One thing is for sure: social commerce is here to stay. The rise of social media and chat apps as sales and customer service channels is changing how people buy from and interact with brands—and transforming the retail industry as we know it. We explain social commerce, why it matters, and where it's going.
What exactly is social commerce?
When the entire shopping experience—from product discovery and research to the checkout process—takes place on social media platforms, this is called social commerce. Brands have enormous opportunities: Each week, more than 1 billion people connect with business accounts across Meta's messaging services, according to recent Metadata. Over 150 million people view a business's product catalogue monthly on WhatsApp alone. That's a lot of interested prospective customers.
The pandemic has turned everyone into a digital native and increased social media usage across every age group—including for shopping purposes—creating the perfect tailwinds for social commerce to accelerate in the post-pandemic economy.
What's more, research from Accenture projects that the value of the global social commerce industry will grow to $1.2 trillion by 2025. This growth is predicted to be driven primarily by Millenial and Gen Z social media users, who are expected to account for over 60% of global social commerce spending by 2025.
Social platforms were once seen only as promotional tools. But as app technology has evolved, they can now act as all-in-one customer care, product discovery, and sales channels. As a result, social media has become both a megaphone and marketplace—a place where people can find, interact with, buy from, and follow up with brands, all from their smartphones.
Social media platforms are the new storefronts.
The rise of social commerce creates a challenge and an opportunity: to bring your in-store experience online directly on your customers' preferred social channels where they spend most of their time. Messaging apps are critical in delivering on that promise. Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat are the new 'doors to stores' in today's social-first world. If social channels are the new storefronts, asking a brand a question through Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram DMs is the digital equivalent of walking into a store. Will your brand be present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and ready to capture these high-intent customers?
The customer journey becomes much more fragmented and decentralized as we shift from a web-centric to a social-first experience. To connect the dots and create a seamless customer experience across social and messaging touchpoints, brands must connect the dots and maintain a 360-degree, single view of the customer. A unified social inbox with conversational AI capabilities makes this possible at scale.
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The Advantages of Social Commerce
With Google abandoning the tracking cookie and Apple limiting advertisers' ability to re-target visitors, brands are turning to social commerce to stay connected with customers across the vast and ever-changing digital landscape.
Brands can use social commerce to have 1:1, private conversations across social channels, effectively re-creating the in-store experience of interacting with staff rather than simply visiting a static digital storefront. These personalized interactions are the lifeblood of social commerce.
Conversations have become the new cookies—the golden thread to keep customers engaged and loyal—now that a brand can engage directly with customers across multiple channels in near-real time.
With the thread of conversation, brands can engage with users at every stage of the customer journey, whether it's a pre-purchase question about a product's availability or sizing, a transactional question about return policy, or a post-purchase question about order tracking.
With this in mind, we can see that the advantages of social commerce are immense. Brands can use social commerce to:
Keep the shopping experience native to social on the channels that customers prefer, resulting in an integrated experience (i.e. no need for customers to visit an external website)
Be present and accessible to customers at all stages of their journey.
Personalization can be unlocked through 1:1 conversations.
Deliver a more seamless and personalized shopping experience in the end.
Exchanges have replaced cookies.
Social commerce is ushering in a new era of customer relationships that are earned and owned rather than rented via media buys and advertisements. Brands' previous over-reliance on cookies and third-party data may have made them lazy; to achieve and collect customer data, brands must foster loyalty and create value for customers at every step of the journey.
At the enterprise level, forward-thinking brands should invest heavily in CX, CRM, and AI technologies that enable them to unify all customer conversations under one roof and manage them at scale in the coming years. This will allow them to maximize the effectiveness of their social commerce efforts.
Without a doubt, social commerce is the next frontier. Shopify recently reported a tenfold increase in social commerce-related sales year on year. As brands focus on this emerging opportunity to bring their products and teams where their customers already are, those prioritizing customer experience and personalization will win the battle. And conversations will be central to this new era of shopping that focuses on relationships rather than transactions.
Social Media Specialist