conversations about your brand, all in one view.
Social shopping examples
There are already numerous forms of social media shopping (with more to come as the technology evolves).
Social shopping is fairly synonymous with social commerce, or buying and selling goods through social media platforms. Around 8 in 10 businesses anticipate selling products or services via social media platforms by 2024.
One brand with a strong social presence is hair care brand dpHUE. Consumers can swipe through Instagram Stories that spotlight its individual products, then browse the brand’s Instagram Shop to purchase a range of products without leaving the app.
Group shopping is when several people show interest in or buy a product at once. Peer-to-peer connection drives the experience: recommendations from friends are the most influential factor over consumers’ social purchasing decisions, according to Sprout research.
This method is popular in Eastern countries but still nascent in the US. Squadded and Supergreat are two brands that offer collaborative shopping experiences. They are niche communities that allow users to connect with groups of friends and shop together. Users can also ask each other for advice about specific products, and share verified reviews.
Conversational commerce is when merchants and consumers engage in real time through platforms like messaging apps and chatbots. This lets brands create a more personalized digital experience, whether it’s clarifying questions about an order or recommending specific products to purchase.
Livestream and virtual shopping
With livestream shopping, brands can create their own digital QVCs—without the long hold times or rates charges. You can reach new audiences and give consumers a glimpse at your products in action.
In 2021, Walmart partnered with TikTok to provide a shoppable livestream experience. TikTok users could purchase from Walmart directly from the app. Walmart earned seven times the views it anticipated and grew its TikTok userbase by 25%. Poshmark’s “Posh Parties” are another example of successful virtual live events. During these parties, users can interact with other shoppers, view over 200 million items for sale and see what brands are trending.
Augmented reality (AR) commerce uses 3D mapping technology so shoppers can try or interact with a product before buying. The experiences could be as small as trying on clothing and as large as entering a virtual “store.” One company going all-in on AR is L’Oréal, which acquired its own AR firm in 2018. It has since rolled out the ability for shoppers to try on hair and makeup colors across its brands’ Instagram Shops before purchase.
The 3 biggest social shopping platforms right now
Over 250 million users and 1 million sellers actively use Facebook Shops each month. Other Meta apps like WhatsApp and Messenger are convenient for supporting the buyer journey and answering questions about specific products.
Instagram’s focus on visual content naturally lends itself to a retail experience, which may be why 41% of consumers say they’re likely to buy from the platform. Instagram Shopping connects users to products and purchases with just one swipe.
Thanks to an integration with Shopify, millions of merchants can turn their inventory into shoppable Product Pins on Pinterest—but that’s just one of the platform’s latest moves into commerce.
From adding AR capabilities on beauty Pins to launching Pinterest TV shoppable livestreams, the platform is intent on building a more seamless consumer experience.
…And don’t forget TikTok
TikTok Shopping is coming soon. Given that users are 1.7 times more likely to buy something they find on the app, its potential for shopping and consumer connection is huge.
“As part of TikTok’s ongoing growth and push to implement monetization opportunities, it has helped products take off—from leggings to cleaning products and everything in between,” says Amy Stamper, Paid Social Lead at Impression, a UK-based digital marketing agency. “In 2022, TikTok will continue to make products viral, but more of this will be driven by ads and brands, now waking up to the power of TikTok.”
What’s next for social shopping, according to experts
Curious what the next year has in store for social shopping? We spoke to multiple experts to see what we should expect in the months ahead.
Shopping gets personal
“Macro trend-based, personalized shopping will fuel the social commerce experience,” says Meghan Salgado, Associate Growth Manager at Poshmark. “We’ll continue to meet consumers where they are—whether on our own platform or widening our reach by integrating with others. That integration will happen more directly into social content, with a focus on seamless shopping.”
Conversation is king
“I think 2022 will continue to see growth not only in social commerce but conversational commerce,” says Ian Leslie, Senior Director of Retail Advocacy at Bolt, a checkout experience platform. “Brands will continue to invest in channels and technology that allow them to not only converse with their customers via social but help them make their way all the way through the funnel to checkout.”
Checkout gets easier
“We will see better integrations and less friction in the purchase funnel,” says Alessandro Bogliari, Co-Founder and CEO of The Influencer Marketing Factory. “And thanks to new payment integrations and the ability to save billing and shipping information, users will be able to easily pay for anything with one click, no matter the platform they are buying on.”
Peer proof sells
“We know that an overwhelming majority of shoppers rely on others’ reviews of products,” says Stephanie Gutierrez, Senior Social Media Strategist at Online Optimism, a digital marketing & design agency. “With this in mind, we can also expect platforms like Instagram to take advantage of their photo and video-sharing capabilities to allow users to turn their content into reviews.”
Prepare for the future of social shopping
Consumers continue to crave richer, easier and faster ways to buy. Social shopping delivers on all three fronts.
Looking to level up your brand’s social shopping efforts? Dig into our new research around what influences consumers’ decisions to buy on social.