Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Social Commerce and Social Shopping: Boosting Retail’s Recovery?

In today’s world, the average person spends 142 minutes each day on social media. With the emergence of social commerce, retailers have an opportunity to capitalize on this captive audience and recover from the pandemic with a resilient digital strategy. In the US alone, annual sales through social commerce are expected to soar from approximately $37 billion in 2021 to $56 billion by 2023. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at social commerce and social shopping, explore how retailers can leverage social media platforms, and identify what they can learn from the experiences of Chinese and Western retail giants.

Unlocking the Potential of Social Commerce

Drawing Inspiration from China

$56 billion might seem like a staggering figure, but it pales in comparison to the social commerce scene in China. Social commerce, social shopping, and social retail had already been dominant forces in China’s e-commerce market, generating an estimated $363 billion in 2021, even before the pandemic struck. The widespread adoption of social commerce in China played a significant role in shielding Chinese retailers and manufacturers from pandemic-related demand volatility, which severely affected their Western counterparts.

The Retailization of Social Media Platforms


Tencent, along with Alibaba, is a major driver of social commerce in China. Given this, it is no surprise that TikTok, Tencent’s best-known product, has introduced new tools for businesses, influencers, and consumers to participate in social commerce worldwide. Live streams and shoppable links facilitate the purchase of advertised products with ease. Furthermore, the company is investing heavily in making social commerce a pillar of the platform.

Facebook and Instagram

While Tencent and TikTok may be more familiar now, other large social media platforms in the West have been significantly involved in social commerce for several years. Facebook, now known as Meta, for example, has one of the largest social commerce platforms in terms of users and revenue. However, unlike in China, it wasn’t big brands and influencers who started the Facebook social shopping craze. Rather, consultants for multi level marketing brands like Lululemon took inspiration from television network shopping and helped popularize the platform’s social shopping capabilities in countries like the US and UK.

Meta’s other social media platform, Instagram, was not far behind. Social commerce on Instagram has been instrumental in making influencer marketing a highly profitable profession. Tagging and selling products in posts, stories, and live streams have transformed what was once a hobby into an entire career for many. Instagram continuously enhances its platform with new features that make it simpler for brands and influencers to collaborate, not only for marketing activities but also as brand representatives who play a more significant role in selling products.


Pinterest has established itself as a uniquely lucrative platform, especially for high fashion and design. Pinterest users create dedicated boards for specific fashion, decor, and aesthetic ideas, which often heavily feature content from online store catalogs and fashion shows. Up to 93% of users pin content featuring items they intend to purchase, so it didn’t take long for the company to realize its natural potential for social retail and other forms of social commerce. Landing pages for products are easily tagged within pins and their descriptions, which find their way onto thousands of boards. Buyable (a.k.a. “Shoppable”) pins allow users to go from pin to purchase in just a few clicks, all without ever leaving the app. Pinterest has also recently launched live shopping events that are mostly targeted towards Gen Z, but older age groups would find their similarities to the QVC network uncanny.

Social Commerce, Social Shopping, and Social Retail: What’s the Difference?

As e-commerce continues to grow, social media platforms have become an integral part of the retail industry, especially after the pandemic. Social commerce, social shopping, and social retail are three terms that have emerged from this trend. Although they all involve buying and selling goods on social media platforms, each term focuses on a different aspect of the process.

Here is a breakdown of what each term means:

What is Social Commerce?

Social commerce is a subset of e-commerce that involves the use of social media networks for buying and selling products or services. It is a platform for individual sellers such as influencers, multi level marketers, and businesses to showcase their products and services to potential customers.

Social commerce provides a way for businesses to interact with their customers on a more personal level. They can engage with customers, promote their products, and even offer customer support through social media channels. Social commerce can be thought of as a way to create a social shopping experience.

What is Social Shopping?

Social shopping, on the other hand, is a type of e-commerce that focuses on the customer’s experience rather than the seller’s. It connects shoppers with other shoppers as they shop online. Customers can interact with each other, exchange product reviews and recommendations, and share discounts.

Social shopping involves using social media to create an interactive shopping experience. For instance, live shopping streams allow customers to participate in chat rooms while they shop. It is a form of social commerce that aims to build a community around a brand or product.

What is Social Retail?

Social retail is the use of social media to enhance the overall shopping experience. It’s about integrating social channels into the entire shopping journey to encourage more sales. Unlike social commerce and social shopping, social retail focuses on businesses rather than individual sellers. Social retail can take on many forms, such as shoppable Pinterest links, hashtag campaigns, and augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technology. It involves building an online or brick-and-mortar store that is centered around social activity.

Social commerce, social shopping, and social retail are all terms that are associated with e-commerce activities on social media platforms. While their definitions may overlap, they each have their unique focus. As technology continues to evolve, so do these terms. Therefore, it’s essential to stay up to date on the latest trends to make the most of social media platforms for your business.

