social commerce

by Amba Wilkes

It’s estimated that the social commerce market will grow worldwide to over $3 trillion in the next eight years. In response, social platforms have looked to exploit a growing opportunity to meet the “see it, click, buy it” mindset. In this blog, we talk about all things social commerce and why you should care.

Social media has made its mark on the digital world with social channels fast becoming a massive part of customer acquisition.

It’s estimated that the social commerce market will grow worldwide to over $3 trillion in the next eight years. Although this is a staggering figure, given that social ads are already one of the main areas of marketing investment, it’s not entirely surprising.

Hugely important for creating brand awareness, supporting the discovery stage of the shopping journey and increasing your reach, social is cemented as essential to the brand-building landscape.

In response, social platforms have looked to exploit a growing opportunity to meet the “see it, click, buy it” mindset. The very definition of social commerce, this offers their audience the ability to immediately purchase the items they want through social channels.

in this blog.

We look at:

  1. the previous social commerce attempts
  2. the evolution of social commerce
  3. the different channels social commerce applies to
  4. how to know if social commerce is right for your business
  5. how Shopify enables social commerce

social commerce is not a new commerce concept.

While social commerce has begun to take the retail industry by storm, it’s not actually a new concept. There has been significant chatter about social commerce for a number of years but the first iterations didn’t quite hit the mark and the concept fell short.

For example, Twitter once tried adding a ‘shop’ button. However, it was an unsuccessful attempt at social commerce with the overriding consensus that Twitter was not the right platform for it, and instead, thrives as a conversational channel.

the evolution of social commerce.

In the last year, however, there has been an evolution. With the rise of live shopping and video, unlike previous attempts, this time feels like a more natural opportunity for social commerce to prosper.

A lot of new functionality has since launched and social platforms have made it easy for people to shop by streamlining the experience. One moment you’re scrolling through your feed, admiring posts from your favourite brands, friends and loved ones. Before you know it, you’ve been drawn into a post and within minutes you’ve made a purchase without even leaving the app.

With all these conversion opportunities, what functionality can you expect from popular social channels today?


Instagram Shopping is arguably the top contender when it comes to social commerce platforms. With shops, product tags, collections and an in-app checkout feature, the platform has created a tailored shopping experience in the pocket of every user.

Even product pages are as detailed as those found on eCommerce sites while the platform also offers review functionalities from influencers, product demos using the live functionality and shopping curations through the use of collections and ‘Shops’.


Facebook’s approach to social commerce is through the use of its Marketplace. This is a seller/buyer marketplace that offers Shops, similar to what Instagram offers, allowing users to easily engage with retailers and digital storefronts.

As Facebook and Instagram have the same ownership, one doesn’t exist without the other which is why their approach to social commerce is so similar.


Once just an app for filters and sharing photos between friends that disappear in 24 hours, Snapchat is evolving into something bigger. Edging its way into social commerce through augmented reality (AR), Snapchat is aiming to position itself as a forward-thinking channel to engage the open-minded Gen Z.

Influencers using the app will soon be part of the Creator Marketplace, allowing them to create product-centric AR content on the platform so they can ‘try’ items before purchasing.

Snapchat have also acquired Screenshop, which refers users to the retailers of products posted within the app. It’s worth noting these plans are still in the early days for Snapchat.


While still in its infancy, TikTok has boomed, becoming a hugely successful and entertaining social platform.

In October 2020, TikTok officially partnered with Shopify in a bid to turn content creators into brands and launch successful businesses. Products can now be purchased on TikTok and influencers can use the space to talk about the products they’re interested in.


Pinterest is best known for its inspirational visuals and engaging mood boards. From home to wedding to fashion and everything in between, Pinterest making the move to social commerce was quite intuitive.

The platform now offers Shoppable Pins that allow browsers to pin items before going back to the list and purchasing items they save. It also features user reviews and adds transparency to additional costs such as shipping to create a streamlined experience.

The challenge for Pinterest is that it’s primarily known for idea generation and product discovery before a user moves onto other channels, such as a website, to make the purchase. It may be difficult to change this perception, although not impossible.

live shopping.

Last but not least, live shopping needs a separate mention. Many of the platforms mentioned above offer live shopping functionalities as a way for brands, influencers and shoppers to participate in the shopping experience together.

Facebook and Instagram are the main adopters of live shopping but platforms such as Pinterest are already expressing in the addition of this functionality. Taking the concept one step further, there’s already a live shopping app, aptly named Ooooo, that’s dedicated to live online shopping presented by influencers and brands.

where has live shopping come from and what’s next.

In some ways, live shopping via social media closely resembles more traditional TV shopping channels such as QVC TV and High Street TV. The age-old formula of limited stock, one-off prices, and a focus on the product benefits have certainly driven a lot of success.

Today, live shopping supercharges this approach giving brands the opportunity to tap into influencers with millions of followers through collaborations. Tuning into an influencer’s live stream shopping event on social media, viewers are bought into that individual and their lifestyle - and they want a taste of it.

An extremely engaged and expansive audience combined with the desirability of influencers promoting products has the potential to transform social commerce. We’re certainly interested to see the impact of brand collaborations with influencers and content creators this peak.

Whether it’s a live Christmas shopping hour featuring special offers for those that watch or the countdown to the launch of a new product or range, social commerce has limitless opportunities for brands.

time to experiment with social commerce.

Speaking to forward-thinking merchants every day, there’s a noticeable thread to recent conversations: they’re all planning to experiment with social commerce.

But how do you know if social commerce is right for your business?

  • consider whether it’s right for your audience and product
  • if it is, define an experiment – this could be as simple as a product launch, offer or collaboration
  • decide if it worked - if it didn’t, you could try again at a later point

As with many things, success with social commerce is likely dependent on the careful balance of certain conditions. For example, say you’re a cosmetic brand that has collaborated with an influencer. You choose to set up a demo via live stream which features an influencer promoting products with limited availability. Combine this with pre-event marketing campaigns that promote the live demo through email, paid media or YouTube advertising, and you probably have a good chance of the product selling out thanks to:

  1. the curiosity generated
  2. interest in the collaboration
  3. exclusivity surrounding the product
  4. a live demo on the right channel at the right time

shopify plus and social commerce.

Shopify has offered the tools required to implement social integration with ease for some time. Until now, these social tools have always been more of a nice to have than a must-have for our merchants. But, by enabling social commerce through the Shopify platform, the risk and cost to merchants to experiment with social commerce are low.

Shopify has long positioned itself as the platform for creators. Their philosophy - retail is about innovation – supports merchants spending more time innovating and less time on maintenance. The ability for merchants to get up and running with social commerce fast is true to the Shopify way.

Want to find out more about how the Shopify platform supports social commerce? Get in touch with our team of eCommerce experts.

what to read next.

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