insights | 09.06.2020

The future of eCommerce: part 2

Social Commerce
Article topics
  1. What is social commerce?
  2. Why social commerce?
  3. Next generation of consumers
  4. Faster gratification
  5. The rise and rise of video
  6. Chatbots
  7. The right products for social commerce
  8. Final thought

As we spend increasing amounts of time on social media and, given the steady and irrepressible rise of eCommerce, it’s easy to see how these two phenomena are converging. The convergence of social media and eCommerce is creating a new way of shopping. It’s called social commerce.

Person struggling to keep all their shopping in a basket

What is social commerce?

Put simply, social commerce is a means for brands and businesses to sell directly using social media. It’s not the same as social media marketing because it does not direct consumers away from the social platform to your webstore. Social commerce enables consumers to purchase directly within the social media platform they are using.

One of the most important goals that eCommerce strives for is to increase conversion rates by reducing friction in consumer journeys. One of the key ways of achieving that is by cutting the number of steps in a buying journey. Each unnecessary step increases the chances of consumers abandoning their shopping and leaving your webstore.

Social commerce doesn’t engage with consumers who are actively shopping. It offers a seamless and unified shopping experience, taking products directly to consumers on social media who are already engaged: responding to notifications and messages, interacting with friends and the brands that they like.

Person shining torch on icon and number on webpage

Why social commerce?

A main benefit of social commerce for consumers is that it enables them to make purchases quickly and with greatly reduced friction, instead of being redirected to a webstore where they have to go through a comparatively complex checkout process, which potentially involves many steps and perhaps even several pages. Social commerce gives consumers a more immediate shopping experience, reducing cognitive load and saving time, enabling them to purchase with just a few clicks or taps so they can quickly get back to using the social media platform that they are on, chatting with friends, watching videos etc.

Social commerce offers a shorter, lower friction path to purchase—higher friction adversely impacts conversion rates. For brands and businesses a more streamlined checkout not only offers consumers improved UX, it also targets consumers in a place and state of mind—on social media— where they are perhaps more open to buying, compared to adverts, marketing emails or other marketing communications.

Simplifying the checkout process helps remove the potential for confusion, distraction or form fatigue, reducing the potential for cart abandonment. The use of chatbots to help guide consumers through their purchases and checkout is well suited to social commerce—more on that later.

Why wait for consumers to come to you?

Successful eCommerce brands and businesses get three things right: they have a product or service that consumers want, they make buying as easy as possible, and they engage with consumers in a place where they are already active and engaged. One and two can be done in your webstore, but persuading consumers to visit your webstore is an altogether different proposition—that’s not where a vast majority of your audience will be, so it makes better sense to take your webstore to your potential customers, on social media.

Purple background image showing Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok logos

Next generation of consumers

Pretty much all consumers use social media in one form or another, whether it’s Generation Z on TikTok, Millennials on Instagram or Gen X on Facebook. According to studies, Gen Z spends a majority of time connected to social media. Approximately 58% of Gen Z and 53%of Millennials say they are online constantly, compared to 45% of Gen X, 31% of Baby Boomers and 16% of the Silent Generation. This data suggests that the future consumer will be more connected than ever and highlights the importance of social commerce as the Gen Z cohort grows.

Younger people tend to drive cultural change, and as a result drive demand in the marketplace. Gen Z, and Millennials perhaps to a lesser degree, represent an emerging paradigm shift in the way we shop.

Person relaxing sitting on shopping with feet up

Faster gratification

As younger consumers spend increasing amounts of time connected to social media, their conception of shopping is evolving. The expectation will be that if a consumer sees, for example, a clothing item in a video they are watching on social media, they will want to simply tap the item in the video to purchase it—instant purchase and faster gratification, helped by the growth of next day or same day delivery options.

The idea of the static webstore is being challenged by social commerce (and headless commerce). Shopping is becoming ever more fluid and flexible, in line with consumer expectations and the will of brands and businesses to make deeper, stronger and more authentic connections with consumers and customers.

Person recording themselves for social media

The rise and rise of Video

An important driver for social commerce is Millennials and Gen Z moving away from Facebook to other social media: Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. These platforms are all video based, and in particular, it’s short videos that are making the biggest impact.

It’s probably not news to you that video is more engaging than written or image content. But what you might not realise is just how much more engaging video is for consumers. Studies show that over 90% of consumers prefer interactive or visual content, such as video, compared with static content. According to a Cisco report, video traffic is expected to see compound annual growth of 33% between 2017 and 2022. This upward trend is being supported by technology such as progressive web apps and 5G. It is perhaps worth noting too that YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine.

Person contorting their arms to reach behind themselves in bag


Chatbots give brands and business the opportunity to create instant, bi-directional communications with consumers—to have real-time conversations.

A chatbot is an AI that responds to consumers in a conversational way and can even learn from them to improve UX, analysing a consumer’s words and learning, to detect mood and buying intent. Chatbots use an algorithm to identify what consumers need, based on keywords in the consumer’s responses. Chatbots can be used in many eCommerce situations, such as, buying a ticket for travel or an event, ordering takeaway, helping with clothes sizes and colours, buying insurance, the list goes on.

The chatbot enables social commerce to operate 24/7 without businesses and brands having to heavily invest in new infrastructure and recruitment. This means consumers are able to interact with brands in a conversation with a chatbot shopping assistant, better engaging consumers, saving them time, and offering more outstanding shopping experiences.

With ever shortening consumer attention spans, the need for businesses and brands to instantly engage shoppers is more important than ever. According to Forbes the average attention span for Millennials is 12 seconds, it’s just 8 seconds for Gen Z. And Gen Z finds email an “out-dated communications method and are 3x likelier to open a chat message.” In the real-time engagement world of social commerce, emails are too slow. Conversational social commerce chatbots are at the moment the only effective way to offer Gen Z and Millennial consumers the instant, super-low friction interactions that they want, when they want them.

5 door grey car driving off

The right products for social commerce

Given the instant gratification mindset of younger consumers, it’s unlikely that social commerce will be a successful method for selling expensive, high value items—it’s probably fair to say that nobody would buy a new car via social commerce. Social commerce is however very well suited to certain sectors, products and buying behaviours.

The opportunity for impulse purchases will rise as social commerce streamlines buying journeys and, according to a Statista study, younger consumers are more likely to make impulse purchases. The combination of raised susceptibility to buying on impulse and the social media environment, where consumers are already active and engaged, is potentially powerful for higher volume, lower ticket items.

Person crossing the finishing line winning a race

Final thought

Social commerce is still an emerging area of eCommerce, but given the rise of omnichannel and the shifting expectations of consumers, the ability to shop seamlessly on social media is a natural progression. It makes sense for consumers and brands alike. For consumers to easily and quickly buy the products that they want and for brands to create more direct and deeper connections with their audience is a win-win situation.

Working with your existing webstore, social commerce presents an opportunity to capitalise on changing consumer behaviour, and to increase conversion rates, lift sales and grow your business.

Find out more about how social commerce can help your eCommerce business grow. Get in touch today for a chat with one of our eCommerce development specialists.

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