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    Social Media Commerce and the Growing Social Shopping Renaissance

    April 4, 2024
    16 minute read
    Social Media Commerce and the Growing Social Shopping Renaissance

    What do an office chair, pink pans, and peptide lip treatment all have in common? They all went viral on TikTok, amassing millions of views and sales from shoppers eager to avoid missing out.

    The scenario of products selling out through social media commerce platforms has ramped up over the past couple of years. Shoppers want proof that products work and nothing says “buy me” better than millions of previous happy customers.

    But if we look at the selection of products that have taken shoppers by storm — pans, office equipment, a human dog bed, and even a carpet cleaner — it’s not just “hot” and “fun” products that fly off the digital shelves with a bit of viral help. 

    We’re not talking about cutting-edge or controversial here. We’re talking about evidence-based social proof that platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube have made possible.

    Cue the social shopping renaissance. Shoppers are increasingly seeking out engaging, interactive social media commerce experiences that present an incredible opportunity for ecommerce brands. 

    Social platforms are prime real estate for brands to tap into their target audience’s lives, reach new customers, and cultivate lasting relationships. 

    What Is the Social Shopping Renaissance? 

    The social shopping renaissance describes the growing role social media plays in the buying journey. It’s no longer just a place for sunset pictures and food ‘grams, it’s a place where people can discover products, compare options, and even purchase directly through their feeds. 

    In the past, people relied on word-of-mouth recommendations. They were more likely to buy a product their mom or best friend had used than one shown in a TV ad. We then went through an era of highly polished traditional advertising formats, like airbrushed celebrities promoting perfumes and internet ads littering webpages.

    Now, things are shifting. We’re going back to recommendations — just this time, shoppers are taking them from trusted online faces instead of their nearest and dearest.

    Shoppers now actively seek out user-generated content (UGC) and influencer recommendations on social media. These influencers — who often feel like friends and family — add another layer of trust to product recommendations as built-in reviewers.

    Let’s look at the numbers more closely. Salsify’s “2024 Consumer Research” found that:

    • 34% of shoppers recently bought a product from a social media platform.
    • 21% of shoppers recently bought a product because a social media influencer recommended it.
    • 17% of shoppers recently bought a product because it was trending on social media.

    Trusted figures can have a huge impact on a shopper’s decision to buy or not.

    But even if we look past the benefits of influencers and UGC for a second, social media is still an integral part of the shopping process:

    • 43% of shoppers discover new products on social media.
    • 32% of shoppers research brands and products on social media.
    • 18% of shoppers buy products through social media shops.

    Statista predicts social commerce is only just getting started. By 2028, it’ll bring in more than $3.3 billion in revenue. 

    It makes sense. Despite the ease and convenience of online shopping, there’s one huge downside: Shoppers can’t touch, smell, and sample products before they buy. Instead, they rely on high-res images, videos, reviews, and detailed product descriptions. 

    The social shopping renaissance addresses this big issue by adding more reassurance to online purchases. Shoppers still can’t smell or touch a product, but they can see someone else using it, watch authentic reviews, and follow the crowd. 

    As well as first-hand reviews from trusted sources, social commerce combines static images with scrollable videos, how-to content, and brand insights to create an interactive, engaging experience across platforms. 

    Pro tip: Read the crash course guide to social commerce for brands.

    Fast and Informed: How Shoppers Spend on Social Media

    Social media is no longer about what the Kardashians are up to this week or what Taylor Swift wore to dinner the other night. Users are now seeing lesser-known influencers and even friends posting vacation photos and sharing videos in fancy restaurants. 

    It incites a level of fear of missing out (FOMO) that leads 40% of young adults to spend more on experiences and things so they can share them on social media, per CNBC

    And, according to research by Bankrate, social media users are impulse buyers. Four in 10 users have made an impulse purchase inspired by social media over the past year, whether it’s a $100 pair of UGGs or a carpet cleaner with millions of TikTok views.

    Shoppers on social media spend hard and they spend fast — but they also look at what’s going on around them. Impulse purchases are driven by trending products and FOMO — either via their friend’s feeds or an influencer account. 

    Establishing a level of trust creates a stable foundation for those impulse purchases to happen. Shoppers trust the people they follow and don’t need as much convincing to drop a hundred dollars or more on a product recommendation. 

    6 Factors That Influence Social Media Commerce 

    Salsify’s “2024 Consumer Research” report asked social shoppers to share what influences their purchasing decisions. Here’s what they said. 

