From ‘Like’ to ‘Buy’: The Rise of Digital Storefronts in Social Media

In the 1970s, retail branched out from brick and mortar stores to television sets on the Home Shopping Network. In the 1990s, the Internet opened up for commercial use, and Amazon became one of the first companies to sell products online. In our current decade, retail is again navigating new waters: this time, selling goods on social media.

The case for social commerce.

According to a 2016 study commissioned by MediaKix, an influencer marketing firm, the average person spends 40 minutes a day on YouTube, 35 minutes on Facebook, 25 minutes on Snapchat, 15 minutes on Instagram, and one minute on Twitter. And they’re not just clicking like buttons—they’re shopping, too.

Social commerce—the nexus of social media, marketing, and shopping—is growing rapidly. Consider this: Forbes reports that 30 percent of consumers say they would make purchases through Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. According to Adweek, the top 500 retailers brought in nearly $6.5 billion from social shopping in 2017.

Need more reasons to prioritize social commerce? Nine out of 10 consumers turn to social media for help with a buying decision, and 75 percent of people admit they have made a purchase because they saw it on social media.

Channels that convert.

Among the social networks, Facebook remains the conversion leader: Shopify research shows that an average of 85 percent of all orders from social media come from Facebook. But conversion isn’t the only metric that matters. Instagram continues to yield higher average value orders than Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. Pinterest, the fourth-largest social platform, has a 200 million-strong community that is ready to buy — and flush with cash. Sprout Social reports that a staggering 93 percent of Pinners use the site to plan for purchases. Pinners are also 39 percent more likely to be active retail shoppers, and they spend 29 percent more on retail than those who don’t use Pinterest.

Goods that sell in social.

That doesn’t mean that social shopping is a goldmine…yet. The practice is still relatively new. Even among frequent online shoppers, only 19 percent have made a purchase through a social media platform.

The types of items shoppers are likely to purchase through social networks are limited as well. Jon Reily, Vice President of Global Commerce at SapientRazorfish, tells RetailDive that he doesn’t see replenishable household commodities like detergent and toilet paper gaining traction through social commerce. Instead, shoppers are drawn to visually compelling items, like apparel, shoes, accessories, and décor.

User experience matters (of course).

But it’s not simply a matter of offering the right product. Social shopping has to be the right experience.

Daniel Murray, co-founder of Grabble, a mobile fashion platform, tells Wired the key is to create “experiences that are built into platforms that already exist.” The Grabble team is already working toward that goal with a native payment mini program they created for the Chinese messenger app WeChat that lets users shop within the app, without leaving the app. Murray says shoppers are three times more likely to make a purchase within a native app.

The good news is more platforms are developing native shopping features. Facebook has been expanding its native offerings through a Messenger “buy” button and “shop” sections on Facebook business pages, Pinterest has added “buyable” pins from in-app purchases, and Instagram is experimenting with in-app payments, starting with restaurant and salon bookings. Shoppers are admittedly influenced by social media, and almost one-third of shoppers are already open to making purchases through those networks. For lifestyle brands, now is the time to explore social commerce.

Lawyer-turned-writer-and-editor covering everything from law and policy to puppies and shoes. Founder of www.Rockyt.style. Occasional group fitness instructor. Organizational superstar. Morally opposed to unnecessary jargon.