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Social commerce, the ultimate guide

Come across social commerce and its sales-driven approaches.

The ultimate guide to Social Commerce by Umnico

The importance of social media in our everyday life can hardly be overestimated. Even if you’re not an avid follower of Instagram stars or a TikTok creator yourself, there are so many things happening on social media, directly or indirectly related to our friends, job, and society, that we have to regularly interact with these platforms.

Just as social media provides extensive tools for creating content and staying in touch with other people, it also provides brands with features that enable new approaches to selling and marketing their products. Called social commerce, this activity is gaining increased popularity, while social media platforms are increasing their audiences as well. McKinsey & Company estimates the volume of retail social commerce sales in the US to reach almost $80 billion by 2025.

Successful examples of Kylie Cosmetics, which allows followers to shop products directly from its TikTok videos, Dollar Shave Club, which leverages social proof via posting customers’ feedback on Pinterest, and Havaianas, which create beautiful and shoppable Instagram feeds clearly demonstrate the power of social commerce in the today’s retail landscape. For brands, it is important to gain a comprehensive understanding of their target audience’s shopping preferences and use these insights to develop and fine-tune social commerce tactics for reaching out to new customers and maintaining strong relations with existing ones. Let’s take a deep dive into the world of social commerce to see what trends, platforms, and strategies shape the world of social media selling today.

US Retail Social Commerce Sales forecast

Table of content

What is social commerce?

Social commerce refers to the practice of companies marketing and selling their products and services via social media platforms. With social commerce, businesses provide ways for customers to make purchases directly in social media apps that they use to connect with friends and discover various content.

E-commerce with Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms acts as a virtual shop window for brands. It eliminates the need for followers to switch from a social media app to the brand’s website, making the customer journey from discovery to purchase more streamlined, comfortable, and optimized.

Social commerce provides brands with new opportunities to engage with customers, extend their audiences, and, consequently, improve sales. Meanwhile, such a way of interaction also benefits shoppers who can easily discover brand offerings, shop products in a familiar environment of a social media app, as well as connect with customer support to discuss issues or receive shopping guidance.

Social commerce vs. e-commerce: the difference

Generally speaking, social commerce can be regarded as a part of e-commerce, which covers all activities of selling products online. E-commerce comes in four main types: business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-to-business (C2B), and consumer-to-consumer (C2C).

The main difference between traditional B2B and B2C e-commerce, when buyers make purchases at sellers’ websites and platforms, is that with social commerce, everything happens within social media and messengers where shoppers initially discover the products. Here, five main types of social commerce can be identified: native shopping solutions, p2p marketplaces, shoppable AR filters and masks, live shopping events, and curated shopping lists.

Benefits of social commerce for business

Selling through social media provides numerous advantages for businesses. Among them:

Social commerce benefits
  • Better reach of target audience. Social commerce is one of the best tools for businesses to extend their reach and help more people to discover the brand and its offerings. Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms are universally used and popular all over the globe. This allows companies to extend their reach to distant markets and find loyal customers all over the world.
  • Increased brand awareness. Social media is hardly imaginable without standout personalities and celebrities. Opinions of these people, also called influencers, can take a brand’s popularity to a new level, on the contrary, make customers turn away. Partnering with influencers relevant to the target audience can immensely help a brand in improving customer awareness.
  • Convenience for shoppers. Shopping through a familiar interface of a social media platform that you use every day. What can be better? The convenience provided by social commerce directly drives the number and frequency of purchases since the customer journey gets shorter and more straightforward.
  • Social proof. User-generated content, such as reviews, feedback, stories with brand mentions, or posts with a photo of a product on social media — all of this works toward establishing trust among customers. Since people today are more skeptical of advertising than several decades ago, such unbiased promotion feels much more natural and trustworthy than paid commercials of any format.

5 best social commerce platforms to use in 2022

Let’s take a close look at some of the most popular and prospective platforms for companies to direct their social selling efforts at.

Instagram

Undoubtedly, Instagram is one of the most promising social commerce platforms on the market. The social media platform’s key benefit is presenting products and services in an appealing way via eye-catching photos and videos in posts, stories, and reels. By setting up Instagram Shopping, brands can take customers straight from product discovery to purchase seamlessly. The shop feature in the Instagram account allows brands to tag items in posts, stories, and even live broadcasts, and followers to view and buy items in a way similar to an e-store. Customers can make purchases via Instagram Direct Messages, where they can also ask questions and track their orders.

