Social Commerce: Which platform is best for your business?

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Retailers have had to be agile and digitally savvy to survive the impact of the pandemic this year. Businesses have embraced eCommerce and social commerce like never before. But the trends towards buying online, shopping on your mobile, or tapping an Instagram shoppable tag have been in the works for a while. We know that even before the pandemic people were spending more time shopping on their smartphones. During last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, 69% of Shopify sales were conducted on mobile, as opposed to 31% on desktop. As mobile-first shopping has grown, so too has the appetite for shopping directly within social media apps, leading to a boom in what we have come to know as social commerce. Social media platforms have invested heavily in this new approach to shopping whilst you scroll. But the question remains, with so many social media channels to choose from which one will work best for your brand? Let’s take a closer look at the best features out there in our platform social commerce audit. 

Facebook 

Facebook Shops is the latest dedicated social commerce offering on the platform which launched earlier this year to meet the increased need for businesses to be able to sell online amid the coronavirus pandemic. Although the Facebook marketplace has existed since 2016, this new iteration has overhauled its social commerce processes to offer an all-in-one approach that also extends to Instagram. With 2.6 billion monthly active users, Facebook definitely has the volume of users to make it a worthwhile investment for brands seeking to leverage social commerce. The Shops feature allows businesses to host a full catalog of products for customers to browse directly via Facebook, as well as in-app checkout and eCommerce integrations to help brands manage stock and orders between their eCommerce and social commerce storefronts. 

Our summary of the best social commerce features on Facebook: 

  • Integrated product catalog
  • Can be customized with your own branding
  • Create collections for seasonal product lines etc 
  • In-app checkout 
  • Accessible from Facebook pages, Instagram profile, and social ads
  • Manage inventory with integrations for Shopify etc
  • Keep customers updated with outreach via Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram Direct Messaging
Image credit: Facebook

Instagram

As a platform that lends itself to displaying highly visual content, Instagram is a great platform to consider if you have particularly colorful or visual products to sell. New features on the block include Instagram Shops, only available to brands using Facebook Shops. This allows consumers to browse and buy your products from your Instagram feed visuals, videos, and Stories. On Instagram you can also add tags to your feed, linking images of your products to your catalog, displaying price and product info, and also let customers complete their checkout without leaving the app. 

We also rate Instagram’s product stickers that can be added to images and videos in Instagram stories, offering more information about the featured items. This is an organic way of promoting products within the app without directing people to your external eCommerce site. It’s a great tool that can also be used by smaller businesses with less than 10,000 followers who want to promote their products but can’t integrate links into their stories. 

Our summary of the best social commerce features on Instagram:

  • Instagram Shops (via Facebook Shops)
  • Shoppable tags in feed
  • In-app checkout 
  • Product stickers for Instagram stories
Image credit: Facebook

Pinterest 

We’ve seen a new suite of commerce features recently released on the platform, so let’s get up to date! Pinterest has always been a popular destination for people looking for inspiration and creative how-to content. The platform is helping more brands to get discovered with new features to convert merchant profiles to storefronts, and displaying product collections and information about what’s in-stock to guide the buyer’s journey. Brands can upload product catalogs and create product pins, offering further information that can be pulled from eCommerce stores, as is the case with the Pinterest + Shopify integration. 

A new way for Pinners to discover products on the platform is through the Lens visual search feature. By using the Lens camera tool to conduct a visual search, Pinterest will tell you the shoppable items in that photo and where you can buy them, whilst also offering suggestions of similar products that can be found on the platform. 

Lastly, the Verified Merchant Program allows brands offering exceptional customer service to qualify for Verified Merchant status, and adding a shop tab to their profile so all their product pins from their catalog can be found under one roof. It also helps brands to improve their visibility on the platform via the ‘Shop the Look Pins’ and related Pins. 

Our summary of the best social commerce features on Pinterest:

  • Verified Merchant Program 
  • Merchant profiles as storefronts with dynamic product display
  • Upload product catalog and create Product Pins
  • Lens visual search Product Pins and suggestions
Image credit: Pinterest

Snapchat

Once the home of goofy videos shared between personal friends, Snapchat is getting on the social commerce bandwagon with Brand Profiles, in beta testing since July 2020. The feature is dedicated to helping brands drive sales on the platform through AR lenses to help users try out clothing and other items on the app. There’s also the possibility to have the full social commerce experience by browsing and purchasing directly on the app through ‘native stores’ powered by Shopify. 

Our summary of the best social commerce features on Snapchat:

  • AR lenses
  • Brand Profiles unique space for brands on the app
  • Native stores & in-app purchasing 
Image credit; Snpachat

TikTok

Whilst not offering a native social commerce shopping experience just yet, the platform is helping brands advertise and drive sales amongst its growing Gen Z audience. Their recent partnership with Shopify will aid businesses to optimize their TikTok marketing campaigns on the platform whilst offering in-feed native ads for their products. These sales-oriented developments are surely a sign that more social commerce features will be on their way soon! 

There you have it, a look at how our favorite social media channels are expanding into social commerce. Facebook and Instagram remain the most established channels for social commerce, with the largest audiences and the most powerful features. Pinterest has also shown itself to be an innovator when it comes to social commerce and for brands in the food, crafting, and well-being industries it has the potential for driving brand discovery and sales. Looking to the future, we can see the role of AR on Snapchat being incredibly interesting for fashion and beauty, whilst we expect to see TikTok roll out further developments towards shopping on the platform. Although not included in our list above, YouTube has social commerce plans on the horizon and is currently developing YouTube Shopping and working with influencers to tag and track sales of their products in their clips. 

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