Social commerce is maturing. As Accenture states in its ‘Future of Shopping‘ report: “Rather than a handful of big retailers and brands selling to mass markets of millions, we’re now seeing millions of individuals and smaller businesses selling to one another within a vast social commerce ecosystem.”
Consequently, social commerce is expected to grow three times faster than traditional ecommerce to reach a value of $1.2 trillion by 2025 (Accenture research, 2021).
So, which brands are doing it? Here’s a look at how some have been experimenting with social commerce during the past 18 months.
Mallows Beauty is a small skincare brand, but one that has seen rapid growth in a short space of time – mostly thanks to TikTok. The brand, which was founded in 2020, has used social-first content from the get-go in order to drive brand awareness. In recent months, however, it has further capitalised on new social commerce features, most notably TikTok’s partnership with Shopify – which allows merchants to use their product catalogues to create a mini-storefront on TikTok – as well as its live shopping feature.
According to founder Laura Mallows, the brand typically generates more revenue through one live shopping event than its flagship Cardiff store does in a week. By engaging live with viewers, instantly replying to comments and discussing featured products, the brand is able to ramp up interest and engagement, which often translates into real-time purchases.
Pinterest users commonly search for product and style inspiration, rather than looking for specific brands. However, in 2020, searches for the term ‘Anthropologie home décor inspiration’ on the platform reportedly rose 1,057% year-over-year, while searches for ‘Anthropologie mirror’ jumped 375%.
In order to capitalise on this search behaviour, and to meet consumers directly on Pinterest, Anthropologie set up a digital-only catalogue on the platform. The AnthroLiving catalogue allowed users to view and interact with the brand’s spring home décor collection, enabling them to Pin favourite items, create their own boards, as well as click through to buy.
With consumers typically taking longer to decide whether to purchase home items, Pinterest’s focus on curation – where users typically spend time creating various boards of inspiration – helps to maintain interest and drive purchases over a longer time period as well as ‘in the moment’.
The DTC sofa brand uses live events on social to drive interest and awareness of its products. CEO Rob Bridgman previously told Econsultancy that one Instagram Live generated over 40,000 comments, which is the equivalent of 20 comments per second.
“And we blended social media with instant messaging, live streaming, celebrities, shopping, and more – including gamification – into an interactive and immersive 40-minute live which blurred the lines between entertainment and ecommerce,” he explained.
Snug’s most recent hybrid live shopping event – with in-person guests, as well as online – featured three ’90s boybands, Blue, Blazin’ Squad, and 5ive. According to reports, the event drove 100,000 impressions by users across social media, while a Q&A generated 700,000 views.
As well as driving in-the-moment sales, Snug’s events are successful at building brand awareness. YouGov research found that Snug’s past two live shopping events have increased the brand’s awareness by 1.2% between December 2021 and April 2022.
POV: When you and your bestie win tickets to SNUG PRESENTS
— Snug – The Sofa in a Box Company (@snugsofa) April 5, 2022
Instagram first trialled its checkout feature back in 2019 and has seen mixed success since. Some original partner brands, such as Dior and Prada, seem to have reverted back to sending clicks to their websites. Part of the reason is because brands want access to more customer data.
There are exceptions, however, with some smaller brands such as Fy! (iamfy.co) prioritising a seamless and super-fast Instagram checkout experience over its own. Fy!’s bright and engaging Instagram presence is largely built around buying, with the majority of its posts – which often include influencer-created content as well as its own – including product tags.
Overall, its Instagram Shop is particularly well-designed, including categories to further inspire users to browse and buy without ever leaving the app.
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Walmart has been one of the most bullish companies out there when it comes to social commerce, having launched multiple shoppable livestream events across five platforms in 2021, as well as its own live-streaming capabilities on Walmart.com. The retail company also participated in the first live shopping event on Twitter, featuring US singer Jason Derulo.
Commenting on the event, Walmart’s CMO, William White, said: “Twitter continues to be an important platform for Walmart’s business and our customers… We’re meeting customers where they are and making it easier to shop incredible deals and find inspiration through dynamic, interactive experiences. We look forward to continuing to bring engaging experiences to our customers that allow them to shop seamlessly while also being entertained.”
— Jason Derulo (@jasonderulo) November 29, 2021
According to TechCrunch, Walmart generated more than two million views during the live-stream, though it’s unclear how this translated into conversions.
With the recent launch of Twitter Shops – enabling merchants to showcase up to 50 products on their Twitter profile – it’s evident that the platform is intent on expanding its shopping capabilities, becoming a place that people buy products rather than just talk about them. By being the first brand to partner with Twitter, Walmart – a retail brand that has demonstrated real omni-channel innovation – has shown its intent to be at the forefront of social commerce.
Clinique has been one of the more notable brands to embrace shopping on the Facebook ecosystem, setting up an active and engaging commerce presence across platforms. It uses product tags and engaging imagery to drive purchases on its Facebook Shop and shoppable Instagram posts.
The brand was also one of the first to experiment with live shopping on Instagram, launching an event to build on the popularity of its sold-out Black Honey lipstick in 2021. The premise of the live-stream, which involved conversation and demonstrations via a 20-minute show, was to direct viewers to the mini version of the sold-out lipstick, which was available in an exclusive seven-piece kit created in partnership with Instagram (available for viewers of the live-stream to buy on social).
According to Instagram, the event resulted in 85% of the product set orders via Instagram and Facebook from September 14th to 25th 2021, plus a 7x faster product launch activation (of three days compared to an average of three weeks).
AR has been a fruitful area for beauty brands, unlike other categories, with the technology enabling users to virtually ‘try on’ products to drive online purchases. Earlier this year, Snapchat upgraded its AR capabilities, rolling out catalogue-powered shopping lenses that combine product information and lenses. Essentially, this allows users to interact or try on multiple products, as well as view product information, with the option to instantly purchase.
Ulta Beauty is one brand that has already seen success from catalogue-powered AR lenses on Snapchat, with an initial roll-out generating $6 million in sales and more than 30 million product try-ons during a two-week period. Through AR, users are not only given a more personalised experience, but one that is more immersive and actionable.
Speaking to Glossy, Rajni Jacques, global head of fashion and beauty partnerships at Snapchat, also said that the technology aids the shopping experience for younger users, which tends to be inherently social in the traditional sense. “You can send a lens to your friends, so there is a lot of talking back and forth. There’s a lot of reassuring, like, ‘Oh my gosh, that looks amazing on you. Get it now.’” she explained.