What is social commerce? A guide for small businesses in 2024

Social commerce is the way to go if you want to use social media to reach your customers. Here we give you all the tips and tricks you need to know to succeed.

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Written and reviewed by:
Robyn Summers-Emler Grow Online Editor

If you’ve recently been scrolling through Instagram or TikTok, chances are that you’ve run into posts that advertise and sell products. Using the more ‘scientific term’, this is an example of social commerce in action. A key ingredient to any ecommerce strategy, it’s a quick and simple way to create shareable content, engage your audience, and have a wider reach.

However, it’s no secret that social commerce is incredibly competitive. You’re competing for social media real estate against every other brand that has a presence on the likes of Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. To help you out, we give all the must-knows of social commerce, including best practice guidance and trends to watch out for in 2024.

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What is social commerce?

Social commerce uses social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to market and sell products. This means that customers can complete their purchases without having to leave the social media app at all. From the customer’s point of view, therefore, social commerce is highly convenient and interactive. They can discover brands, research products, interact with customer support, and pay on the same platform.

The popularity of social media means social commerce represents a marketing goldmine. Statistics show that the typical social media user now spends 15% of their waking life on social platforms. If some of that time is invested in discovering and researching your brand, you have good chances of landing a sale.

How is social commerce different from ecommerce?

They’re not necessarily different. In fact, social commerce is a subset of ecommerce. In other words, ecommerce takes place on a website or a branded app – sites built on ecommerce platforms like Shopify that consumers can access from any internet-equipped device. Social commerce means every stage of the ecommerce customer journey takes place exclusively on a social media app, meaning customers most likely go through the whole process on a smartphone.

This difference means social commerce has low barriers of entry and is easy to set up. As a business, you wouldn’t need to have your own website – you just need a social media account set up with a social media store.

How is social commerce different from social selling?

Contrary to what the term would suggest, social selling doesn’t involve making a sale. Rather, social selling is about using social media to tell your customers compelling stories about your products, convince them your brand is better than your competitors, and create awareness about your business. You could think of social selling as the first marketing baby steps towards enticing someone to click on the ‘purchase’ button.

On the other side, social commerce involves the sale of goods and services and the target audience are people who are interested in purchasing goods or services. Therefore, social commerce is the process that happens slightly further down the sales funnel, where you’re speaking to people that already are set on buying something. Therefore, social commerce is both about creating awareness and generating sales.

How to get started with social selling

These are the three steps you need to follow to get started with social selling:

  1. Choose the right platform: where is your audience? Is it Facebook or Instagram or another social media?
  2. Sort out your order fulfilment and delivery process: to figure this part out, you can use our quick and free quote comparison tool to find a provider that fits your business needs.
  3. Advertise your products on social media (but more on this later)

Benefits of social commerce: How could it help your business?

✔️ Reach a larger target audience28% of social media users say they use the likes of Instagram and Facebook for inspiration for things to buy. Considering how popular social media is, it’s a great market to tap into to boost sales and find customers. Social media is also famous for its wide network of influencers, so social commerce is a great opportunity for businesses that want to integrate influencer marketing into their strategy.

✔️Frictionless shopping experience → customers can do everything with a couple of taps from their phone, without having to be redirected to another site. The chances of them having to go through the annoyance of creating an account or having to jump from one page to another are minimal. This makes the process of going down the sales funnel quick and painless.

✔️ Gather data on your audience → social media platforms provide data insights into the behaviour of your audience. This lets you track behaviour and habits, giving you clues about where you can optimise your content and personalise the shopping experience. To help you manage your social media and understand what your data means, you can take a look at our favourite social media management tools.

✔️ Improved customer engagement → social commerce is all about putting the social in ecommerce. Customers can share products they like online, send one of your posts to a friend in a DM, and give you a shout out on their Instagram story. This creates a more interactive shopping experience and makes it easier for your existing customers to recommend your products to a friend, helping you earn more trust as a brand. Keeping in mind how the social media cycle works, social commerce is fantastic for businesses that are constantly looking to hop on trending products and quickly enter the market.

Most popular platforms for social commerce

Instagram

Instagram has led the way in turning social media networks into shopping channels. The introduction of Shops, live streaming, and influencer collaboration features now mean that 92% of online retailers use the platform as part of their social commerce strategy. In September 2022, Instagram had around 32 million users in the UK, so it’s a channel you definitely want to integrate into your social media output.

Facebook

This is the most popular social media network, based on sheer force of numbers – 66% of the entire UK population are Facebook users. On Facebook, you can set up a Facebook Shop, sell via Facebook Marketplace and enable Facebook Pay.

TikTok

Despite having a reputation for short videos and memes, TikTok is another key spot for businesses looking to get into social commerce. It is predicted to reach 15 million users in 2025. With TikTok, you can tag items from your TikTok Shop and host TikTok live streams. You can also make use of the TikTok Creator Marketplace, where you can partner with small creators to promote your brand.

