In this blog post, I’ll provide an intro to Social Commerce. Social Commerce is all about selling with the help of social media, but it can also mean to sell directly “on” social media. I’ll first define a few terms so we have a common understanding before then diving into some of the numbers and facts about social commerce. This blog post will be part of a series – be sure to check back for the next parts!
Everybody seems to understand Social Commerce in a differnt way – that’s why I think it’s best to start with a definition that I based my research on:
Social Commerce is the use of social networks in the context of e-commerce transactions.Source: Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_commerce
If you scan the internet, you’ll also find other definitions of course. Some, for example, are excluding the use of social media marketing for social commerce. This would exclude the activities such as social sharing and optimizing for sharing, ads and promotions, etc. For yet another group of people, the only true social commerce are ecommerce transactions, that directly happen on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
Again, I am defining it the way I quoted it above. Hence, my definition of social commerce is a broad one. A very useful categorisation is Onsite and Offsite Social Commerce:
Onsite Social Commerce
- Integration of social sharing and other social functionality (discussions, comments, etc) on a shopping website or into an ecommerce app
- Encouragement and easy, optimized sharing of products via special HTML meta tags or SDK integration
- Sharing of purchases and other activities to social media
Mainly improves customer engagement, conversion (due to context and discussions) and word-of-mouth.
Offsite Social Commerce
- All activities that happen directly on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
- Product posts based on imported product catalogs as well as complete storefronts on social media (e.g. Facebook Shops).
- Purchases are made directly on social media
The social media platform imports product catalogs or products are directly maintained on the respective platform. A deeper integration with existing ecommerce systems is required.
It’s worth to note, that the above two groups, onsite and offsite social commerce, are not mutually exclusive – both are possible and in fact many online shops initially improve onsite social commerce before (sometimes) diving into other adventures with offsite social commerce. The deeper you integrate with social media, the more power you (as a seller) also give up. It’s probably not hard to understand, that if you manage your products directly on Facebook, Facebook will have little interest of making the well curated products available for Pinterest. Having an external, separately managed commerce platform still makes sense!
It’s worth to look at some numbers so we know where to focus our time and money on. According to this article, Facebook is leading the pack but Pinterest – while being third in this ranking – seems to be all about shopping and inspiration and might work way better for some. One thing to keep in mind: below info is all about referral traffic!
- Facebook is leading when it comes to referral traffic – about 80%
- Instagram (belonging to Facebook, obviously) is at a distant second spot with 11% of referral traffic. Instagram is focusing on mobile-first and visual content.
- Pinterest, while being third, is the social media platform that customers associate most with shopping. 47% of Pinterest’s users claim they use the platform for inspiration and shopping.
- While Facebook is leading, only 15% of Facebook’s users claim to search of shop for products. They come for friends & family, to communicate, not for shopping. It’s unclear and unproven, but to me it looks like aggressive Facebook advertisements could also have a negative effect on brands. Is shopping a distration on social media?
I hope you found this interesting so far. I’ll next write more specifically about optimizing onsite social commerce. Let me know what you think about social commerce in the comments or Tweet me directly.