Over the last 12 months, we’ve (understandably) spent more time online than ever. Aimlessly scrolling, constantly hitting refresh, looking at pictures of cats, etc. One nice side effect to this though, aside from the influx of quality memes, is the extraordinary rise of social commerce. Social commerce is the latest must-know if you want your brand to succeed in today’s e-commerce landscape, which I assume you do.
Using Bazaarvoice’s unique insights and the latest research from our Influenster community, we’ve put together everything you need to know about the state of social commerce today. In this piece, you’ll learn:
- What social commerce is
- Why it’s so effective
- How to leverage social commerce
- Social commerce brand examples
- Key takeaways
Given that active social media users spend 3x more than anyone else ($580 per month vs. $189), it’s time to start your social commerce strategy, or risk being left behind. Here’s how you do it.
The state of social commerce
Shopping. We plan weekends, vacations, back-to-school prep, and holidays around it. We wander shopping districts, malls, and neighborhood markets to window shop and seek our next great find. Shopping isn’t just a chore, it’s an adventure, and it has a strong social component. We ask salespeople and our shopping companions their opinions on a daring pair of sunglasses, the right shade of paint for the living room, or a gift for that friend who is difficult to shop for.
77% of consumers found themselves very influenced to shop on social media this yearInfluenster global survey, April 2021
These days, many people shop online, whether it’s out of convenience, because they prefer a solitary experience from the comfort of their couch, or due to a global pandemic. In response, brands are turning to social commerce to bring the fun of shopping onto digital platforms. Scrolling is the new window shopping.
We recently surveyed our Influenster community of active online consumers to learn about their social shopping behaviors. Feedback from 42,000 global respondents gave us valuable insight into the current state of social commerce. Millennials — the biggest users of social commerce — made up 70% of those surveyed, followed by 18% Gen X, 10% Gen Z, and 2% Baby Boomers.
We found that not only is social commerce increasing, but its very definition is also expanding to encompass new channels.
As Bazaarvoice Chief Revenue Office Joe Rohrlich said in the recent Bazaarvoice State of Social Commerce Webinar, “shopping is fun and experiential, and a chance to discover and be surprised by new things.” Brands that seize the full potential of social commerce will increase engagement, conversions, and revenue within their digital communities.
What is social commerce?
Social commerce is the buying and selling of products and services through shoppable content on social media.
With social commerce, users can shop directly through images and videos showcasing products without ever leaving the source. Let’s say you’re scrolling through Instagram, and you see an ad in which a model or influencer is wearing a new dress and accessories. You can tap on any of the displayed items for sale and be sent directly to the checkout page without ever leaving the app. As demonstrated below:
The goal of social commerce is for brands to reach new audiences and let them make purchases with minimal friction. This, in turn, increases add-to-cart rate, sales, and engagement on social platforms.
55% of Influenster members surveyed said they enjoy shopping on social media. Out of those who have shopped on social media in the past year, 57% used Instagram and 41% used Facebook. Many respondents reported making purchases on their mobile phones, including 50% who said they often did and 39% who exclusively did in the past year.
Brands are quickly catching on to the social commerce hype. As of 2020, U.S. social commerce sales reached nearly $27 billion and are projected to increase up to $79.6 billion in 2025, accounting for 5.2% of overall retail e-commerce sales, up from 3.4%.
Why social commerce works
Two words: Social proof. Social proof is the concept of using the decisions our peers have already made to make our own decisions. For example, if you’re walking through Soho and you see a busy restaurant, you’re likely to believe they serve great food. It wouldn’t be full otherwise, right? Or maybe you’re mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and you see someone wearing a nice pair of sunglasses. They look great. You decide you want them. You buy them.
And there’s the primary benefit of social commerce: It exposes brands to new customers and customers to new brands in a casual, engaging setting. Shoppers can explore products without even intending to shop in the first place. Social commerce reaches consumers on the platforms they already use instead of waiting for consumers to seek them out. It’s particularly effective on Instagram because, “you don’t begin your journey with a search, you begin with a scroll,” says Curalate co-founder Apu Gupta.
This is the kind of online shopping experience consumers crave. Our research shows 76% of consumers enjoy making unexpected discoveries. Plus, they’ve already shown up at the party. According to eMarketer, shoppers on social commerce platforms increased by 25.2% to 80 million in 2020, with an expected increase by nearly 13% in 2021.
Extending the reach of social commerce
While social commerce starts on social media platforms, it doesn’t have to end there. Brands can take the concept a step further by syndicating shoppable social media posts to other channels, like throughout their websites, blogs, and email newsletters. This offers more opportunities for customers to discover the engaging content that’s shared and created within brands’ social communities.
As Gupta goes on to say, “it’s about harvesting all that wonderful content that exists on social and bringing it to your commerce environments, as well.”
