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What is Social Commerce & Why Do I Need It?

You already know that a social media presence is important to running a successful business.

So you not only create an Instagram account, you populate it with attractive photography, catchy captions, and well-researched hashtags (but not too many!). You show off a great new product, and you let your followers know that the link is in the bio. So the interested follower leaves the post and goes to your profile. But that address in your bio is not actually a link, so that follower has to open their browser and manually type the address into the address bar. And then they have to add the product to their cart, maybe create an account or login, and finally check out. But some would-be customers check out long before they get to that point.

It's clear from this example that if social media is to become truly integral to ecommerce, it needs to evolve. The good news is that on some platforms, it already has. Social commerce is a new feature of social networks such as Facebook and Instagram that allow consumers to make purchases directly from the app. Pinterest and Snapchat also have social commerce features, and YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter are all experimenting with shopping features, as well. Social media no longer occupies the lowest rungs of the Buyer’s Journey—the Discovery or Awareness phase—but has moved up to become the point of purchase itself. Social media will still have a role to play in building brand awareness and identity, but it is not just for that anymore.

Social commerce has already made an impact on ecommerce. It was responsible for $492 million in sales in 2021, and it is poised to grow three times faster than traditional ecommerce, rising to a projected total of $1.2 trillion by 2025. This growth is driven by Millennial and Gen Z consumers, and as more members of Gen Z move into adulthood, social commerce will become an unavoidable part of a successful ecommerce strategy.

Part of the power of social commerce comes from its creation of a single path to purchase. As soon as digital channels come into play, the buyer’s journey becomes nonlinear as they bounce between Google searches, social media, websites, and review sites, as well as articles, blog posts, and other research materials. All of those paths to purchase add up to many opportunities to lose that sale. For example, a consumer might put a product in their cart and then second-guess themselves and go back to researching other options.

Social commerce streamlines this labyrinthine process. Consumers are already on their phones and on social media, discovering and interacting with brands. Rather than send them somewhere else to make a purchase, you can now sell that product directly through social media. A consumer sees an image of a product they want, they tap “Shop Now” just as intuitively as they would tap the heart or the thumbs up, and they are taken directly to checkout.

It took a long time for ecommerce to catch on with consumers, who had to be convinced that they could trust the website into which they were entering sensitive private information. And even after that trust had been established, many consumers still preferred to make certain purchases, such as jewelry, in-store. Ecommerce had been picking up steam for years, with more consumers making all kinds of purchases online, but the pandemic has accelerated those trends, and younger consumers are leading the way.

As retail trends evolve, these younger consumers are even willing to make luxury purchases online. In 2020, 25% of Millennial and Gen Z consumers shopped for and purchased diamonds entirely online, compared to 17% of older consumers. Furthermore, 28% of consumers of all ages say that they would consider buying diamond jewelry online if they trusted the brand or seller. Those numbers will continue to grow, and social commerce will lead the way, as platforms like Facebook and Instagram make it easy to both build a relationship with consumers and sell directly to them.

Social commerce is still establishing itself in the world of ecommerce, but it is in a position to grow over the next few years. It is already one of the most important retail trends of 2022. So if you haven’t yet, it’s time to start experimenting with Facebook Shops and Instagram Shopping so that you’ll know what you’re doing by the time social commerce really takes off.