Instagram shopping

Facebook

Facebook, which has nearly 3.5 billion active users worldwide, is one of the key social commerce platforms. Facebook Shops, the social media’s commerce service, has an extremely low barrier to entry. A company with a business account can have an unlimited number of Facebook Shops that are fully customized online storefronts with product catalogs. Brands can also use integration with Shopify to automatically sync products with Facebook Shop and create shoppable posts and ads. Instagram Shopping is also directly linked to Facebook Shops, providing a seamless experience for shoppers. They can do an in-app checkout or open a Messenger conversation to make a purchase.

WhatsApp

The most popular messaging platform is emerging as a significant tool for driving sales, marketing, and customer support for enterprises. There are two types of WhatsApp Business accounts: an Official Business Account, which has a green checkmark badge and is allowed for well-known and trustworthy brands, and a Business Account, which can be created by any person who needs a business account on the platform.

WhatsApp shopping

WhatsApp Business allows a brand to add items to the catalog and display them in a chat with price, description, and product code. Since WhatsApp is a powerful tool for communication that combines automation capabilities with integration support for CRM systems, creating a WhatsApp shop is a great way for businesses to expand their reach and allow customers to shop right through a chat window where they get shopping assistance.

Umnico provides a convenient way to communicate with WhatsApp audiences via WhatsApp integration with business applications and CRM. It allows employees to reach out to customers first and reply to their inquiries in a single web application or directly from CRM, which makes selling via the messenger easier and faster. Customers’ requests are no longer missed or left unattended.

Snapchat

Currently in beta, Snapchat Stores provides brands with a new sales channel, allowing Snapchatters to find, explore, and buy things straight from the Snapchat app. Stores add a Shop tab to a brand’s public profile, where it can display items with links to detailed product pages.

Snapchat shopping

What makes Snapchat commerce tools stand out among other platforms is AR shopping lenses that allow brands to create immersive 3D content that users can actually try on in real time, for example, eyewear or cosmetics. The technology simulates an in-store experience and has the potential to significantly increase online sales for companies in numerous industries.

Telegram

Having transformed into something far bigger than simply a secure messaging app, Telegram allows brands to set up shops as well, making it easy for customers to create orders in-between conversations with friends and video chats with colleagues. In order to set up a shop, a company must create a chatbot, import product listings, and link a payment service.

Among the most successful Telegram shops are food delivery companies, but there are many business niches that can effectively increase their sales through social commerce in Telegram. The app is continuously updated, and its popularity grows, while such tools as customizable stickers provide great opportunities to increase brand awareness through original and fun content.

Social commerce trends for 2023

E-commerce, and social commerce, in particular, is a fast-evolving industry, which is directly related to emerging technologies and trends in the digital sphere. Let’s take a look at the most notable of them.

AR experience

With an expected market size of $30 billion by 2030, augmented reality is hot these days. For e-stores, AR technologies open immense possibilities to provide customers with an enveloping experience and try on 3D models of products. The application of the technology doesn’t limit itself to clothes and makeup: it can be used in real estate to substitute a physical visit to a property or when buying furniture to see how a table fits in the interior. Here, Snapchat and its AR shopping lenses serve as the prime example of AR usage in social commerce.

Chatbots

Automation is the king of modern business and social commerce, based on communication with customers, is no exception. From simple scripts to AI-powered solutions, chatbots help customers with their issues, find a suitable product, and can take orders as well. Messenger apps, such as WhatsApp and Telegram have extensive tools for automating conversations, which optimizes interactions with customers, allowing to keep response time short and clients satisfied.

Micro-influencers

Gone are the days when only star personalities with million fan bases were capable of attracting consumers’ attention to a certain product. Today, people crave more authentic experiences and are interested in the tastes and preferences of people they can easily relate to. This gave rise to micro-influences — personalities with fewer but more devoted followers. A company that decides to dip its toe in social commerce must thoroughly explore the social media landscape to identify influencers that are most relevant to its target audience and establish relationships with them.

