Shopping on social media platforms has never been easier, so if you’re an e-commerce brand, social shopping should be a key component of your marketing strategy. Here we explore the very latest in the world of social commerce to help guide your social media strategy for e-commerce.
Shopping on Social Media
Although the surge of online retailing has levelled out since the explosion seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, almost half of consumers surveyed by GWI said they think they’ll do more online shopping in the future, while just 12% expect this behaviour to decline. Social commerce is a key player in the online retail space but there are geographical nuances that we should be aware of. According to GWI, consumers in Europe and North America are less swayed into buying something if they can do it through a social network, while APAC consumers are much more likely (22%) to buy products as a result of this feature. There are also nuances in generations as Gen Z are more likely to buy online than baby boomers.
The number of people doing their shopping-related research on social networks has shot up in recent years, and you can read our whitepaper on the Future of Search to find out more. As well as this, GWI found that around 2 in 5 younger consumers make regular impulse purchases and social commerce lends itself nicely to an impulse buy — straight from your feed to your door in a matter of moments.
Social platforms are constantly developing new and better tools to ensure social commerce is as easy as possible. Here are the latest developments you need to know about.
Meta — Cutbacks and Automation
Back in May 2020, Facebook launched Shops, which was something they had been planning for a while and was turbo-charged by lockdown. This, plus a string of updates, saw Meta facilitate contacting retailers via WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct, adding Shops within Instagram Explore and the ability to tag products for live streams and loyalty/reward schemes for businesses. All of this demonstrated the importance Meta placed on e-commerce.
Fast forward just a couple of years, Meta cut 11,000 jobs in November 2022 and a further 10,000 in March 2023, partly as a result of the slower than expected growth of e-commerce post-pandemic. Meta has also pulled the livestream shopping on Instagram and Facebook due to low take up and removed the Shop tab from the homepage navigation.
For advertisers, the biggest update from Meta in the last 12 months is the launch of Advantage + Shopping campaigns. This is an AI-powered campaign setup that speeds up campaign creation and facilitates more data to power the algorithm which, as Meta claims, decreases CPAs.
Pinterest — A Trailblazer in Visual Search
Pre-2020 social shopping updates
In 2015, Pinterest introduced product pins so users could search for products on the platform and find pins with a blue price which indicates products they can buy. In 2017 — way ahead of other social media or search engines — Pinterest introduced its Lens feature which made commercialising the offline world possible. The way it works is that users take pictures of things they’re seeing in the ‘real world’ and Pinterest will bring up similar products/ideas within the platform, including shoppable Pins. Being such a trailblazer in the visual search space and investing heavily in developing the technology, Pinterest has become a key player and benefactor of the rise in visual search.
2020-2021 social shopping updates
Similar to Meta, the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion of social commerce gave way to Pinterest introducing a wave of shopping updates to its platform, including:
- Expansion of shopping ad features to its global markets, including the UK. Shopping ads were already running in the US prior to this
- The introduction of slideshows for collections. Shoppers on Pinterest have 30% bigger baskets than on other platforms and slideshows aim to encourage increase average order values
- Shop in Search tab was introduced so that, for example, when a user is visiting their fashion board and clicks on the Shop tab, they can then browse Product Pins
- 2020 also saw the introduction of shopping spotlights, an editorial style catalogue for users to shop curated ideas based on current Pinterest trends
- In 2021, Pinterest then introduced the Shopping List feature, which lets users save all their product pins in one place
Post-2021 social shopping updates
The rate at which Pinterest has introduced new social shopping features has dramatically slowed down over the past two years, reflecting the decreased appetite for social commerce post-pandemic. However, there are a few updates that you should be aware about, including:
- Pinterest is experimenting with in-platform checkout, meaning that users will be able to make purchases without leaving Pinterest. This could see increased returns for advertisers as there will be fewer barriers to purchase. At the moment this is being tested just in the US, but the UK market won’t be far off if all goes well across the pond
- Users can now find Product Pins to shop from static Pin images, so when a user clicks a Pin, they’ll see other products they can buy
- You can now also shop from Boards, so if users have any Product Pins saved to any of their Boards they will be able to purchase these products, importantly Pinterest adds in related products too
YouTube — Increased Opportunity For Creators
YouTube has also jumped on the social commerce bandwagon in recent years with a heavy focus on creators being able to monetise the platform more easily. In 2018, YouTube introduced its product shelf which could be found next to, or below, eligible videos and live streams so creators could sell their products onplatform. More recently YouTube launched its ‘From YouTube to You’ project — a series of videos, live streams and Shorts featuring creators’ gift recommendations. The platform is also testing affiliate marketing where it pays its creators for selling products.