Pinterest

It’s more than just creating mood boards. Some 50% of Pinterest users actively use the platform to buy, so it’s another great platform to consider for your social commerce strategy. You can join the Verified Merchant Program and get a Shop Tab, as well as encourage users to add your products to their shopping list.

Twitter

Despite having the reputation of being a platform where political debates heat up and people share their opinions in less than 280 characters, Twitter is a hugely monetisable platform. The network is experimenting with social commerce features to turn its users into customers – most of which are in beta testing. You can make use of features like professional profiles and super follows, which give subscribers exclusive content like deals, coupons, and discounts.

Snapchat

Although Snapchat doesn’t have a reputation as a go-to social commerce platform, it still has outlets that let you create brand awareness. For instance, you can create branded filters and run shoppable snapchat ads.

Social commerce trends in 2024

Work on your social search optimisation (SSO)

Similarly to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), you should tweak your content so that it’s easier for social media users to find your brand. An internal Google study revealed that 40% of 18-24 year olds are now using social media as their primary search engine, so optimising your content is crucial. Younger people are also more likely to use social media to do brand research, which means you should provide useful and insightful facts about your products to more compellingly push your audience to press the ‘purchase’ button.

The rise of the creator economy will fuel social commerce

As content creators continue to partner with brands through affiliate programs and influencing, businesses should seek opportunities to enter the creator economy. Meta and YouTube are already developing revenue-sharing programs. TikTok already has created a split ad revenue with approved creators through its TikTok Pulse program. This means that working with creators will almost certainly be inevitable in social commerce as we dive deeper into 2024.

AI will help brands learn more about shoppers

Artificial intelligence can help ecommerce entrepreneurs collect granular data on their customers’ shopping behaviours, automating the crunching numbers part of your social commerce process. AI marketing will therefore become more prevalent and will help personalise shopping experiences.

Video ads will be used more often

Brands that understand how to use video to engage and convert customers will lead the way into the next stage of social commerce. Short reels on Instagram and TikToks will be invaluable tools to wield as they quickly give viewers a wealth of information about a product they’re interested in.

Zero-party data and privacy are on consumers’ minds

Google is planning to end support of third-party cookies in 2024. Brands will need to consider adopting a zero-party data policy. This means you’ll need to identify and implement the appropriate security and privacy protocols to protect customer data. For now, what you can work on is being transparent with customers about how your brand collects, stores and uses user data.

5 top tips for small businesses starting social commerce

✔️ Acing social media advertising → Even if someone discovers your brand on their For You Page, if your content advertising isn’t enticing or creative, it’s likely they’ll just scroll onto the next thing. You also need to consider that different social media have different particularities, which means content should look slightly different if it’s on Instagram or TikTok. You can start by learning how to advertise on Instagram and how to promote your products on Facebook.

✔️ Getting your order fulfilment right → the last thing you want is to have products shipped to the wrong customer. To avoid an order fulfilment SOS and to make sure you’re crunching your numbers correctly, find out how much it would cost you to work with an order fulfilment software using our quick and free quote comparison tool.

✔️ Asking for reviews → collecting social proof is important if you want to build a profitable online business. Send an automated email asking your customers what they think of the product. Alternatively, you could offer incentives like giveaways to encourage existing customers to give testimonials about your products. Having reviews on your page and showing real-life customers will help you boost brand authority and trust.

✔️ Engaging with your audience → social commerce is more than just uploading your catalogue and waiting for sales to rush in. You’ll need to offer value, answer questions, and post interesting content to entertain your audience. Think about doing live Instagrams to allow customers to ask you questions in real-time or make use of other widgets on Instagram stories. The more chances for engagement, the higher the likelihood they will think about you when they’re looking for a type of product you sell.

✔️ Listen to your audience → with social media, you have all the information you need to know about your audience. Pay close attention to the comments and shares you get and look at what the data is telling you about customer behaviour. Make sure you’re regularly checking your store’s DMs and replying to customer questions to make them feel valued.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Why is social commerce important?
    Social media is slowly becoming a replacement to Google for brand research and virtually everyone has some sort of social media account. This means social media is a massive marketplace that businesses can take advantage of if they get into social commerce. In other words, it’s a goldmine for sales because of how interactive and convenient it is for customers.
  • What is meant by social commerce?
    Social commerce is selling your products and services on social media. From a customer’s perspective, it means that you don’t have to leave the social media app at all as you go from product discovery to finalising a purchase.
  • What is the difference between social selling and social commerce?
    Social commerce is all about landing sales whereas social selling is about creating relationships with potential customers by making sure your content is targeted at them.
  • What are examples of social commerce?
    If you go on Instagram, that little shopping bag logo will be replete with social commerce examples. Anything like Facebook Marketplace or Instagram Shop are examples of social commerce.
  • What are the biggest social commerce sites?
    Based on popularity and number of users, the social commerce sites you should strongly consider having a presence on are Facebook and Instagram.
Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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