User-generated content

In a way, this is a continuation of the previous point: UGC content plays a paramount role in social media selling. Today, everyone can become a micro-influencer among their friends or social circle and sway their opinion regarding a product in both ways. Strong online presence, beautiful packaging, and rewarding brand advocates — all of these increase the chances for a brand to get promoted in social media by its clients. For free.

Mindful choice

Uncertain economic times always force people to buy less and research more. Social commerce provides numerous opportunities for brands to demonstrate the benefits of their products in unconventional ways. Sustainable packaging and manufacturing process, support of personalization, great value for money, all of this can and should be highlighted via social commerce.

Metaverse

With a potential global market of $800 billion, the metaverse concept attracts brands of all sizes, from huge corporations like Facebook to small apparel brands. Companies should expect even more shopping to happen virtually. Metaverse is directly connected to social media and can be seen as an extension of it, so any company that is into social commerce should also devise a strategy of entering this virtual space with unique products and experiences.

Social commerce examples to learn from

Success stories are not only inspiring but also provide valuable insights on how to leverage the capabilities of social media selling in best possible ways.

Nike

Probably one of the first examples of a huge brand selling its products directly through social media, Nike partnered with Snapchat to create a unique limited-time-only activity for the NBA All-Stars game after-party in 2018. The party’s attendees could scan Snap codes and order Air Jordan III “Tinker” before the shoes’ official release within the Snapchat app. Thanks to prior marketing activity, such as the release of AR Snapchat lenses devoted to Michael Jordan, the sneakers were sold out in under 23 minutes.

David Yurman

A high-end NYC-based jewelry designer, David Yurman is popular among celebrities, while still doing its best to reach a wider audience through social media. The brand’s full-fledged approach to e-commerce on Instagram can serve as a bright social commerce example. Along with stunning imagery and reels showcasing products, models, and scenic places, David Yurman has a structured Instagram shop that allows shopping by multiple categories, as well as enjoyable guides that provide knowledge and inspiration for those who are in the market for its jewelry.

David Yurman Instagram Account

Walmart

Being the largest retail corporation, Walmart is also one of the most active adopters of social commerce, maintaining a presence on multiple social media channels. It was the first one to launch a live-shopping event on Twitter in 2021, as well as to adopt Twitter Shops — a feature that allows an account to spotlight up to 50 products for its followers. The brand also has a dedicated Walmart Help Twitter account that answers customer requests 24/7. The corporation partners with a large pool of influencers on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube who recommend its products via affiliate links. However, the retailer aims to bring social media engagement even further, having filed trademarks for “Walmart Creator” and “Walmart Creator Collective” that would provide social media consulting and promotion of goods and services of others through influencers in the summer of 2022.

YNAP

Yoox Net-a-Porter Group is one of the leading fashion digital retailers. The company was one of the first to partner with WhatsApp to test the messaging platform’s new features for providing a personalized experience to high-value customers. For example, the company’s Personal Shopping team uses WhatsApp to send customers product suggestions and complete transactions instead of emails. The team also uploads items as status updates, which allows customers to have a real-time shopping experience and comment directly on the items shown. To evaluate customers’ feedback, YNAP integrated its Order Management System with WhatsApp via the platform’s Enterprise solution, which is also used to send order updates through the platform.

Domino’s Pizza

With a global presence in over 83 countries, Domino’s Pizza strives for the same dominating position when it comes to different channels for customer interactions. The company knows that pizza is often ordered on a whim, and what is a better place to buy something on a whim than a messenger that people open 20 times a day? The company employs chatbots to allow customers to make orders through messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. For a returning customer, ordering via Domino’s chatbot gets astoundingly easy: not only it remembers their address, but if a person has set a favorite pizza in their profile, all it takes to make an order is sending a dedicated emoji to the bot. Mind-reading is likely to be the only easier ordering option in the future, but that’s a whole other story!

Domino's Pizza chatbot

Social commerce tips & best practices

Social commerce is a multifaceted activity and successful campaigns often include engaging with customers through multiple social media channels and employing several approaches. Every brand and its digital marketing strategy differ, nonetheless, here are some of the universal tips for mastering social media selling.