This year, YouTube has introduced a shopping feature via Shorts (currently only available in the US, India, Brazil, Canada and Australia) as well as affiliate marketing. There has also been an improvement to live stream product listings as YouTube now allows creators to schedule a product listing so that they can announce a product drop during a live stream, instead of needing to have posted it already. This is an effort from YouTube to again make it smoother for creators to take advantage of YouTube shopping as well as generate hype and increase viewing figures of live streams.
Snapchat — Leading the Way in AR
Snapchat’s social commerce updates over the past couple of years have primarily focused on improving its Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities.
2022 social shopping updates
2022 saw a flood of updates regarding Snapchat social commerce, including:
- The launch of AR Shopping Lenses, where brands can connect their Product Catalogues to their AR Lens experiences so users can try on their products
- Launching Snapchat Web to allow users to continue Snapchat conversations on their desktops. Importantly, AR shopping experiences were included in the desktop version and Shopping Lenses will be rolled out for desktop in the future
- Teaming up with eBay to create a quick and easy way to share listings via Snapchat. The result is a Snapchat-friendly design that users can share on the platform with a tappable link back to the eBay listing
2023 social shopping updates
On 27th February 2023, Snapchat announced the launch of a customised chatbot (My AI) for its Snapchat+ users, but on 26th April rolled this out to all Snapchat users. The technology runs on OpenAI’s GPT technology. While the functionality of the chatbot seems to be currently limited to assisting users with recipes, planning a trip and the like, the rate of AI advancement — including paid links in responses — hints at Snapchat introducing shopping features within the chatbot.
In the same month, Snapchat also launched ray tracing for a more enhanced AR experience and is seeing high engagement with its AR e-commerce. The best example of this is with Walmart, which saw 161 million product trials. This demonstrates that the appetite to explore products through AR is there and Snapchat is potentially the leader in harnessing this.
Snapchat has also teamed up with Amazon with the new Virtual Try-On (VTO) experiences to AR users. It works via a new Snapchat try-on Lens that features thousands of Amazon Fashion’s products. Customers will be able to explore and try-on styles on Snapchat and then make a purchase on Amazon. This partnership allows product information to be shared — which is dynamically updated regarding product details and availability.
TikTok — The Gen Z Platform
TikTok has undoubtedly seen the biggest rise in users in the last three years, but hasn’t necessarily seen the growth of its e-commerce match that. In July 2022, it was reported that the platform was abandoning plans to expand live shopping in Europe and the US. However in February 2023, there were rumours of testing in-app checkout. It has also since announced the launch of paid search, challenging the traditional paid search market.
TikTok has radically reshaped the search market with users — especially millennials and Gen Z-ers — commencing their search journey on the platform. The challenge is how to make TikTok more appealing for users to not just start, but complete their search or buying journey. A more pressing issue that TikTok is facing, however, is remaining operational in western markets as concerns around data privacy continue to grow.
Are You in Need of a Social Media Strategy for E-commerce?
At Passion Digital we have a wealth of experience delivering e-commerce success for our clients on social. We can help with:
- pixel implementation
- event tagging
- product catalogue set up
- audience segmentation
- optimising campaign performance to deliver results
- devising social media strategies that perform
We also understand the importance of measurement within an e-commerce strategy. It’s one thing to set up for success but it’s essential to be able to know what’s driving that forward to deliver the best possible results.
Get in touch with our Paid Social team to find out more about our experience and our services.