The Scoop On Social Shopping
It’s clear that social media has been, and still is, on the rise. While sites such as Facebook and Myspace have been widely used since the early 2000s, social media isn’t just about fun and games any more. Social media as we know it today is becoming more and more integrated with our everyday lives—for many people it is a primary line of communication, and many businesses use social media to communicate with consumers. In addition to opening up communication, for many businesses social media has become a direct line to generating serious revenue.
Online shopping and social go hand-in-hand. Over the past few years, social media platforms have slowly started incorporating shopping-related features into their sites, in a phenomenon sometimes called “social shopping”. These can range from better support for business accounts, to more easily integrated product links, to actual gateways within the platforms themselves. Keep reading for some of the most notable examples of social shopping that have emerged in the past few years.
Facebook Marketplace has established itself over the past several years as a strong competitor with Craigslist. And in many ways, it’s actually proved itself to be a more useful platform than the old standby.
Facebook Marketplace purchases are conducted via the buyer and seller’s Facebook accounts, adding several advantages that come with the inherent social aspect of Facebook. For one, unlike Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace is not anonymous. The seller’s Facebook profile—including name, location, pictures, and more—is attached to the listing, so buyers can more thoroughly ‘vet’ the seller. This theoretically adds another level of personal safety that Craigslist can’t provide. Additionally, Facebook Marketplace brings into the mix the addition of AI. Facebook’s algorithms categorize items and use that information to show listings to relevant Facebook users, which overall increases the amount of items that are bought and sold on Facebook Marketplace, as opposed to Craigslist.
Facebook also recently rolled out a new Shopify integration feature, which lets business with Shopify stores add a “buy” button to their posts and ads. Now, customers can buy their products directly from Facebook, which eliminates many steps along the path to conversion.
Since its inception in 2010, Instagram has grown into a platform where businesses thrive, with more than 25 million business accounts and influencers galore. When the app first introduced shopping tags in late 2016 that let businesses “tag” product links on images, it was a logical segway into the world of eCommerce. Instagram continued to integrate shopping into the app, adding shopping tags for stories and a new shopping tab for the Explore page. Instagram also announced that a spinoff app specifically for shopping is in the works.
Focusing on shopping definitely makes sense for the platform—the visual-heavy nature of the app is a natural partner for eCommerce. A business’ instagram feed, saturated with product shots and relevant visuals, can mimic the look of an eCommerce store, and many small businesses have forgoed a website in favor of using their Instagram page as a virtual storefront. However, Instagram’s built-in shopping capabilities as they exist right now are merely a middleman—an easy way for businesses to link to products on an external website. It’ll be interesting to see how Instagram develops to be more eCommerce-friendly: allowing products to be purchased directly in-app, for example, would be a big step towards making Instagram a self-sufficient shopping platform.
Snapchat starting testing new features in partnership with Amazon this fall, making it the newest social app to make the move towards eCommerce. The new features allow users to shop for products on Amazon using their Snapchat camera. Users can point their camera at a product, and will then be linked to the same or similar products on Amazon. When thinking about how often Snapchat is connected to shopping, it’s a no-brainer. One of the app’s common uses is for users to send pictures of potential buys to their friends—”should I get this top in blue or red?” Now, users don’t even have to be in a retail environment to use Snapchat in their shopping. It’s as easy as pointing their camera at something they want, and since many users are frequently on Snapchat already, the path to conversion is that much shorter.
For now, the features are only available to a small amount of users in the United States, but once the features are rolled out to all users, this partnership could be seriously huge for both Snapchat and Amazon.
Pinterest introduced the concept of buyable pins way back in 2015. The pins allow users to buy a product without leaving the app, and have special blue markers so they’re easy for users to spot. A unique thing about Pinterest’s shopping capabilities is that the buyable pins lead to large purchases—the average purchase from Pinterest is $50, according to Shopify.
Since many Pinterest users use the app to find inspiration for their own home decor, wardrobe, makeup, and more, adding shopping capabilities in 2015 was a smart move, and slightly ahead of its time.
It’s clear that social media and shopping have a future together—these examples are just the beginning. Our prediction is that it will become standard for major social media platforms to have an in-app payment gateway. Facebook is the only platform mentioned in this blog that currently has a native payment gateway sitewide; Instagram quietly started rolling out gateways to select users this summer but most of its user base has yet to access this feature. Make sure to keep a lookout for new developments in social shopping—this is one emerging field that should not be ignored.