Selling in the Age of Social CommerceFor Brands and Retailers

Selling on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

As millions of consumers purchase billions of products online, worldwide e-commerce sales are fast approaching $4.9 trillion. And these days, much of that shopping is social.

As constant changes in the mobile and social landscape continue to reshape how consumers interact with brands and retailers, one thing is certain: Social commerce is here to stay.

This white paper serves to help brands and retailers understand the current state of social commerce: what’s changed, where it’s headed and the central role it’s playing for today’s empowered consumer.

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Introduction: What Social Commerce Is — and How It’s Different

Social commerce, put simply, is sales on social media. By its most basic definition, it’s what enables consumers to make purchases within Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.

For years, social media has been used primarily as a resource for discovery. Success in social commerce has long involved a range of strategies that start with social media advertising and extend to encouraging sales outside of social platforms — whether that means clicking an organic post to buy on a brand’s website or transitioning over to look at Amazon listings.

But recent developments such as Facebook Marketplace and Checkout on Instagram are drastically changing the scope of social commerce. Rather than crafting strategies that encompass days or weeks of consideration across multiple channels, sellers are increasingly counting on buy buttons for direct sales. As social commerce continues to mature, brands and retailers are presented with unique opportunities to connect with consumers in ways that simply aren’t possible through other marketing and sales channels.

“More brands are using social platforms like Pinterest and Instagram to encourage consumers to not only discover new products, but also buy them. And that seems to be paying off.” – eMarketer

Why Get Social with Marketing and Selling?

As the line between social media and e-commerce is becoming increasingly blurred, brands and retailers that haven’t yet begun to unlock the power of these apps are at significant risk of falling behind. The sheer amount of hours people spend on social media makes these channels a prime target for influencing sales. US consumers in currently devote an average of one hour and 57 minutes a day to social media, and spend more time on social platforms than they do watching TV.

With younger generations most active on these channels, the likelihood is high that their impact on sales and revenue will continue to rise. Generation Z and Millennials are far more likely than other generations to buy products on Instagram and Snapchat, and more than half of both groups have made recent purchases that were inspired by social media browsing.

However, the trend isn’t limited to teenagers and young adults. More than a third of all consumers are currently buying online through social media, and studies indicate that number will increase even more. Among the 66% of recently surveyed consumers who had not engaged in social commerce, 27% said they’re at least somewhat interested in using it in the future.

It’s no wonder, then, that revenue from social media advertising exceeded $98 million in 2019 — or that social media spending has experienced 243% growth over the past decade.

The Real Driving Force Behind Social Commerce? Smartphones.

Mobile devices are considered the most important shopping tool by 73% of millennials and 65% of Gen Zers, who make purchases on smartphones far more than they do on laptops and home computers. With so many consumers using handheld devices to access social media — 360 million people use mobile apps to access Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest alone — the exposure to social commerce is significant.

Key Channels for Every E-Commerce Brand and Retailer

When it comes to connecting with customers and growing sales, all social media platforms are not created equal. Social commerce is powerful, but that doesn’t mean it’s equally effective everywhere for every brand and retailer. In numerous surveys, three networks consistently rise to the top for influencing purchase decisions:

Social selling and marketing continues to gain momentum on these channels.

How Social Commerce Works on Facebook

With 1.59 billion active daily users, Facebook is continually offering new ways for retailers and brands to promote products. From Facebook Marketplace to an ever-growing array of advertising formats, there are numerous ways sellers can attempt to connect with consumers. But with 7 million active advertisers, the real key for e-commerce companies is to determine which social commerce opportunities are likely to generate the greatest amount of ROI.

Amidst the mounting array of options, several social commerce opportunities are proving to be most effective at driving conversions. Based on ChannelAdvisor’s experience with more than 2,700 brands and retailers, these include:

Dynamic and Carousel Ads. These ad formats can be used to help personalize the experience and reduce the number of steps users take to get from social feeds to product pages:

  • Dynamic Ads allow brands and retailers to automatically promote products people have previously expressed interest in elsewhere on the internet, and can be used to tie promotions to local inventory and nearby availability.
  • Carousel Ads enable sellers to showcase up to 10 images or videos, each with its own link, within a single ad unit. They can be used to tell a story around a single product, or to introduce social shoppers to multiple products in a visually compelling way.

