The spaces where we hang out and stay social even during a pandemic are where we connect and share. They are also increasingly where we shop.
eCommerce is now an integral part of social media platforms, and the lines between social and commerce are likely to get even more blurred.
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The decline in physical shopping has seen an increase in e-commerce. Now, sales that moved to e-commerce sites and marketplaces are shifting to social media platforms. The shift builds on technological developments, but it highlights the social nature of shopping. In the past, we used to ask others for advice and recommendations. Now the same happens on a scale with online reviews, social networks, influencers, and live streaming.
When we consume social content, we can find brands and products we love. We also come across new products and services. We do not have to search for them. Instead, we can discover them while gaining other value. The discovery process feels more organic and natural to us.
On social media platforms, sellers of all sizes can create value and a unique experience. On top of the unique experience, social media is about engaging customers. Engaged customers not only purchase more, but they share.
On social platforms, brands can drive traffic through social media campaigns that go beyond ads to include contests, online games, group discounts, or influencers. Although the concept is not really new, live shopping is the latest trend on social media platforms. Live streaming often presents interactive content and influencers helping to sell goods. The trend is already big in China, and it seems like the world is catching up.
Social commerce in China
Purchasing on social platforms is big across Asia. Social commerce sales are estimated to account for over 11% of total retail e-commerce sales in China, or over $242 billion. Retail in China is more digital than it is in the U.S. or Europe. Users in China are used to buying from marketplaces, not so much from brands.
As a result, users can see products on the brand’s official social media store and buy them there or choose to make the purchase at a marketplace like Alibaba and JD.com. In fact, these famous e-commerce platforms were the first to embed links in their live streams that allow viewers to purchase items while watching.
With no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter, the social media space in China is different than in the West. It is also larger. Social media platforms like WeChat, Sina Weibo, and Tencent Weibo are growing. WeChat is said to have over one billion active monthly users.
WeChat, in particular, has shown us the benefits of social channels to retail sales.
WeChat’s development is innovative and goes beyond messaging, voice, and video calls to include Moments feed, games integration, and an embedded mobile payment system. People in China use WeChat to hail taxis, order takeout, pay bills, and more.
To convert from social media content to e-commerce, brands can use WeChat to guide users to their online shopping platforms. For example, customers can chat directly with sales representatives. On the chat, potential clients get clickable images of what they are looking for, deals of the day, and more.
Brands can also sell in the social platform. Mini-program e-commerce stores are a powerful tool that allows brands to sell directly to users.
A mini-program is a “sub-application” within WeChat that provides advanced features to users, such as e-commerce and coupons. The mini-program creates a more targeted customer experience compared to the more general e-commerce experience. WeChat shops is another form of social commerce on the app. WeChat Pay allows purchases within the app and promotes social commerce.
Social commerce in the U.S.
Convenient shopping user experience is on the rise, and social commerce drives the trend through the big social media platforms which control the market.
Facebook offers consumers products through its Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp platforms and checkout with Facebook Pay or other methods.
Facebook enhanced its social commerce with Facebook Shops. The platform builds on Americans being used to buying from brands. It also has the great advantage of utilizing Facebook’s targeted advertising tools.
Shopping through Facebook platforms sees a rise in sales via Instagram.
Instagram Shopping offers more features that promote social commerce, like “Shopping from Creators”, which enables certain creators to tag your products in their posts. Another feature is Product Launches developed to allow users to discover and follow upcoming product launches from eligible businesses.
Instagram Checkout enables users to buy from the app directly when they see a product, and their payment information is saved for future orders. It is now eligible for all U.S. businesses with a shop.
Its WhatsApp messaging app is also in the game with features aimed at in-chat shopping for products and services.
The TikTok social media app is highly popular. Marketers still view it as a Gen Z platform, yet many of its users are over 25. It seems lie TikTok can drive revenue for brands, and it is rolling out social shopping features.
Now it partnered with e-commerce platform Shopify. The partnership allows users to shop as they watch short TikTok videos, and it is likely to expand the shopping features soon, strengthening TikTok’s social shopping platform. The companies plan to expand the partnership outside of the U.S. soon.
Shopify also partners with other sites, including Facebook, Pinterest, and marketplaces like Walmart. Read more in the blog article on Walmart.com: Expansion, Growth and Counterfeits.
The transition to e-commerce accelerated with Covid-19. Many e-commerce platforms are integrated with social networks, and we expect to see more social commerce. This is already happening in Asia, where there is no clear line between social content and e-commerce.
Social platforms are likely to see their sales grow as the experience becomes even more engaging and seamless with many new features and platforms.
With more online spending, social media impacts what people buy and holds many advantages for sellers. Yet, the threat of counterfeits is more widespread with so many online channels, direct interactions and payment methods.
For example, read more about fakes on Instagram in the blog article on: Instagram and the counterfeiting problem.
Waiting for social media platforms to find effective solutions to infringements is simply not enough. If you’re wondering how to protect your intellectual property online on all channels, using an online brand protection company is an easy and effective solution.
Wiser Market is an anti-counterfeit agency offering proactive online brand protection services to help brands enforce their intellectual property rights on social media platforms, as well as on other digital channels.
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What is social commerce?
Social commerce is part of e-commerce. It refers to buying and selling of products and services on social media. It often has to do with engagement and sharing as part of the purchase decision.
What is live commerce?
Live commerce is a type of e-commerce that utilizes livestreaming for sales.
What is social retail?
Social retail is about blending physical retail in-store and social networks in the retail experience.
What is social selling?
Social selling occurs when salespeople use social media to directly interact with users. They answer questions, respond, or share until they can make a sale.
What is social payment?
Social payment is the use of social media to transfer money between two people or to a business. Some of the most popular social payment companies are PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay and others.