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What is social commerce? Definition and benefits

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Team Storyly
May 22, 2023
0 min read

What is social commerce?

Social commerce is a form of eCommerce that happens within social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook where users can browse, share, and buy products without leaving the platform. It merges the social media experience with online shopping, enabling businesses to reach customers through their social media channels and allowing customers to purchase products without leaving the platform.

What’s the difference between social commerce and eCommerce?

E-commerce is the buying and selling of products or services online in general, typically through a website or a mobile app. Social commerce, on the other hand, is a subset of e-commerce and can be defined as the use of social platforms to promote and sell products. Users can browse, share, and purchase products entirely on such platforms. The most prominent and differentiating characteristic of social commerce is that it combines the social networking experience and the buying experience. Thus, it allows businesses to reach potential customers and facilitate purchases directly through social media platforms. 

Why is social commerce important?

"Social commerce is significant since it utilizes social media to drive online sales and improve the customers’ shopping experience. Social media is where inspiration happens. It is the go to platform for every shopper on earth to get ideas, experience shop-the-look, and be inspired, in order to make decisions. When combined with the ability make the purchase on the spot, it becomes a magnet for driving revenue. That is why social commerce is really important. It brings the best of both worlds: it utilizes social media, improves the shopping experience of the customers, and eventually drive sales."

- Irem Isik, Head of Marketing, Storyly

Here are main reasons as to why social commerce is so important:

  • Vast reach potential: Social media platforms have hundreds of millions of users who actively spend time on the platforms. In fact, an average user spends 2 hours and 31 minutes every day on social media. Specifically, TikTok users love the app and spend about 95 minutes per day scrolling on the app.  Businesses can benefit from this to their advantage by appealing to vast audiences on social media and enlarge their customer base.
  • Enhanced customer engagement: With social commerce, businesses have the chance to engage with their customers in an interactive and more personalized way. This improves the shopping experience of customers which in turn strengthens their loyalty and contributes to retention. 
  • Frictionless shopping experience: As customers can browse and buy products without going back and forth, directly on social media platforms, social commerce makes the customer shopping journey a lot more simpler and hassle-free. 
  • Cost-effective: Businesses can increase sales by leveraging their social media presence and existing followers. Therefore, social commerce can enable businesses to be cost-effective when it comes to promoting products and reaching new customers. 

Overall, social commerce offers a new way for businesses to connect with customers, inspire them through content, enhance their online shopping experience, and eventually bring in more revenue via leveraging the power of social media.

Types of social commerce

There are several types of social commerce, including:

Social media marketplaces

At online marketplaces, businesses can promote and sell their products and/or services directly to customers using social media platforms. 

Social media storefronts

These are online stores that are built directly into social media platforms. Social media storefronts allow customers to browse and purchase products without leaving the platform.

Peer-to-peer marketplaces

Peer-to-peer marketplaces are platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and eBay, which enable people to buy and sell products and services directly to each other. 

Group buying

It is a social commerce model that enables customers to purchase products at a discounted price by joining a group with other customers.

Social media advertising

Advertising on social media platforms can be used to promote products or services to a targeted audience.

Influencer marketing

It is a type of social media advertising that leverages the reach and influence of social media influencers to promote products or services to their followers.

Benefits of social commerce

Here are the key benefits of social commerce:

High reach

Thanks to the vast user base of social media platforms, social commerce helps businesses reach a larger scale of audiences. Once businesses use social media to promote products or services, they can reach a large network of potential customers and get their brand name heard in the business world. This can be specifically beneficial for small or new businesses which want to establish a presence and enlarge their customer base.

Better customer engagement

Another crucial benefit of social commerce is improved customer engagement. Brands can provide a personalized and interactive shopping experience if they incorporate social media to online shopping. Customers can interact with products, companies, and other customers via social commerce in various ways, such as:

Social sharing: Customers can recommend products to their friends and followers or share their purchase experience with them. This can work in the benefit of businesses as social proof.

Real-time feedback: When customers give feedback on products and services, businesses can react quickly, make the customers feel that they are heard and thereby enhance the overall customer experience.  

Personalization: Customers love coming across products or services which are customized according to their likes, dislikes and preferences. According to a McKinsey report, 71% of consumers expect personalization and 76% of consumers get frustrated when they don’t find it. Thanks to the rich customer data, the experience on social commerce platforms can be personalized. 

Enhanced customer service:Social commerce platforms allow customers to find new ways to connect and communicate with businesses through features like chatbots or messaging systems. In turn, these can all enhance the overall customer service experience. 

Ultimately, more customer interaction through social commerce can help strengthen customer relationships, improve client satisfaction, and enhance the shopping experience.

Simplified shopping process

Simplifying the shopping process is another key benefit of social commerce. Social media platforms can be used to limit the number of steps that a customer needs to take in order to make a successful purchase. Businesses can let consumers browse, recommend and buy products directly within these platforms. This can be specifically important for mobile users who expect a fast and seamless shopping experience.