  • Learn about your audience. For maximum engagement, align your social commerce strategy with your target audience. Choose products and messaging based on the data gathered across social media channels and create content that resonates with the audience of a particular platform.
  • Schedule your content. You have to have a plan to be successful and social commerce is no exception. Align your social media activity with festivities and relevant events to maximize engagement. Also, schedule some promotional posts, such as unpackaging videos or close-up shots, after you’ve shared a listing to generate interest and drive traffic to the new social storefront.
  • Use analytics to understand what works. Devising a social commerce strategy based on assumptions only is not worth the risk. Precise figures, including customer demographics, the conversion rate for various campaigns, and engagement rates for different types of content, should helm the direction of your social selling efforts, determining the best social media channels and approaches.
  • Personalize communication. The majority of customers expect brands to know their preferences and respond much better to personalized offers. Social media and messenger selling is a great opportunity for brands to engage in direct two-way communication with customers, make personalized offers, and improve long-term relations with them.
  • Leverage user-generated content. Communities play an important role in social media e-commerce. The effectiveness of advertising campaigns and partnering with celebrity influencers often pales in comparison to how some accidentally gone viral content can do to sales. For brands, it is important to monitor social media for mentions of it and promote brand advocates through reposts, personal discounts, or even complimentary products.
  • Use an omnichannel approach. To extend its reach, a company should aim at being equally present across several most important social media and messenger platforms. The growing number of such platforms makes it difficult to communicate across them all in a timely and personalized manner.
Here, instead of increasing staff expenditures or outsourcing support, the employment of an omnichannel messaging platform such as Umnico can deliver better results for less. Merging conversations from social media and instant messengers into a single interface and providing a unified view, Umnico helps to optimize customer communication at every stage, whether it is selling, marketing, or post-purchase support.

5 reasons why you should try social commerce

As you can see from the above, social commerce is already used by many companies and brings noticeable results to many of them. If your company hasn’t started social selling yet, here are five main reasons why it should.

Top reasons for social selling

Audience growth

Social media and messengers are the place where billions of people communicate with each other every day. These channels provide brands with numerous opportunities to market and sell their products and services in a new way — by participating in a conversation with customers. Engaging content created by both companies and individual users transforms into a blend that overpowers traditional marketing and advertising.

Shorter customer journey

Social shopping can attract even those customers who are generally reluctant to register on new websites or have no time to go through onboarding processes in e-stores. Optimized and streamlined shopping via social apps is likely to bring new loyal customers to a company and produce a long-term sales increase.

Valuable insights

Platforms that provide social shopping features also come with convenient dashboards to track every interaction and sale. This provides valuable and easy-to-use data to analyze customer preferences, demographics, and interests. All of this can be used to optimize marketing strategy, brand positioning, and activity on every social media channel.

Higher engagement

People enjoy using social media and many of them are happy to discover that their favorite brand has an active Instagram account where they can actually shop for products they love. All of this sets up the ground for new potential forms of engagement between brand and customers, from a photo of a recent purchase tagging a company to some viral tweet that hits the news feed.

Increased customer satisfaction

Social commerce doesn’t end when a buyer hits the ‘Checkout’ button. On the contrary, both messengers and social media are great communication tools to stay in touch with customers. For example, what can be more convenient for a buyer to contact support via the same channel they made a purchase in and receive a prompt personalized response? This way, selling through social channels can also improve customer satisfaction, which is a key performance indicator for virtually any business.

Conclusion

Social media and instant messengers hold a potential of great value that is still being discovered by brands of all sizes and industries. The process is likely to continue as social media platforms expand their functionality and such cutting-edge technologies as AR and AI-bots become more widespread.

In the near future, social commerce is likely to become a staple in sales and marketing, and brands that realize it earlier have all chances of winning a larger and more loyal audience than their competitors.

One thing that is intrinsically woven into social commerce is its multi-channel character. Customers expect that a brand shoppable on Instagram can also be easily reached via Facebook and so on. Here, omnichannel messaging platforms, such as Umnico, can help tremendously to streamline and optimize customer communication. For those who are still unsure about the benefits of being able to engage with customers across all channels via a single easy-to-use interface, a free trial period allows them to try all Umnico’s features for free.

Nikolay R.

Article author

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