The Rise of Social Commerce

Social networks have come a long way from the simple days of
connecting and communicating with friends. Over the past few years we
have watched the likes of Twitter and Facebook develop into content
promotion platforms as marketers, advertisers and brands push to drive
users to conversions through engaging and clever content.
This has always been a process that involved the user clicking
through to an external site to complete the action, but that has always
left marketers asking themselves one of the most frustrating questions:
how do we truly measure ROI on social? Well this seemingly unanswerable
question may be about to be answered as social networks have begun to
fully immerse themselves in social media, all with the help of a simple
‘buy’ button and here we have the rise of social commerce.

What is “social commerce”?

The term ‘social commerce’ is one that we’re increasingly seeing as
social networks take on the role of selling for your favourite brands.
Acting in the same style as an ecommerce site, social channels take on
the role of placing orders and processing payments, cutting out the need
for users to click through to an external site to complete the
Barely a week goes by without an update from one of the social giants
in an arms race to reach social commerce success, so we’ve rounded up
the latest.


Facebook broke social media records and caused quite a stir this year
by generating higher referral traffic for content publishers than
Google for the first time. It’s no secret that Facebook is becoming
quite the social media powerhouse with competitive ad rates and deals
with the world’s biggest media publishers, but now it is about to
introduce shoppable pages thanks to collaboration with Shopify. The term
‘Facebook Commerce’ has even begun to pop up. Watch this space as your
Facebook feed begins to emerge with product pages from all your
favourite brands. But does the word ‘intrusive’ spring to mind? There
are already rumblings of discontent.


It’s not been the best year for Twitter, with a drop in share price
and the failure to gain the mass increases in users its competitors have
enjoyed. This is not exactly encouraging to brands looking to invest in
the social channel as part of their marketing strategy. Whilst Twitter
is working and trialling a ‘buy’ button, it has also rolled out ‘product
collections’ with description, price and the option to buy, book or
visit the site for more information.
This is currently being trialled on a small number of accounts. These
lack on-site checkout but do show what other users are tweeting about
them and therefore help provide reviews for users. However, this format
seems slightly out of place on Twitter, a place where users come to keep
up to date with what is going on around the world or share what they
ate for dinner – not buy a pair of trainers.
KD 8   Twitter
Add caption


Back in 2012, Bizrate announced that 70% of users out of their
respondent online shopper survey used Pinterest to get inspiration on
what to buy, while only 17% used Facebook to seek inspiration. Since
Pinterest V Facebook
Pinterest has introduced pins. The network has the advantage of being a visually strong
network where users come to seek ideas for anything from cooking to
fashion to home décor. Providing the option to purchase what they have
been looking at gives Pinterest the edge other social networks don’t
have when it comes to social commerce. It isn’t a case of products being
pushed at them, it’s a case of users having the ability to buy what
they’ve already been seeking, thus making it feel much less intrusive,
and probably even useful (at least until brands start spamming the
service). Could this be a more successful story than Facebook and


Instagram is the dark horse in the social commerce race. With no
option to post links with images, the only form of ecommerce
functionality was brands resorting to ‘like to buy’ style sites outside
of Instagram. This made Instagram seem an unlikely form for revenue
generation for brands. However with the introduction of a call to action
button in ads, Instagram has upped the stakes in social commerce
success. In September 2015 Instagram hit 400 million users, surpassing
Twitter’s 300 million user base, and is predicted to power ad revenues
to $1.48 billion in 2016 and $2.81 billion by 2017. With the option to
‘shop now’, ‘install now’, ’sign up’ and ‘learn more’, Instagram is one
to watch, particularly as all users have no choice but to experience
these ads on their feed. Currently there is no in-app checkout like
Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are aiming to achieve.

Would you buy from social media? We found out

Social networks’ primary function is to provide a method of
communication, but does this mean users will want to purchase during
social hours? The likes of Facebook are constantly transforming ways in
which adverts can reach its users; there is even talk of adverts in
messenger from brand to consumer. But this could become too invasive for
However, even if social commerce is a hit, it doesn’t mean it will be
the same rule for all social channels. As highlighted, Pinterest
provides directly what users want to see. The blend of commerce will
appear natural within the existing format, just with the addition of a
buy button. Whereas with Facebook, the pushing of products on a network
primarily used for socialising with friends could run the risk of coming
across as intrusive.
Pinterest V Facebook
PushON ran a social survey questioning
whether users would be happy to buy from social media, and there will
be an in-depth post on the subject shortly. However, an early result
suggested that 17% of respondents felt social media marketing is
intrusive and social media should just be place for them to socialise
with friends.

Trust in brands also plays a huge role in users’ confidence in social
media. 50% of our respondents admitted they would feel more confident
buying from a brand’s site than on social media. One respondent
explained that they didn’t believe a social network could provide enough
information around a product to encourage the purchasing decision that
an ecommerce site could. This is an interesting point. High street
apparel may succeed due to needing minimum information, but larger
purchases such as technology, home furnishings and holidays require vast
amounts of information and planning before the consumer makes the
decision of purchase. Can the likes of Facebook or Twitter really help
drive those big decisions or will it just be too much distance between
brand and consumer?

One to Watch

These days so much goes into ecommerce success for retailers. From
flowing and creative websites to well designed and produced supporting
content around services or products teamed with a strong marketing
campaign. By social networks stepping in as ecommerce platforms, is it
drawing brands too far away from the purchase process for customers?
The same applies to customers. Will they trust social networks when
shopping for brands, or is it a case of social networks immersing into
an area consumers aren’t ready for? Social commerce will definitely be
one to rise, but could it fall?