The Truth About Social Commerce

Simon Orgulan
7 min
January 12, 2024

In the old times, trying to do business on social media came with its own set of challenges. For starters, not only did you need to convince your visitors to leave the social media platform to visit your online store, but also convert them into buyers. In practice, the more steps you add to the process, the less likely it is for the pieces to fall in place and lead to the outcome you’re looking for.

As times change, so do social media platforms. Nowadays, selling your products and services on social media is not only completely mainstream, but also fully supported by the platforms themselves. To give you some examples, they will provide features like on-site storefronts, shoppable posts, and built-in checkouts, all of which allow the visitor to make a purchase without ever leaving the platform, thus making it more likely for you to close the sale.

But is it really that simple? Well, yes and no. To get a complete rundown on what social commerce is and to help you see past the myths that surround it, we’ve decided to cover it from all angles and let you in on the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The reasons why you should give social commerce a shot

Compared to traditional eCommerce, there are many advantages to social commerce, starting with:

1. A streamlined checkout process

Although in the technical sense, redirecting someone to a third-party checkout page isn’t exactly rocket science, through the eyes of your visitors, it’s a bump in the road. Not only does it require them to stop what they’re doing and focus on something else, there is also the issue of trust. Immediately, they start asking themselves:

“Can I trust this payment processor?”

“Am I comfortable entering my credit card details here?”

“Do I really need this product?”

“Should I check what others are selling first?”

“Maybe I should finish what I was doing instead...”

And on and on it goes. As you’ve been able to deduce yourself, none of this is good for business. Due to being overwhelmed with uncertainty, they will most likely abandon the idea of making the purchase and never come back to it.

Now imagine being able to buy the item straight from Facebook, Instagram, or another social media platform. If they can muster up the energy to press that “like” button, buying your products won’t take any more effort than that. Think of it as reducing the friction of the buying process, which can be all it takes to skyrocket your sales on social media.

2. Built-in social proof

Being able to trust you is one of the most important factors that influence a sale, whether it be on social media or anywhere else. To instill some of that trust, traditional sales letters and eCommerce landing pages would often incorporate customer testimonials, ratings, accomplishments, case studies, and all kinds of social proof to win over the customer’s trust. The issue with this, however, is that you aren’t typically able to interact with any of it or leave your own comments, meaning it's easier for its legitimacy to come under question.

Social media platforms, however, don’t suffer from this problem – everything is interactable there. When a potential customer sees all the wonderful messages and praise your buyers have left for others to see, not a single doubt about the quality of your products or the legitimacy of your business will cross their mind. To make the most of it, incentivize your users to post photos of it and leave a review (if nothing else, giving them 10% off of their next purchase should work fine).

3. A pool of prospective buyers to tap into

Depending on your niche, social media might be a huge untapped traffic source for you to explore. If you aren’t doing so already, you’re leaving sizable chunks of money on the table. Since it doesn’t cost anything to get started, why aren’t you taking the proactive approach to growing your eCommerce business?

To get you motivated, know that social commerce is an emerging trend that’s expected to go on for years with no end in sight. In 2021, its market value reached $359bn. By 2025, it’s estimated that 37% of US-based social media users will have made at least one purchase like this.

The good news is, once the trend cements itself even further, social media users will come to expect the convenience of being able to make a purchase right then and there without having to navigate to a third-party website. If you jump on the bandwagon right now when the trend is still in its infancy, you’ll position yourself way ahead of the competition.

Social commerce examples from popular social media platforms

If the above got you hyped up and wanting to explore the world of social commerce yourself, you might be wondering about where the best place to start is. In no particular order of importance, we’ve outlined some popular social commerce examples and what each of these platforms offers you, the seller, to help you improve your bottom line.

1. Facebook

Facebook is the leading example of social commerce and one of the first ones that come to mind. With an impressive number of 3 billion active users, it’s a great place to scale your eCommerce business.

For starters, it allows you to make a personalized storefront right on your business page. Your audience can open up the shop tab to see their purchase history and product recommendations that are generated based on their likes and preferences. If you already have a Shopify store in place, Facebook gives you the option of importing your products straight from the platform itself.

In case they have any questions, they have the option of reaching out to you via Facebook messenger. Quite a convenient place to be doing customer support!

2. Pinterest

Pinterest is a great example of social commerce. In fact, built-in purchases are a huge part of the overall Pinterest experience! Since Pinterest acts like a search engine for images, it’s incredibly common for shop owners to feature photos of the products they’re selling, thus allowing them to get discovered easier.

What’s even better is the fact that a substantial portion of its user base visits the platform strictly for the purpose of shopping, which is exactly what you want to see as an eCommerce business owner. On other social media platforms, this isn’t typically the case, so Pinterest certainly stands out in this regard.

A notable thing to remember about Pinterest is that certain niches are bound to do better on it than others. On Pinterest, the demographics are mostly female, meaning that products like fashion accessories, clothing, and home décor usually do pretty well.

When you pin one of your products, you can have it connected straight to the sales system, which will display a “buy” button right on top of your image. Since the system dynamically updates the pricing and price information, it takes little to no maintenance on your part. Once your pins get repinned, this acts as a vote of confidence encouraging other users to check out your products.

3. TikTok

As an emerging social media channel, TikTok took off as a completely fresh take on a proven concept by allowing its users to distribute their video content. The platform is especially popular among younger demographics, aged 10-29.

