Social media and ecommerce are two digital trends that are intersecting at an unprecedented rate in North America (as an aside, this trend has been rapidly accelerating in China for years). In it's simplest form, this intersection would allow people to discover, browse, and shop for new products in a seamless experience inside their social media applications.
Social media saturation is higher than ever, pushed even higher during the COVID-19 pandemic. In January of this year, there were about 32.20 million social media users in Canada; that’s 85% of Canada’s population. Similarly, in the United States, 72% of adults use at least one type of social media.
Also accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are more people buying products online than ever before. 80% of Canadians shopped online in the past year. Similarly, 88% of the United States adult population have purchased items online.
It’s clearer than ever that, beyond ads on social media, ecommerce will penetrate our feed in coming years. What will that look like? What does that mean for you or your business?
Let's talk about what's currently happening in digital shopping and social media platforms today so that you can prepare for what is coming.
Beyond posting photos, updating friends and family, and re-sharing BuzzFeed quizzes (which I still can’t get enough of - Which Friends character are you?), ecommerce has slowly crept into our feeds.
Ads on social media are hyper-targeted based on your demographics, interests, geography, browsing habits and more. And while Apple is trying to combat some of these privacy concerns through tracking limitations in iOS 14, social media platforms likely know more about you than your friends do.
It’s not just ads. A huge development in social media x ecommerce is the checkout feature coming to Facebook and Instagram powered by platforms like Shopify. That means that social media users can now browse for products, add to carts, and checkout without leaving their social media apps. They can do that directly in their feed in influencer and company posts or through dedicated sections of the app (such as Instagram Shop). While it’s currently available to eligible business and creator accounts in the U.S., it’s likely to be available soon on all business accounts globally.
TikTok is one of the most popular and most downloaded apps today. The app was initially marketed to capture Gen Z interest, but its audience dynamics are gradually changing. According to this report, around 40% of the TikTok profiles today belong to people aged 25 and up. Currently, brands interact with the platform’s audience through ads, influencers, and product mentions in content (such as product reviews), more ecommerce features are coming soon.
As of October 2020, TikTok and Shopify announced a partnership that allows Shopify merchants to better place their products where millions of their customers spend their time - directly in TikTok. This enhanced advertising integration allows Shopify merchants to track sessions, orders, sales, and return-on-investment on their product placement on TikTok while better targeting users.
It’s very likely that we’ll see this partnership expand beyond the current use-case into a more sophisticated, checkout integration.
On the flip-side, we’re also seeing ecommerce platforms shepherd new social media functionality into their platforms. Amazon is a great example of that. While Amazon’s focus has always been ecommerce, we’re starting to see the giant’s move into social media influencer marketing and live video.
Currently, Amazon runs the Amazon Influencer Program which allows influencers to earn an affiliate fee (or commission) on sales made through referral links to Amazon products.
Additionally, Amazon launched into the Live Shopping industry in early 2019 with an experiment - Amazon Live, a live streaming service embedded into the Amazon website that allows sellers and influencers to host live events to showcase their products to any viewers. By showcasing products live, hosts can answer questions, showcase product features, or highlight exclusive launches. Shoppers get the opportunity to see-now, buy-now; essentially, this ensures that more buyers convert, as well as minimize returns, since they’ve already seen the product in action.
On June 7th, Amazon Live highlighted celebrities such as Kristen Bell, Karamo Brown, and Mindy Kaling on their platform to promote small business and Amazon Prime Day. Amazon Live viewership has been increasing steadily with more merchants hosting events and shoppers watching live streams.
These are only some of the changes happening at the intersection of social media and ecommerce. While change in these markets is rapid, small businesses should not be afraid of staying on-trend. Why? It’s simple, you want to find your customers where they spend their time and maximize the use of these platforms and tools to your advantage.
Keep in mind, these trends aren’t just for big brands and companies. With tools like Shop Studio Live, any business on Shopify can create live shopping experiences for their customers directly in their online store.
We live in a time where social media dominates our daily lives - whether we’re interacting with it directly or not. Endless feeds, “stories” from friends, one-on-one and group chats, targeted ads - all conveniently packaged into our social media apps. At the same time, we can buy virtually anything online from across the world in seconds and have it at our doorstep in less than 24 hours.