Social commerce is taking over the eCommerce world, first in China, where the trend has taken the country by storm. According to eMarketer.com, in 2021 alone, social commerce sales are predicted to garner $363.26 billion, triple that of 2018. That’s 35.5% year over year or 13.1% of all eCommerce sales in 2021! Get in on the action now and start leveraging your social influence to drive conversions.
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is a product sales and promotion style on social networks that mutually benefits both merchants and consumers. The more interaction, likes, and shares a product deal receives, the higher the likelihood of conversions and the higher the campaign success. It also aims to engage customers by answering questions and offering support.
More than five years ago, social commerce started in China, particularly in farming communities, using a group shopping app called Pinduoduo to sell their produce and other products virtually. Pinduoduo generated $251.76 billion in 2020 - that should show you the power of eCommerce and social leverage.
After the Pinduoduo blew up the space, the WeChat messaging app entered the game with centralized Mini Programs - essentially, virtual stores, a model which the U.S. companies are now trying to mimic.
As more merchants implement group buying and social commerce methods, we will see if consumer behavior adapts. The biggest companies in North America using social commerce are Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Supergreat, Glossier, and Food52.
Mashable compiled a list of seven different types of social commerce, which we’ll share here:
- Peer to Peer
- Social Network Sales
- Group Buying
- Peer Recommendations
- User-Curated Sales
- Participatory Commerce
- Social Shopping
These seven types will be the most common forms of social commerce in use.
Why is social commerce important?
For apps hosting merchants, they get a cut of all the sales completed using the app and have the opportunity to run even more ads.
For shoppers, they get incredibly convenient, centralized, customized product suggestions at deeply competitive prices. They can bring in their friends and family on the deals so that they benefit too. Consumers also can discover new products they would not previously find before social commerce.
Group buying apps, like PowerBuy, offer myriad benefits for both consumers and merchants. Utilizing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) software, social commerce platforms can recommend popular products and items curated to your needs based on your shopping history. Using AI to analyze consumer shopping behavior, apps can increase shop conversions while also offering affordable product deals to their customer base.
Social commerce also “cuts out the middleman;” rather than relying on expensive, traditional search engine optimization (SEO) and PPC marketing initiatives, merchants save money and can speak directly to their niche audiences and, exponentially, their audiences’ extended social networks. Micro-influencers become key brand advocates. By incentivizing social shares, merchants encourage brand awareness, drive organic traffic, and increase the potential for an ad to go viral.
Social commerce instigates a much more relational, sustainable, long-lasting business for merchants. Building bridges between merchants and shoppers is a much more likely way to guarantee engagement, increase conversions, and overall deliver a stellar AOV and ROI. Acquiring testimonials and social proof suddenly becomes quick work, and because merchants are selling to customers’ trusted networks, the chance of fraud decreases.
What is the future of social commerce?
Compared to China, the U.S. social commerce market is more modest at the moment, totaling $36.09 billion or 4.3% of eCommerce sales. The demand is increasing as more merchants and marketers discover the power of social leverage in sales.
As it is, major U.S. companies utilizing social commerce still haven’t established how to have customers buy directly on their networking platform. Shoppers are directed off-platform to merchant websites from pay-per-click (PPC) ads and other types of paid posts to complete purchases, which is a strong point of friction in the sales funnel.
Word-of-mouth is a powerful purchasing motivator.
Michael Ogince for Mashable reports that “About 81% of consumers receive advice from friends and family relating to a product purchase through a social networking site. And the majority — about 74 % — of consumers rely on social networks to guide their purchases.”
Those are very compelling numbers.
Merchants hope to replicate the success of social commerce seen in that part of Asia, but that might be a challenge as Americans tend to use eCommerce sites to purchase essentials rather than as places to spend time with friends and family. Chinese consumers immersed in native advertising come to eCommerce platforms to learn rather than purchase.
However, during quarantine, consumer shopping patterns shifted to the online sphere. Customers began to buy things online that they previously bought in person, like groceries, health and hygiene, and home essentials. So things are looking up dramatically for the future of social commerce and group buying.
How can you utilize social commerce?
For newer businesses
Having your thumb on the pulse of your industry trends is always important, but getting involved in social commerce, you must first take stock of where your business stands currently - and be honest.
Consider your audience demographics, brand persona, mission statement, and unique value proposition. Who is your ideal customer? What kind of products do they use? What about your business will bring value to them and eliminate their pain points?
Once you know that, you can use product descriptions and positioning to create compelling copy to drive your niche audiences’ conversions.
Ultimately, all of this will be about focusing on your customer’s developing needs and wants. Once you have this down, you can move onto the suggestions for established businesses.
For established business
The focus for established businesses doesn’t shift from being consumer-oriented but should consider innovative ways to incorporate fun and spontaneity into the shopping process. One popular method is gamification, a particular favorite of the PowerBuy app.
The other focus area should be relying more and more on influencers, brand advocates, and customers to tell your company’s story.
Their discussions and endorsements of your brand generate more authentic conversations and can build a positive reputation through the power of recommendation. Customers trust the advice of people they respect, and if the people they admire are buying something, they’re more likely to buy it.
This article from Shopify reports that live streams will bring in $25 billion by 2023, so don’t pass up on this emergent virtual option. This is also an excellent opportunity for “lifting the veil” content; that is, behind-the-scenes tours, unboxings, and how-to videos.
Social commerce will skyrocket in the U.S. in the coming year and continue to grow in China, so it’s vital to get informed and utilize all the tools you can to maximize your profits.
Social commerce works based on social sharing, where merchants offer deals to customers and their networks. As each consumer shares merchant products, the company increases its audience reach.
Beneficial for both significant social networking platforms, merchants, and shoppers,
group buying apps such as PowerBuy allow you to implement artificial intelligence and customize their shopping experience.
Using your customers’ social networks will help companies exponentially drive traffic and conversions while increasing overall ROI. Businesses should incorporate fun, entertaining ways to engage customers and gamify the shopping process while focusing on treating influencers and customers well, building their reputation, and positively reflecting the brand story. Focus on the customer and their networks, and watch the profits roll in.