TikTok allows you to add a Shopping tab straight to your profile, thus making it a fine example of social commerce indeed. As a result, many eCommerce businesses have begun exploring its potential and started their own channels with the aim of promoting their products.

As of right now, TikTok is best suited for Shopify owners and it allows you to pull your products straight from your Shopify store. If you want to market your products to an even higher number of people, you also have the option of increasing your reach through TikTok ads.

4. Instagram

Instagram, with its dedicated storefronts, is a fine choice for doing social commerce. Featuring a dedicated shop tab, customizable storefronts, and product tags that make your products easier to get discovered, Instagram makes it easy for its users to shop straight from the app itself.

As an example of social commerce on Instagram, be on the lookout for the Shop tab that’s located at the bottom of the taskbar. Since it’s located in a convenient place, this makes it easy to access a myriad of Instagram shops from there.

The shopping experience on Instagram is incredibly convenient as well. Those who are browsing through the products receive smart suggestions based on their likes, shopping history, follows, and interests, all of which increases the likelihood of them stumbling upon a product they’re interested in buying.

Much like Pinterest, Instagram is a visual platform, so products from any niche with an aesthetic appeal should do reasonably well. Furniture, fashion, and cosmetics are all great examples of this.

Tips to succeed with your social commerce strategy

Keep in mind that social commerce is relatively young and therefore constantly evolving. To make the most of your time doing social commerce, you’d do well to incorporate the following tips and tricks:

1. Seek partnerships with influencers

Influencers can be a powerful marketing tool in your arsenal. Since their followers think highly of their opinions, recommendations, and even their personal fashion choices, it can do wonders for your brand if you manage to strike up a deal with them and get them to do a sponsored post. Don’t limit yourself to big names exclusively – there are likely to be small-time influencers in any niche that will have more targeted followers, most of which won’t charge an arm and a leg for sponsored posts.

At the same time, this is also bound to generate a healthy level of engagement. In turn, their followers will come visit your social media channels to see what your brand is all about, some of which are bound to leave a like or comment. This is also beneficial from the standpoint of social media algorithms that see people interacting with your content as a green flag to recommend it to others who might be interested as well.

2. Choose the appropriate social media platform

When doing social commerce, it’s much better to laser-focus on a single platform than to be all over the place. Forget about a no one-size-fits-all approach; instead, consider the target audience your products and services are designed to appeal to and make a judgment call on what the most appropriate social media platforms are likely to be.

If you’re selling:

- Fashion / home décor / furniture: Pinterest or TikTok

- To a younger audience: TikTok

- To millenials: Instagram

For everything else, Facebook is probably your best bet (but then again, this depends on your niche).

3. Consider doing a livestream

During a livestream, you can showcase your products and explain what makes them special. If you’re a charismatic person, this is a great way to develop a connection with your viewers (if not, you can always hire someone else to do it for you).

Another benefit of going live is that you can answer your viewer’s questions right there and then. In case someone is deliberating making a purchase but isn’t completely sure about it, this is an effective way of addressing their concerns.

Myths about social commerce

Finally, let’s address some popular myths and misconceptions surrounding social commerce, based on which you’ll be better equipped to decide whether this is something your business can benefit from.

Which of the following statements is true of social commerce?

STATEMENT: Social commerce is a waning fad.

As of right now, nothing indicates that social commerce is showing any signs of waning. If anything, it’s an alternative to traditional eCommerce rather than an industry-wide revolution, so don’t think of it as a zero sum game. Even if one becomes the dominant driving force, it doesn’t mean the other will vanish as a result.

STATEMENT: It’s complicated to get started in social commerce.

Can you reply to someone through social media? Can you populate your profile with images? Truth be told, social commerce is hardly any different than managing your social media profiles the old-fashioned way. If you’re worried about the technicalities of importing your products, you’ll be pleased to know that most social media platforms will walk you through everything (in case you’re using Shopify, it’s a one-click process).

If you need more help getting your products on social media, look no further than Ocoya! In the sidebar to your left, you'll see a tab that says "Ecommerce". Open it up.

Ocoya social commerce step one: opening the ecommerce tab

If you haven't connected your eCommerce accounts, now you'll have the chance to do (kindly follow the on-screen instruction for each of the shops). After that, Ocoya will automatically pull in the content from the store and display it. You can also filter what you see on your screen based on the store the merchandise belongs to. If you want to create a post promoting that product, simply click on it and off you go!

Ocoya social commerce step 2: choosing a product to post
STATEMENT: Social commerce requires a lot of upkeep and maintenance.

False. Most marketing experts tend to agree that social commerce, in fact, requires very little upkeep and maintenance. Most platforms have built-in monitoring, so they will automatically keep the pricing and stock information up to date. The only exception to this is livestreaming that requires some effort, but keep in mind this is completely optional (and there’s always the option of outsourcing).

STATEMENT: Social commerce is expensive.

Is it? Compared to what? If you want something expensive, try doing paid advertising. The only costs you can expect to incur are when your chosen social media platform takes a cut of the sale. Typically, this will not be more than 5%. Keep in mind you’ll only pay this upon making a sale, whereas paying for ads is an expense you’ll have to pay in advance regardless of whether you succeed in making any sales with it or not.

Whether you like it or not, social commerce is here to stay. The fact remains that it’s a powerful driving force behind numerous successful eCommerce businesses and the trend is showing no signs of slowing down. If you want to take advantage of it while it’s still fresh, now is a great time to jump on the bandwagon.

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