Social media platforms are well on their way to becoming established channels for e-Commerce, especially when it comes to brand building and engaging customers for retailers. Indeed, the rise of social shopping is intrinsically tied to the explosive growth of mobile devices. Consumers today, especially the younger generation, increasingly connect to people and information via mobile apps rather than through the traditional web browser — opting to read the news, talk with friends and shop on an app.
Worldpay from FIS research found that 71% of shoppers globally use mobile apps to make purchases, driven primarily by the desire for speed and simplicity. This number is projected to increase in the coming five years, making it increasingly imperative for brands to integrate social platforms into their channel strategy or face threats to their long-term survival.
However, like all sales tools and channels, social shopping is most effective when tailored to each platform used. Here’s a quick glance at what social shopping looks like across five of the most popular social networking sites.
It’s been just over a year since Instagram launched IGTV, which enables long-form video — a feature that quickly caught the attention and enthusiasm of influencers and even Vogue, however, it hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. But in a sign that social commerce is still seen as a viable and important sales channel, Instagram is trying a new approach to shopping in-app. Instead of directing users to a merchant’s website, they now allow the entire transaction to occur directly within Instagram.
Instagram clearly has recognized the inherent symbiotic value of in-app purchasing and is creating new user experiences that allow merchants to tap into the platform’s 130 million-strong user base. Flipping an engaged user from trend-following their favorite influencers into a new customer completing a purchase seamlessly in-app is a new blue sky for social-selling merchants.
Snapchat is betting big on the future of AR and mobile with its shoppable AR experience by letting retailers add a ‘button’ onto AR lenses running on a Snap.
Users can complete a number of actions with this feature, including navigating to retailers’ online stores or apps where they can purchase the products in one click. As Snapchat continues to explore the possibility of an AR dressing room experience, retailers should watch closely to see what the social network will offer next.
This video-sharing app, hugely popular among Gen Z users, is like a newer blend of Vine and YouTube. Originally developed in China, TikTok has swept through the Western European and American markets, with over 27 million users in the U.S. alone. The app is already operating an e-Commerce shopping platform in China, which is it now working to enable for U.S. and Western European users as well. Advertising is already an existing revenue stream, and an in-app “buy now” button is currently being rolled out.
Considering the twin forces of a maturing — and very large — Gen Z population that is seeing increased spending power coupled with the growing trend in social commerce in the U.S., it’s hard to imagine that the social platform will not see considerable success in the coming years, despite its relative nascence in the Western market.
The social networking pioneer has always pointed the way forward in how to integrate ads, retail opportunities and social moments in one place. Take, for example, the Facebook Store app, a quick an easy way for merchants to enable users to purchase products without ever leaving their Facebook app. Facebook messenger is also now seen as its own social sales channel, complete with unique opportunities for social commerce. We know that 72% of global consumers would be comfortable with a chatbot like the kind that drives sales via Messenger acting on their behalf to book or pay for an item. As a tool for merchants, Facebook helps brands effectively use chatbots without needing a full team of developers at their disposal.
This kind of integrated experience with social, shopping and payment i is key. Worldpay from FIS data shows 47% of shoppers would go to a competitor if they don’t have a good mobile experience, so Facebook’s integrated browsing, buying and payments option, available on a platform that consumers know and love, brands will have a better chance of conversion.
Launched in 2017, Pinterest’s Shop the Look feature enables shoppers to buy products in the images that they pin. Using computer vision and human curation the feature makes recommendations based on the content in pinned images connoted by “dots” attached to specific items within a pin. When clicked, the dots reveal related and visually similar items which the user can shop and purchase instantly. With its user base that loves to discover new items, Pinterest’s Shop the Look exposes its users to goods like fashion or home décor that matches their tastes while enabling even faster and simpler browsing. Retailers participating in the program win twice: they incentivize conversions while gaining exposure to new potential customers.
As the future of online retail evolves, social networks will no doubt continue to play an important role in how we shop online. The prospect of brands jumping on trends such as voice and conversational commerce and incorporating this into the future in-app shopping experience is truly exciting — particularly if it helps reduce the friction of bad mobile experiences and causes of shopping cart abandonment.
Brands wishing to capitalize on the possibilities of social shopping should always focus on delivering two key experiences to their customers: fun and convenience. Keeping these priorities in mind will ensure that retailers appropriately select and use the right platform to integrate social commerce into their channel strategy. When browsing and buying feel like an enjoyable, natural extension of social media, consumers will be more likely to complete their purchase and come back for more.
Maria Prados is Vice President of Global Retail, Global Enterprise e-Commerce, at Worldpay from FIS. Prior to joining Worldpay from FIS, she worked at Dixons Retail as part of the e-Commerce turnaround team in charge of building the successful e-Commerce/multi-channel strategy for the company. She began her career in financial services with Deloitte S.L. Prados has an MBA from IESE and Columbia Business School.