The Bazaarvoice social commerce tools are what make it possible for brands to distribute their shoppable social content on other sales channels. The Reveal feature turns any image or video into one or multiple product pages, essentially. With this function, shoppers can hover over any of the products featured in a social post to learn more about it and click through to purchase. Brands can then use this media to post on various different channels.
Case study: River Island
International apparel brand River Island used the Bazaarvoice Galleries tool to share user-generated content (UGC) from social channels on its website, resulting in a 184% conversion lift and a 45% average order value increase. River Island was able to accumulate a ton of quality UGC by encouraging its customers to post their purchases using branded hashtags and tagging River Island on social media. Then, they turned that UGC into shoppable images to display on their website, including their homepage, product pages, and a full-page gallery.
River Island took their social commerce campaign a step further, integrating a wish list feature that enabled shoppers to save items without interrupting their browsing.
How to leverage social commerce
Make the most out of your brand’s social commerce strategy with these tactics to attract customers and drive conversions.
Make social shoppable
The first step in social commerce is to convert social content featuring your brand’s products into shoppable images and videos. The top social commerce platforms are Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. TikTok is another rising social commerce star to keep an eye on. It integrates fun and interactive features like music, video, and products, creating a virtual, shoppable runway.
- Instagram: Instagram Shopping allows brands to upload their product catalogs to link with Instagram photos and videos featuring catalog items. They can then be grouped in collections using the Instagram Commerce Manager. Followers can tap on images to purchase within the app. With the Instagram Shop tab, other shoppers can discover new brands and products, similar to the Explore tab.
- Pinterest: Similar to Instagram, Pinterest Shopping allows brands to upload their product catalogs and then converts each item into shoppable Pins. Brands on Pinterest can also enable a Shop tab on their profile, consolidating all their shoppable images and video Pins. According to Pinterest, shoppers take more time to make a purchase but spend twice as much per month compared to other social commerce platforms.
- Facebook: Facebook Shops uses the same process as Instagram to set up an online storefront, by uploading products individually or importing an entire catalog of multiple items. Facebook Shops encourages shoppers to interact with sellers if they have questions using Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram Direct. Which makes it even more like an in-person shopping experience.
- TikTok: TikTok is the fastest-growing social media platform to date. Many brands have already leveraged Tiktok for creative marketing campaigns, and now in-app shopping is on the horizon.
Engage with shoppers
The point of social commerce is to facilitate a shopping experience where people are already connecting and interacting. It’s not enough just to upload your product catalog and post shoppable content. Enhance the digital shopping experience by engaging your current and potential audience.
Social media users love new app features and the brands that know how to use them in interesting ways. Brands can easily engage with fans by utilizing Instagram Polls, Reels, Stories, and Questions to captivate and entice followers. These are fun ways to get followers to interact with content and simultaneously get feedback about products. Livestream shopping is another exciting, new addition to social commerce platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and TikTok.
With Bazaarvoice’s Like2Buy feature, brands can contact shoppers who clicked the “link in bio” button but didn’t convert. This way, you can engage them after they browsed your Instagram Shop with a thoughtful retargeting strategy. With this tool, brands can go a step further and create a lookalike audience based on their most engaged followers. A sure-fire way to grow your customer base.
Focus on social content, not just platform
Social commerce doesn’t have to be limited to social media, contrary to its most common definition. Sales from social media only account for 4% of all e-commerce sales in the U.S., but its influence can reach beyond the confines of Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Brands can, and should, use the content created within their social media networks on their other sales channels. E-commerce website, emails, blog posts, and third-party retail sites can all be populated. Bazaarvoice Galleries feeds social content in beautiful displays on home pages, product pages, a dedicated gallery page, or anywhere else on a brand’s website. The Reveal tool makes these images actionable and shoppable, just like on social platforms, so shoppers can click to purchase any of the featured items.
By bringing photos and videos from social to website visitors and email subscribers, brands can share the social commerce experience with a bigger audience. As a bonus, this repurposed content also saves time and resources required to create fresh content for multiple channels. For example, Nike members are able to shop directly from emails:
Let your users create your content
What’s the secret to social commerce success? User-generated content (UGC). Leverage UGC to attract shoppers with realistic, inspiring representations of your brand and products. While social commerce doesn’t always have to include UGC, it’s a powerful approach.
UGC is what makes social commerce a more social, interactive, and relatable shopping experience than traditional advertising. Your real-life customers become the face of the brand and provide free marketing material out of genuine enthusiasm for your products. UGC creates organic engagement when the user tags a brand, uses a hashtag, posts comments, uses a poll, etc. Then the brand can reciprocate with a repost, which they can use to sell products and syndicate on their website.
You don’t have to wait around for customers to post glowing content about your brand on Instagram. You can also court social media influencers. 43% of people in our Influenster survey said they often purchase from influencer posts on social media. Interestingly, shoppers surveyed said they would most likely make a purchase based on the recommendation from micro influencers (10k-100k followers). Nano influencers (1k-10k) came in second, and macro influencers (100k-500k) were third.