Facebook Marketplace. Long known as the place for consumers to buy and sell among one another, Facebook Marketplace has become a destination for discovering brands and retailers, too. It’s designed to provide an enticingly personalized shopping experience where products are surfaced based on the interests and locations of each individual. Once a seller has applied to sell on Facebook, a product feed can be used to manage and maintain listings.

How Social Commerce Works on Instagram
With eight in 10 users following at least one business on Instagram, it’s a well-known fact that consumers use the platform for product inspiration. Brands and retailers rely heavily on digital marketing to reach credit card-ready shoppers with Stories ads, collections ads, dynamic ads and more. As a result, ad spend on Instagram is expanding at a tremendous rate of 177% year-over-year growth.

However, advertising is far from the only option sellers have for reaching consumers on this important social media platform. Instagram is entering an era of next-generation social commerce — one that puts the shopping experience on par with the likes of Amazon and Google:

  • Shopping on Instagram has long empowered sellers to tag best-selling products in organic posts and stories, making it easy for users to explore and buy: Since 2016, sellers have been tagging items to give consumers quick access to product details. When someone taps a tag, they see a product description and price. If they like what they see, they can tap “Shop Now” to be taken to a product page outside of Instagram.
  • Checkout on Instagram takes this experience to a whole new level. With the introduction of this feature, consumers can purchase products right within Instagram itself. When a seller enables checkout on Instagram, shoppers are given the option to place an order directly on Instagram. In addition to making the purchase, shoppers can rely on Instagram to check order status, initiate returns and request support. Payment credentials are also secured for fast, easy future purchases.

How Social Commerce Works on Pinterest
Pinterest is one of the most product-prominent social media sites around, with 90% of the platform’s 300 million monthly users turning to the app to plan future purchases. Every day, millions of people pin product Rich Pins, making this type of social commerce advertising one of the most effective ways to ingrain a brand or product in the consumer’s path to purchase.

  • Rich Pins allow retailers and brands to display real-time pricing, availability and “where to buy” product information. Better yet, through Pinterest Search Ad functionality, information can be pulled directly from product feeds to dynamically update what’s displayed based on inventory levels — and not just for items that have already been “pinned” by consumers, but for all products in your feeds.

Suffice it to say that dynamic, product feed-based advertising is at the heart of success in social commerce across all pivotal platforms.

Looking for a Way to Stand Out?

Add more movement to social media advertising
It can be difficult to differentiate in channels so saturated with ads, but recent research reveals a proven way to ensure product content gets noticed. When it comes to social commerce, video content reigns.
Surveys show that 76% of consumers (and 85% of millennials) have purchased products after watching video. The amount of time users spend watching videos on Instagram has recently increased by 80%.

Social media videos are one of the most engaging, memorable types of content for consumers — making them an ideal format for social commerce. A recent explosion in product videos means they’re appearing in a wide array of social media advertising formats, from Facebook Messenger ads and
Instagram Stories ads to Instant Experiences and Pinterest Video Pins.

For more tips, techniques and ad formats you can use to drive consumers further down the path to purchase on social media, check out our eBook:
The Essential Guide to Facebook and Instagram Advertising.

Getting Ahead of the Social Commerce Game

With the rapid rate of social commerce growth, this channel will continue to play a critical role in every online selling strategy. Centralizing your activities into a single platform will make it exponentially easier to turn social connections into social commerce.

ChannelAdvisor: The Power of a Social Commerce Platform

With ChannelAdvisor, there’s no more logging in and out or going back and forth between accounts. You can get set up with social platforms once, and then manage your social commerce campaigns within one centralized platform designed to keep brands and retailers up-to-date on the latest ad formats and social commerce best practices.

With nearly two decades of experience and more than 2,700 e-commerce clients, ChannelAdvisor keeps brands and retailers ahead of the latest social commerce trends. By sending a single product inventory feed to ChannelAdvisor, sellers can have the data automatically transformed to meet the unique requirements and specifications of each social site — whether that means creating product Rich Pins on Pinterest or showcasing a new product line on Facebook and Instagram.

  • Optimize dynamic ads and carousel ads on Facebook
  • Manage checkout on Instagram
  • Track clicks and orders from Pinterest Rich Pins
  • Improve ads with cross-channel analytics
  • And more!

Brands and retailers grow social revenue by 25% — and have seen clickthroughs climb as much as 125% — when relying on ChannelAdvisor to manage advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.