Social commerce trends for 2022 and beyond
Social media feeds are a sales powerhouse for eCommerce brands. At least 98% of consumers plan to use social or influencer commerce in 2022, according to a new survey by Sprout Social. And, it's estimated that the social commerce market will top $790 billion by 2025 — more than double its 2020 market size.
Leading brands are capitalizing on social media's exponential reach to sell directly to consumers through the social channels they use the most. No more redirects to websites, no more complicated sign-ins to purchase. The goal of social commerce is to make it as easy and fast as possible for customers to buy the products they see while scrolling their social feeds.
What began first as online advertising and influencer selling has developed into a multi-billion-dollar business, and it's only getting bigger.
Social commerce has arrived
Within eCommerce, social commerce is a fast-growing tract. Its popularity started in China and other Asian markets, but the number of social buyers in the U.S. is steadily growing. In 2020, there were 80 million American social buyers — an increase of 30% over the previous year.
Providing consumers with the opportunity to shop directly through social media platforms and apps gives companies an invaluable opportunity to capitalize on the reach and engagement of social networks while also boosting their overall online sales. This merging is timely, considering the average American now spends more than an hour and a half each day on social media.
The quick evolution of social commerce
The pandemic has a lot to do with the timing of social commerce's popularity. Social media channels have acquired more users, and consumers relied more heavily on their mobile devices to access social sites. This created an opportunity for brands to integrate purchasing directly within the social media platforms that consumers already know and love.
Now, the experience is evolving and brands are becoming more sophisticated with their approach. On Snapchat, for example, brands like Puma and Dior have launched ad campaigns that enable Snapchat users to try on their products virtually.
The growing adoption of augmented and virtual reality, along with artificial intelligence, is enhancing the social commerce experience. In fact, the metaverse represents a whole new form of social commerce, writes the Harvard Business Review: "The commercial applications of the metaverse are even further heightened by the new behaviors […] around buying products and services directly from social experiences."
Social commerce trends in action
Retail brands that are eager to create shoppable content are embracing social commerce.
One example played out during the 2021 holiday season, when Walmart partnered with musical artist Jason Derulo to develop a livestream around Cyber Week. Taking an omnichannel approach, the company invited customers to watch and shop a 30-minute variety show that highlighted various products. The social commerce experience streamed on Walmart's website as well as on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, and could also be viewed on Instagram and TikTok. There were additional shoppable livestream events on media platforms like BuzzFeed and Tasty.
Social platforms continue to enhance their social commerce features to meet the growing appetite from consumers. Facebook recently added their Shops feature, first popularized on Facebook and Instagram, to WhatsApp. The feature enables brands to set up their "online storefront" right within WhatsApp — creating an experience whereby consumers can browse, make purchases and chat with support without leaving the messaging service.
Over on Instagram — which is already a powerhouse for social shopping — new improvements like Drops are being rolled out to improve the existing social commerce experience. With Drops, brands can build hype ahead of new product launches by displaying the latest release details at the top of the Shop tab. From the convenience of the social network, consumers can sign up for reminders so they're not caught sleeping when these often sought-after items become available.
Meanwhile, Pinterest introduced a Shopping List tool so users can save their product pins and come back to them when they're ready to take the next step down the purchase funnel. With this new feature, users won't have to sift through all of their Pins and Boards to find the products that they have earmarked, and what's more, the Shopping List will display item information like price, discounts, reviews and shipping details.
And, as of mid-2021, Twitter has been busily testing a Shop Module that will allow it to "explore how shoppable profiles can create a pathway from talking about and discovering products on Twitter to actually purchasing them."
The customer experience connection
The connection between social commerce and customer experience (CX) is clear: Brands need to be ready to greet customers with a frictionless shopping experience wherever and however they choose to shop. That means organizations have to take an even closer look at their CX strategies.
Part of social media's appeal for both consumers and brands is that it feels intimate. Social sites allow for personalization, including relevant and timely recommendations. As such, this intimate element is what companies should be focusing on as they start to explore social commerce. Keep a pulse on the latest features on the most popular social media platforms and put them to good use to strengthen connections. Intagram's Drops feature, for example, is a great way to share timely information and engage with your fanbase.
That said, with a greater focus on social media comes the need to prioritize content moderation that is locally relevant to the channels your brand uses. The trust, safety and security of your online community is paramount to your brand's success, and it's every company's responsibility to create and maintain a safe environment for their customers. For example, if a brand is hosting a live social commerce event, it's important for the brand to effectively moderate their channels to eliminate trolls and toxicity. Partnering with an eCommerce expert can help companies prototype, test, measure and iterate on their social commerce strategies, and deliver effective and engaging experiences.
Social commerce will continue to evolve in the months and years to come, particularly as channels and brands experiment with ways to engage their customers and generate revenue online. Regardless of what those changes look like, you can bet that smart, customer-centric and data-driven CX experiences will remain a vital part of your strategy.