Social commerce platforms can streamline the shopping process. They can offer customers detailed product information, reviews, and recommendations, which in return can facilitate better informed purchase decisions. This simplified shopping experience can help improve conversion rates, decrease cart abandonment, and ultimately drive more revenue. 

Cost effective

Social commerce is a practical and profitable way for businesses to attract new customers and advertise their products or services. The following summarizes several reasons why social commerce is cost-effective:

Free or low-cost: With many social media platforms being free to use, launching a social commerce store can save time and investment, compared to setting up a traditional e-commerce website from scratch. 

Access to a large audience: Since social media platforms have hundreds of millions of users, businesses can appeal to a larger crowd with less spending.

Targeted advertising: Businesses can customize the audience they reach through social media thanks to their advanced targeting options. This enables being able to reach the niche audiences that may bring businesses higher yields, which in return can provide to be more effective compared to traditional advertising. 

User-generated content: Any customer driven content, such as customer reviews, recommendations, product videos and pictures that customers produce and share on social media platforms can be repurposed by businesses to market their products. This, in return, lowers the cost of producing any additional material that they may otherwise need to promote their products and/or services. This would not only be cost-effective but have a side benefit of creating social proof. 

In general, social commerce can be a cost-effective way for businesses to grow their customer base, increase sales, and repurpose the oser-generate content for advertising their  products through the power of social media.

Increased social proof

Social proof is the validation of a brand or product’s reputation directly by the evaluation of other people, in other words, that particular brand’s customers. Here are some ways that social commerce can be the driver of social proof:

User reviews and recommendations: With social commerce, businesses can utilize user-generated content like customer reviews and recommendations which in turn improve the perception about the products. 

Social sharing: When customers share their experiences with a brand on social media platforms, it improves the visibility of the brand and develops social proof. 

Influencer marketing: Influencers can take part in promoting brands to their own followers and help build social proof. 

Overall, social proof can become the source of gaining consumers’ trust and increasing sales. Social commerce is a powerful way to develop social proof for businesses.

Improved product discovery

The ease of navigation through social media platforms would make it intuitive for customers to explore new products and services, which in turn, would mean an “improved product discovery” for businesses. Utilizing features like social sharing, recommendations, and advanced targeting can help businesses improve product discovery. Moreover, customers can find products that are suitable for their interests and preferences without any hassle. Better product discovery can drive sales and increase customer satisfaction. 

Real-time customer feedback

Social commerce can provide businesses with real-time feedback from customers regarding products and services. As businesses have access to customer reviews, they can acquire valuable insights about customers’ likes, dislikes and pain points. Then, they can utilize the feedback to improve their products or services, ensure quicker responses to customers, and make informed decisions about their sales and marketing strategies. This, in return, creates better customer satisfaction, stronger customer loyalty, and higher sales revenue. 

Improved targeting and personalization

By utilizing customer data, businesses can deliver personalized shopping experiences. Research shows that 66% of consumers expect businesses to understand their unique needs and preferences. Therefore, businesses first need to analyze customer behavior, preferences, and purchase history. Then, they can provide personalized recommendations and promotions based on customers’ needs and requests. This can improve customer satisfaction,increase engagement and contribute to higher sales revenue. Some social media platforms offer advanced targeting options such as sponsored content and retargeting. Improved targeting and personalization can be accomplished on such platforms. 

Stronger brand loyalty

Social commerce can offer easier access to products and customer support, incentivize social sharing and user-generated content, and personalize the shopping experience. As a result, social commerce can help improve brand loyalty. There is a greater chance for customers to become loyal to a brand and be advocates if they feel like the brand understands their demands and offers products and services appealing to their needs. Increased brand loyalty in turn can result in greater customer lifetime value, lower customer acquisition costs, and a better brand reputation.

What are the top social commerce platforms

There are several social commerce platforms that businesses can use to sell products and services to customers through social media. Here are some of the top social commerce platforms:

  1. Facebook Shops
  2. Instagram Shopping
  3. Pinterest
  4. TikTok
  5. WeChat
  6. WhatsApp Business
  7. Snapchat

Facebook Shops

A feature that allows businesses to create an online store on Facebook and Instagram.

Instagram Shopping

A feature that enables businesses to tag products in their posts and stories, allowing customers to purchase products on the spot, without leaving the app.

Pinterest

A visual discovery and bookmarking platform that allows businesses to create shoppable pins and catalogs.

TikTok

A short-form video app that offers in-app shopping features, such as links to product pages.

WeChat

A social media platform operating in China, that offers in-app shopping, payment, and customer service features.

WhatsApp Business

A messaging app that enables businesses to communicate with customers and facilitate transactions.

Snapchat

A multimedia messaging app that allows businesses to create shoppable ads and lenses.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Team Storyly

Group of experts from Storyly's team who writes about their proficiency.