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Social commerce

Social networks will increasingly be used for more than content and communication – with start-ups leading the way

Whether hosting or influencing purchases, social networks look set to play an increasingly significant role in online shopping in years to come. In fact, new research from Barclays predicts that 41% of consumers will be ‘social shoppers' by 2021, while the volume of sales driven by social media is expected to double over the next five years. Again, this trend will be fuelled by the power of recommendations from people we know and trust.

Founded in 2009, US start-up Payvment is already making significant inroads in this space. The business, which has raised $7.5m in venture capital to date, enables Facebook users to set up their own online shops and is now the biggest social commerce platform on the site.

However, UK start-ups are also doing some interesting things in this space. For example, Social Saver, which launched in November 2011, enables brands to thank customers for sharing purchases on Facebook and Twitter by giving them a small discount.

The rise of social commerce also illustrates a wider move towards a more distributed model for buying and selling, inspired by the popularity of online marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon and NotOnTheHighStreet. However, as well as sites that allow users to sell goods that they've bought or sold, we're now seeing a flurry of marketplaces enabling people to sell their own services, or rent out their existing assets, such as WhipCar,, Onefinestay and US start-up Taskrabbit.

As my fellow panellist Joe Cohen said: “Commerce will move off of proprietary sites in the same way that content did, into a much more distributed model. Whichever industries marketplaces have not come to yet…they will be there soon.”


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