The Future of Social Commerce and Social Shopping

Social commerce and social shopping are both relatively new concepts, but their rise in popularity over the past year has been meteoric. It’s clear that retailers and brands must embrace these concepts if they want to stay competitive and relevant in the current digital landscape. And it’s not just limited to large corporations either, even small businesses and solo entrepreneurs can benefit from social commerce and social shopping by leveraging social media platforms to connect with their customers and sell their products.

“Initially, e-commerce focused on making everyday goods available online at low prices. However, the current phase of e-commerce is more captivating, as it caters to the demand for emotional products – the items that hold special significance and are treasured by people. That’s why social shoppers will be the locomotive of e-commerce in the next 5 years.”CEO and founder of StreamZenn, Live commerce solution.

As technology continues to evolve, social commerce and social shopping will continue to evolve with it. We can expect to see even more innovative features and functionalities added to social media platforms to make the buying and selling experience even more seamless and convenient for customers.

The Benefits and Potential Drawbacks of Making Social Media a Pillar of Your Retail Strategy

Social media has rapidly become an essential marketing tool for retailers. With the advent of social shopping, brands can streamline the e-commerce customer journey while connecting with customers in an organic way. However, as with any marketing strategy, there are both benefits and drawbacks to social commerce.

The Benefits of Social Shopping

Streamlining the E-commerce Customer Journey

  • Social media channels for digital retail offer a one-stop-shop for customers and retailers alike. By providing helpful content such as reviews, advice, chatbots, and recommendations, social media creates a frictionless buying experience for customers. For brands, social commerce allows them to increase awareness amongst their target audience on a large scale, often bolstered by social proof, authority, and trust-building content through an already established global community. Even implementing a social media messenger chatbot can attract a massive amount of new customers.

Organic Connection with Customers

  • PPC advertising is losing its luster, and customers are becoming increasingly resistant to digital advertising. Social shopping is an effective way to meet the same needs as traditional ads for retailers while sparing consumers and platform users from brand-generated social media marketing. It is transparent about its intentions to sell, so brands must create genuinely interesting content for users. User-generated content and community posts provide an authentic online brand reputation, often for free, along with further support from influencer marketing.

Socialization Aspect of Shopping

  • Social shopping brings back the socialization aspect of shopping that is often lost in brick and mortar stores. People crave socialization in their day-to-day lives, and social commerce offers an opportunity for customers and brands to connect under one roof, albeit on a global scale. Social media users and micro-influencers interact in these environments similar to friends and feel like shoppers as they make a purchase – not mere consumers.


Social commerce combines marketing and e-commerce endeavors, making projects and resources less stretched out, less divided, and therefore more effective. This is especially true as PPC advertising continues to become more expensive, less data-centric, and less conglomerated onto a few select platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Potential Drawbacks of Social Shopping

Less Inherently Appealing to Male-Oriented Audiences

  • Men are less likely to buy a product without trying or seeing it in person. Therefore, men’s apparel and accessory brands may need to create a digital method to make up for this lack of touch and feel. Hyperactive digital environments like virtual and augmented reality will be especially promising as they develop in this regard. In the meanwhile, men’s fashion retailers may want to emphasize visual, material, and other descriptive elements within their marketing and creatives to help consumers adequately imagine these senses.

Not a Standard Framework

  • Social shopping initiatives can easily fall flat without a unique and creative touch. Unlike ads and other forms of marketing, consumers are not obligated to engage with social shopping activities as a way to access free content. They have to be genuinely interested in doing so. Capturing this genuine interest is not necessarily difficult, but it requires a business to have a keen understanding of its consumers and opt for new, fresh ideas rather than tried-and-true formats.

Impulsive Purchases

  • Finding an audience is easy, but retaining them is not. Socially-driven buying can be impulsive, resulting in no long-term changes in buying behavior. Therefore, retailers who integrate social shopping as a core component of their strategy also may need to prioritize customer loyalty initiatives long-term to bolster customer retention.

Less Control Over Social Discussion

  • Social e-commerce can be a fantastic tool to bring a business to a global audience, but proper etiquette is required to navigate this increased interaction between brands and users. Many retailers have negatively impacted their


Social commerce and social shopping are no longer just buzzwords – they are now integral parts of the retail landscape. With more and more people spending increasing amounts of time on social media, it’s clear that retailers must embrace these concepts if they want to stay competitive and relevant in today’s digital landscape.

The future of retail is clearly digital, and social commerce and social shopping are leading the way. By leveraging the power of social media, retailers can connect with their customers in new and exciting ways, ultimately leading to increased sales and growth. So, whether you’re a small business owner or a large corporation, it’s time to jump on the social commerce and social shopping bandwagon and take your business to the next level.

Claire James
Claire Jameshttp://www.firedigitaluk.com
Claire is an accounts manager at Fire Digital UK, an online publishing and content marketing company based in the North West.

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