There’s a reason more and more brands are leveraging influencer marketing and increasing their influencer marketing budgets. On average, businesses make $5.20 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing, and some make up to $20 per dollar in ROI.
PSA: If you want an easy way to calculate the impact UGC could have on your ROI, here you go!
Based on the Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2021 Benchmark Report, Instagram is the most popular platform for influencer marketing (68%), but TikTok is right on its heels as the second favorite (45%).
The most common type of influencer payment is product samples. This works in favor of brands since the smaller influencers require less compensation but have higher engagement rates. Bazaarvoice’s Sampling program streamlines the process of getting brand products in the hands of eager influencers. They then return the favor by producing valuable content. Not only that, but based on our survey, 63% purchased the product they sampled, and of those, 97% purchased at least one additional product from the brand.
Beyond visual media, reviews are another powerful form of UGC to implement in social commerce strategies. The likelihood of a shopper purchasing a product with five reviews increases by 270% than one without any reviews. Post reviews with social commerce content on your social media, emails, or website, tagging or linking the corresponding products so followers can purchase instantly.
Boost social commerce marketing with ads
Promoting UGC with some advertising dollars can catapult your social commerce efforts. Paid ads that incorporate UGC get high conversions, and based on Instagram and Facebook’s algorithm, ads with high engagement like UGC get more exposure. Bazaarvoice customer Parachute, a bedding e-commerce company, increased their click-through-rate by 35% and lowered their cost-per-click rate by 60% with UGC advertising.
Instagram lets you turn any post into an ad and choose your target audience by promoting it. The more advanced Ads Manager enables you to create ads across platforms and apps, including Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger for mobile or desktop. Pinterest has robust advertising capabilities, so you can promote image, product, and video Pins with direct links to checkout pages. Each ad platform also includes analytics for thorough performance tracking.
Use customer behavior insights
Conducting regular reporting using customer insights gives companies and brands a competitive advantage. Analyze engagement metrics, feedback, and reviews from shoppers to improve the social commerce experience.
With Bazaarvoice’s Premium Network Insights, brands can listen to what customers are saying about products in reviews, comments, and social media conversations. This feature can also gauge sentiment by analyzing what customers like and dislike about your brand and products.
Discovering what consumers are saying and how they feel about products can inform and improve product descriptions and messaging for social commerce content. Digging into the popularity of products based on views, conversions, and reviews can determine which products to focus on for your social commerce strategy. From a top-level standpoint, these insights can even help tweak the products themselves and develop new ones.
Social commerce examples
These brands show how to combine UGC with social commerce to make shoppable posts that drive conversions.
Personal-care and beauty brand Rael galvanized their target audience to spread UGC far and wide across social media with sample products from a new skincare line. They sent product samples to Bazaarvoice’s Influenster community to generate reviews and social content to support new product launches. The campaign resulted in 3,000 customer reviews and 9.8 million impressions from thousands of social posts, shares, likes, and comments.
The responses from the sample recipients also gave Rael instrumental insight into their marketing strategy. They identified a product they previously underestimated, which generated lots of positive reviews, and on that basis, they made it a focus of their future marketing.
Rael is now equipped with a bank of UGC from the sampling campaign to repurpose across their marketing channels. The example below shows a social commerce post from Instagram featuring shoppable UGC. The second photo shows the Instagram Shop once you click on the button to see the featured products on the original post.
One challenge major shoe retailer DSW faces is showing how their products look in the real world when customers can’t physically try them on. It’s a common problem in e-commerce. This is where UGC comes in. To procure a large volume of quality UGC, DSW launched a hashtag campaign prompting their audience to tag how they wear their DSW fashions with #MyDSW. Showcasing this content on their website and social media resulted in a 2x conversion lift.
This example shows how DSW creatively uses the Reels feature on Instagram as a social commerce vehicle:
What traditional e-commerce lacks in the shopping experience, social commerce makes up for in spades. Shoppers are the stars of social commerce marketing and inspire other real people to make enthusiastic, confident purchases.
- Turn social media channels into virtual storefronts. Upload product catalogs to Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
- Leverage UGC to get the most mileage from social commerce content. Create shoppable media using content from followers and influencers.
- Social commerce isn’t just for social media. Spread shoppable social content to as many marketing channels as possible, including your website and email campaigns.
- Listen to how consumers are responding to social commerce. Insights from social interactions and reviews can help develop strategies and products.
- Put the social in social commerce. Use shoppable social media content to engage with followers through reposting their content, encouraging questions and comments, using interactive app features, and retargeting potential customers.
- Don’t forget TikTok. If your brand isn’t already on TikTok, now’s the time. It’s quickly growing as the second most popular channel for influencer marketing and the fastest growing social media platform in history. Be ahead of the game for the launch of widespread in-app purchasing.