    1. Influencer Recommendations

    Salsify research notes that 32% of Generation Zers (Gen Zers) turn to influencer recommendations for product inspiration. That number is slightly lower for Generation Xers (Gen Xers) (25%) and millennials (16%), but it’s still an interesting phenomenon. This ties into the power of word-of-mouth marketing. 

    Shoppers are increasingly turning to their favorite micro-influencers and niche-specific content creators for product recommendations. 

    Drunk Elephant works with influencers like Alix Earle as part of their #drunkelephantpartner campaign. This post alone has over 12 million views. Alix Earle Drunk Elephant ad on TikTokImage Source: Drunk Elephant TikTok

    Pro Tip: Partner with relevant influencers in your niche who can share your products with their pre-built, trusting audience. 

    2. Exclusive Discounts or Promotions

    Everyone loves a good deal, so it’s no surprise that discounts and promotions are one of the biggest driving forces behind social media shopping. Salsify research says that 47% of baby boomers cite exclusive discounts as the reason they buy on social media, with 38% of millennials, 36% of Gen Xers, and 26% of Gen Zers saying the same. 

    Grocery delivery service Instacart shares a link on its TikTok profile that leads users to a webpage with details on all its discounts and offerings. 

    Instacart deals and promotionsImage Source: Instacart

    Pro Tip: Run deals and promos for your best customers or run laser-targeted discounts to attract a new audience. 

    3. User-Generated Content (UGC)

    Twelve percent of Gen Zers are influenced by UGC on social media, according to Salsify consumer research. 

    Content created by previous customers helps shoppers see what the product looks like in action from a reliable, trusted source. This kind of social content is invaluable for instilling buyer confidence and cultivating trust and credibility around your brand. 

    Lisou London reshares UGC from its customers on Instagram.Dyson Beauty Features UGC Image Source: Dyson Beauty

    Pro Tip: Ask customers to share a review or an image or video of their purchase that you can reshare across your social networks. 

    4. Live Shopping Events

    Eleven percent of Gen Zers and millennials turn to live shopping for product inspiration, per Salsify research. Platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Instagram allow brands to create real-time launch parties that build a buzz around a product and present an opportunity to interact and engage with their followers.

    Target regularly runs live shopping events on YouTube to share promotions and discounts. Target YouTube Live Stream for Maternity FashionImage Source: Target YouTube

    Pro Tip: Run a live shopping event to promote a new product line or drop. Invite questions from followers and increase sales with a limited-time offer. 

    5. Personalized Product Recommendations 

    Salsify research reports that 12% of millennials and 10% of Gen Zers and Gen Xers are swayed by personalized product recommendations — no surprise there since everyone likes to feel special. 

    There’s nothing quite like scrolling through your feeds only to come across a product that’s tailored to your wants and needs. Even better if you can purchase directly through the app without having to stop the scroll.

    Willow Tree Interiors targeted this ad based on products previously looked at, while And Begin serves personalized suggestions based on a shopper’s age and skin type. Side-by-side targeted ads from Willow Tree and And Begin Image Source: Willow Tree Instagram

    Pro tip: Use remarketing techniques to share personalized product recommendations via social media ads based on product pages a shopper has visited on your site or content they’ve previously shown interest in. 

    6. Seamless Shopping Experiences

    Per Salsify research, 14% of baby boomers need a seamless shopping experience — which is why they’re tempted to buy via social media. Not only can they discover new products via their favorite platforms, but they can also research the brand, read reviews, and make a purchase without leaving the platform. How’s that for a seamless experience? 

    Pro Tip: Make it as easy as possible for shoppers to research products on social media and make a purchase directly through the app. 

    The Social Shopping Renaissance Is Here

    We only have to look at the pages and pages of posts logged under the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag to see just how influential social media is in the social media commerce journey. 

    But it’s not just about jumping on viral trends and getting as many views as possible. Social media is the perfect place to connect with existing customers, reach new shoppers, and nurture long-lasting relationships. 

    It’s this that will breed credibility and authenticity, which are exactly what shoppers are looking for when they turn to their favorite influencers and creators for product inspiration. 

    Written by: Lizzie Davey

    Lizzie Davey (she/her) is a freelance writer and content strategist for ecommerce software brands. Her specialty is combining customer research with actionable copy to create pieces that people actually want to read. Over the past 10 years, she's worked with top industry brands to bring their vision to life and build...

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